Saturday, at the unusual time of 7:15-ish PM, the Hokies of Virginia Tech will be facing off against the Eagles of Boston College for our, now annual, cross division set-to. The last two seasons Tech has been getting the relationship realigned after two embarrassing losses in a row in 2013 and 2014. If memory serves me, the 2015 win in Chestnut Hill was a major victory during a particularly rough time in that season's progression.
The history between the two teams is not long, but it has, at times been intense. Not many Hokie Fans are going to forget the events in the cold October downpour of the 14-10 comeback loss to Matty Ice, or the redemption in Jacksonville on December 1st of 2007 to win the ACC. In fact, that entire series of games including the 2008 loss to BC in Chestnut Hill, only to grab the ACC Championship later that December for a Hokie repeat, seems to crowd out the reality that over the 25 game series, the Hokies have dominated the relationship 17-8.
What's even more interesting is that the rivalry has developed with no contact between the schools prior to 1993. "If we hadn't joined the Big East" might be the start of quite a few speculative statements about the National Championship shot and even the entry into the ACC for both schools. That's all speculation, now, because BC is there. They are pretty much permanently scheduled to play us somewhere in October for every season into the foreseeable future, and they will never be a truly easy team to beat. Boston College has its current struggles, but one thing it doesn't seem to struggle with too often is bringing everything it has to the field to play Virginia Tech.
We must put last year's 49-0 blanking out of our thought patterns. That was a different Hokies, and now is an Eagles squad who will be bent on ruining our run. They'll also be looking to get back at us for the goose-egg from 2016. This is the perfect Hokie offense to challenge, too.
The Eagles take the field on Saturday evening with a disappointing 2-3 record and a program on a bit of an upswing. Their loss to Clemson was totally expected, but what wasn't was the fact that the BC defense kept them in the game for most of three full quarters going into the 4th with a 7-7 tie. That's not small news. Yes, eventually a bigger more powerful Clemson Offense finally ran over the Eagle defense, but it took until the game was nearly over for the Tigers to take control of the game.
The short of it all is that Virginia Tech cannot go into Chestnut Hill thinking that this game is a gimme, and the Eagles aren't going to hang one on us. Well, they probably won't that's true -but sorry to relay the dose of reality out- it could happen, especially to us in their house. It's true that BC isn't Clemson but what is also true is that neither are we. Here is the game chart from Hokie Sports:
Boston College - Virginia Tech Game History
|2016||Sat., Sep 17, 2016||Blacksburg||W, 49-0||NR/NR||ESPNU|
|2015||Sat., Oct 31, 2015||Chestnut Hill||W, 26-10||NR/NR||ACC Network|
|2014||Sat., Nov 1, 2014||Blacksburg||L, 31-33||NR/NR||ACC Network|
|2013||Sat., Nov 2, 2013||Chestnut Hill||L, 27-34||NR/NR||ABC|
|2012||Sat., Nov 17, 2012||Chestnut Hill||W, 30-23 (OT)||NR/NR||ACC Network|
|2011||Sat., Oct 22, 2011||Blacksburg||W, 30-14||16/NR||RSN|
|2010||Sat., Sep 25, 2010||Chestnut Hill||W, 19-0||NR/NR||ACC Network|
|2009||Sat., Oct 10, 2009||Blacksburg||W, 48-14||5/NR||Raycom|
|2008||Sat., Dec 6, 2008||Tampa Fla. (ACC Championship)||W, 30-12||NR/18||ABC|
|2008||Sat., Oct 18, 2008||Chestnut Hill||L, 23-28||17/NR||ESPN2|
|2007||Sat., Dec 1, 2007||Jacksonville Fla. (ACC Championship)||W, 30-16||12-Jun||ABC (national)|
|2007||Thu., Oct 25, 2007||Blacksburg||L, 10-14||2-Aug||ESPN (national)|
|2006||Thu., Oct 12, 2006||Chestnut Hill||L, 3-22||22/NR||ESPN (national)|
|2005||Thu., Oct 27, 2005||Blacksburg||W, 30-10||13-Mar||ESPN (national)|
|2003||Sat., Nov 22, 2003||Blacksburg||L, 27-34||12/NR||ESPN (national)|
|2002||Thu., Oct 10, 2002||Chestnut Hill||W, 28-23||4/NR||ESPN (national)|
|2001||Sat., Oct 13, 2001||Blacksburg||W, 34-20||6/NR||ESPN2 (national)|
|2000||Sat., Sep 30, 2000||Chestnut Hill||W, 48-34||4/NR||CBS (split national)|
|1999||Fri., Nov 26, 1999||Blacksburg||W, 38-14||22-Feb||CBS (national)|
|1998||Thu., Oct 8, 1998||Chestnut Hill||W, 17-0||17/NR||ESPN (national)|
|1997||Sat., Oct 11, 1997||Blacksburg||W, 17-7||23/NR||BIG EAST Network (regional)|
|1996||Sat., Sep 14, 1996||Chestnut Hill||W, 45-7||19/NR||ESPN (national)|
|1995||Thu., Sep 7, 1995||Blacksburg||L, 14-20||20/NR||ESPN (national)|
|1994||Sat., Sep 17, 1994||Chestnut Hill||W, 12-7||18/NR||BIG EAST Network (regional)|
|1993||Sat., Nov 6, 1993||Chestnut Hill||L, 34-48||25/NR||BIG EAST Network (regional)|
BC's offense this season, as it was last season, is not good. There are no two ways to slice it; the Eagle offensive machine lacks oil, gas, and power. If our Offense is starting slow, sputtering and searching for gears, their offense is having trouble turning over and the transmission gears are shot. Lefty is still running their show, and short of some sort of major change of plans and tactics, BC is more often than not up on a jack, changing tires.
That means something, though. They have scored enough points to win football games with mid-major programs, and they have kept themselves in football games that they lost. That means the BC Eagle Defense isn't going to roll over and play dying cockroach.
BC’s head coach Steve Addazio has been handed a difficult sandwich to eat. The Eagles have managed to scrape together three bowl eligible seasons in as many years, but it’s been tough for them. The program is not currently hugely prestigious though the likes of Doug Flutie, “Matty Ice” Ryan, and Luke Kuechly have made serious NFL impacts but much like Tech, BC peaked in the ‘aughts and now the program is struggling to attract high school talent. As we have found, that narrowed talent pool means narrowed everything else at the NCAA level. It’s a self-reinforcing death spiral that is almost impossible to break out of until the program hits rock bottom and no one expects much of anything from it.
The Eagles offense is led by Anthony Brown who has played in all five games with 89 completions on 162 attempts which is a very pedestrian 54.9% completion rate for 743 yards. That amounts to an average pass play of 4.6 yards and an average per game of 148.6 The biggest problem besides low production that he seems to have is that his interceptions outnumber his touchdowns; 7-6. Their running game is mostly a combination of Jon Hillirman, AJ Dillion, and Thad Smith. Hillirman and Smith are hovering right around 300 yards for the season, with a shade short of 4 yards average each. That means the running game is consistent between the two starting backs. Smith has a nominal number of carries at sixteen, but that comes to 6.2 yards per carry which is not insignificant.
It seems that Lefty might have brought some Beamer Ball to Chestnut Hill because punt/kick returner Michael Walker has been tearing up the turf, especially for the last game against Eastern Michigan. He’s fast and elusive, his returns set up several BC touchdowns in that game. BC is actually ranked first in the NCAA for returns. That’s not insignificant on punts (unless we are good enough on offense to keep Oscar on the bench). Walker is a weapon.
BC’s defense, like its total offense is lurking near the bottom of the NCAA stats pages. That doesn’t mean that Tech should take them lightly, though. This has been, since the season started, a major “trap” game; especially coming off the loss to Clemson.
So, what’s it going to take to win this? All of the usual stuff applies in spades. BC gives the Hokies a chance to get some breath, and get some playing time in for the 2’s and 3’s; or it’s a snake pit and we have to fight every inch of every blade of grass in the turf.
Tech will win if it executes on offense, scores points on possessions instead of punting, and controls the pace of the fame on offense. The defense needs to get consistent stops, and maybe take advantage of Anthony Brown’s tendency to throw picks. Of course he’s a running threat who could scare some folks so getting to him and pulling him down behind the line of scrimmage will just make things easier.
Tech is expected to run away with this one. I would settle for the Hokies running a good offense and keeping their high ranking on defense. I would love to see Josh Jackson being a smart mobile QB, and allowing the running backs to carry the rock. I would like to see good multi-stage patterns develop where Jackson is getting a better look downfield. We need to move the sticks, and avoid third and long situations.
We need to win, much more than some folks might think that we do. Not only for our ACC ranking, but for our team’s pride and experience level. Losing teaches hard lessons. We got a taste of that last week. Let’s not get another bite at that particular crab apple, again.
Game Time is Evening and it’s on ESPN2. The Thread will be up and we will be on it, and tweeting for the entire contest.