The Rivalry Some Love and Some Would Rather Leave
There are some rivalries that many fan bases cherish. There are others that many fan bases would rather not have, and the Virginia Tech/Boston College rivalry seems to be both of those things. A huge chunk of the Tech fanbase loves the annual contest as a chance to push against a peer program that isn’t a cupcake even in a tough season. There is another chunk that only seems to remember the tough losing games and would rather never play the Eagles, again.
Confession here: I love this rivalry and always have. I am not a fan of dominating “rivalries” that just end up being cupcake contests where my team just gets to beat up on the other team as a matter of routine.
The Tech-BC matchups have been the cream events of the Big East and ACC since BC came over with us back in 2004. The teams have met a total of 31 times since 1993, and that includes facing off twice in 2007 and 2008 for regular season and ACC Championship games. That’s 30 years this season. Three decades is a rivalry in the modern era. BC’s disappearance from the future schedules as a fixed rivalry is disappointing.
Should anyone be too concerned, the history has Tech winning the series 20-11, and for those who think that we don’t fare too well in Chestnut Hill there might be a think again moment due when you see that Tech has managed to win that portion of the series, too, at 9-6. Of course, Hokie fans are justifiably nervous about this weekend because Tech has been struggling on the road, of late. Well, this is a chance for road redemption for Brent Pry and crew.
There has been plenty of drama between these two clubs, and it’s been at both locations for both teams.
The Boston College 2023 “Miracle”
So, what does Tech face as they roll into the Boston area to take the field that they have taken so many times over thirty years? The first thing to realize is that BC and Tech are tied at 3 ACC wins and 2 Losses, each. However, BC gained bowl eligibility last weekend with their win against Syracuse. Several of their wins have been against “play down” teams. They defeated UConn in what was too close of a contest for a supposed P5 program (we won’t talk about Tech’s drop to Marshall). They also beat Northern Illinois, a struggling Army, and Holy Cross. Those base wins were by a see-saw of scores that show the Eagles to be a team with at least three wins that could have just as easily been losses with a tip of less than fortunate luck.
The upshot is that Tech is still 2 wins away from bowl eligibility and BC has made it. So, what gives with why BC has gotten this far this season when they were anticipated to lurk at the bottom of the ACC well, again?
The Sort of Odd but Marginally Successful Offense
The first answer to the question is something that confounds many folks, and that’s an offensive line that is serviceable to pretty good. Boston College has actually managed to mount a respectable balance and can run pretty well. Their passing game is still not the best, but the Eagles have gotten good enough at the run to be a threat on the ground. That leads to the second factor in BC’s five game win streak and that’s the emergence of quarterback Thomas Castellanos. Or is that running back Thomas Castellanos? The statement is true in both cases. Castellanos is both the QB and the Eagles’ leading rusher. He reminds me of Doug Flutie in both stature and effect on the game. The Sophomore from Georgia (of all places) has been good for 1714 yards in the air with 12 touchdowns. On the downside, Castellanos has tossed the ball to the wrong hat seven times, and five of those have been in the last five games with UVA picking him off twice. He hasn’t thrown for too many TDs this season, with 12 on the books, but most of those have come from early season games. His last five games he has thrown only five touchdown passes, and two of those were in the 24-27 win against UVA.
Catching the Rock
Their top four receivers all are in triple digits, with Castellanos’s main target looking like Lewis Bond (485 yards) followed by Joseph Griffin, Jr., Ryan O’Keefe, and Dino Tomlin who are all in the 200’s, with Griffin looking like he will go over 300 for the season, soon. That’s not a deep burner passing attack. Bond does have five touchdowns for the season, but everyone else who has scored in the air has just one each.
Toting the Rock #1
The oddity of Castellanos’s running is that he’s all of 5’10” and 196 pounds. That does make him out to be similar in size and shape to many halfbacks across college football. Maybe there is some level of confusion with the pass rush or the linebackers that are supposed to keep him from ripping off yards, but Castellanos has 760 yards. He’s only been sacked three times in the last five games, but that’s probably because of his ability to scramble out of trouble, and BC’s lower powered passing game. He can pass when he wants to, though. Don’t be fooled by the running totals. He’s a legitimate dual threat and can go downfield if BC needs him to do so.
Toting the Rock #2
On the ground, the Eagles have a presence, but no game breaking rock toters. Their running back corps is led by (besides Castellanos) Kye Robicheaux with a respectable 565 yards and five touchdowns. The other two main running backs, each with over 200 yards, are Pat Garwo and Alex Broome. They have each broken at least one 50 yard plus run and Garwo has scored a touchdown. They are putting up fairly solid numbers for secondary backs, though. Given Tech’s problems stopping the run, the Eagles could be a real handful on Saturday.
The saving grace for the Hokies is that the Tech offense matches up pretty well against the BC defense. Their defensive line hasn’t put much pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season, and the team has managed a total of 11 sacks. Six of those QB drops in the backfield have gone; at the rate of two each, to defensive ends Neto Okpala, Shitta Sillah, and Donovan Ezeiruaku. That’s not horrible, but it’s not blazingly hot, either. In any sense of the word, the BC defense is rated as Good to very good, depending on the opponent. They do have a ball hawk who is dangerous to throw against. Defensive Back Elijah Jones has managed five interceptions this season (leads the ACC), and that’s nothing to ignore. He’s going to be a dangerous coverage problem to solve. The Eagles don’t have a defense to brag big about, but they don’t have to complain too much about it, either.
The Challenge (s)
The Hokies arrive in Chestnut Hill with a serious problem going on. They got their butts whooped big time by Louisville, and it’s got to smart a bunch. BC had the same thing happen to them against the Cardinals, so using that game to get some sort of gauge on how to deal with the Eagles isn’t going to be particularly helpful. The numbers say that Louisville beat the stuffing out of Boston College just about the same way that it beat the slats off of the Hokies.
What’s going to win this game for the Hokies? The defense needs to play contain the QB and keep him in the pocket. He’s short, and if Coach Marve gets a bit brave and more than a bit cheeky, loads the box and contains Costellanos to make him dependent on throwing the ball, the Hokies have a chance at a win. The worry is that he’ll spread out the offense, which spreads out the defense, and pulls the ball in on limited reads to slide it in for 8-12 yards a scramble. The word is that he’s not 100% for the game so there is that, too. Those rumors really can’t be counted on for more that gamesmanship and propaganda. The Hokies have to be prepared to defend against an aggressive running quarterback that scopes out to look very much like Pop Watson on paper. Marve should have Watson running the scout team and working on how to contain that sort of quarterback play.
On offense, the Hokies have to drive the ball, they can’t willy-nilly throw the ball downfield on bomb shots up the seam. The chances are that both Malachi Thomas and Bhayshul Tuten could have good days, especially if the line can get the BC defensive ends over rushing, and the backs can counter against it.
The passing game needs to go downfield, even if it’s for 5 to 10 yards. Tech has to avoid getting into trouble throwing to receivers covered, or zones covered by Elijah Jones. He’s their best defensive back and 5 picks in a season is a bell ringer. It’s critical for the Hokies to balance their attack between pass and run. One thing that the Hokies must avoid is wasting 1st and 2nd down plays. Too many times this season the team has gotten behind the chains after a poor play call and execution on 1st down, only to be forced into an offensive quit on a three-and-out situation. The play calling and design inside the 15 has to be fixed, or the season ends Thanksgiving.
The Numbers and Odds are Tight...
Tech started out the week as a 4-point underdog to the Eagles, and then some news about the potential for Castellanos not being 100% shifted the balance to the Hokies giving 1.5. That’s a pretty radical shift in just four days. The Over/Under is listed at 49.5 which means that the odds makers are thinking both teams will be scoring in the low 20s.
Frankly, that’s not a particularly bad guess. Giving BC 1.5 is sort of odd and that number just really smacks of a pick ‘em without the betting houses wanting to weather that even odds storm.
What is in Your Blender?
Time for you to check in and tell us how you think this might go.
It’s Boston College. They are winning and competent. They have a dual threat QB, and a DB with sticky fingers. How does this one go?
This poll is closed
Tech ran into a block wall last week. I think that the air has come out and there is no way that the Hokies are a 1.5 point favorite. Look for BC to run and stop Drones. Tech loses by a TD or more with an Under total.
Hokies put away the embarrassment and use the chance to win out to their energy advantage. Drones and Tuten run well, and the passing is sparing. The defense gets some critical stops and Tech grabs a win by a Field Goal bet the Over by a hair.
BC’s not a scoring machine, and their passing game is not as good as their QB running game. Tech loads for bear on offense and hangs with BC through the game, but BC manages to edge out Tech after a turnover. Bet the Under on this.
The Hokies and Eagles both battle it out until Drones starts targeting receivers not covered by Jones, and Tuten gets hot with solid runs and receiving out of the backfield. It isn’t a rout, but the Hokies manage a touchdown+ win. This one goes over.
Predictions tomorrow evening.
Hoops are heating up, too. The women play Iowa at 8:00 PM this evening!