2012 College Football Season Preview: Boston College Eagles
2011 Record: (4-8, 3-5 in ACC)
Head Coach: Frank Spaziani (20-19 at BC, 12-12 in ACC)
Last Bowl Game: 2010 Fight Hunger Bowl (lost to Nevada 20-13)
Must Win: 9/8 vs Maine, 10/6 at Army, 10/27 vs Maryland
Swing Games: 9/1 vs Miami (Fl), 9/15 at Northwestern, 11/3 at Wake Forest
Stat to Cheer: 35.5 yards of penalties per game (2nd in ACC)
Stat to Fear: had 8 sacks in 2012 (last in ACC and in the Nation)
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: (Offense: 10; Defense: 7; Specialists: 1)
Key Defensive Returnees: LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (74 tackles), LB Steele Divitto (72 tackles), DT Kaleb Ramsey (39 tackles, 2.5 sacks in 2010)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Chase Rettig (12 TD, 9 INT), RB Rolandan Finch (705 yards), WR Colin Larmond (34 rec), WR Bobby Swigert (44 rec), OG Bobby Vardaro, OT Emmett Cleary
Inside Scoop with Soaring to Glory:
CFBZ: How much improvement does Boston College need to show for Frank Spaziani to hold onto his job?
Soaring to Glory: This is a tough one to answer because BC’s situation is not normal. Most schools would have probably already jettisoned Spaziani already after three years of diminishing returns and really just bland, conservative, and uninspiring football, but our athletic director, Gene DeFilippo, loves him. As a matter of fact, after BC went 4-8 last year, DeFilippo tweaked the angry Eagles fans by saying that Spaz is the “best coach we’ve had in the 15 years I’ve been here.” After feeling burnt by our former coach, Jeff Jagodzinski, for trying to interview for a better job, our AD is more interested in having someone loyal like Spaz, regardless of what the results are. I feel like if BC even wins another game or two on top of last year’s total, DeFilippo will use it as justification to keep him. Money talks, though, and if BC is dreadful again this season, leading to loss of ticket sales and donations, he may have no choice but to fire Spaz. A decline in donor cash is probably the only way the trustees will notice and put pressure on the situation.
CFBZ: Luke Kuechly was a special player for the Eagles. Who will step up to try and replace him?
Soaring to Glory: Kuechly’s replacement at MLB is most likely going to be sophomore Sean Duggan. Ironically, Duggan even went to the same high school as Kuechly. He’s a nice player, but we know he isn’t Kuechly, nor is it fair for BC fans to compare him to Luke because he was such a super-human player. The guy who will probably step it up to the next level is WLB Kevin Pierre-Louis. I happen to believe that he’s probably the best player on the team right now and is more than capable of crossing the 100-tackle mark in 2012. Players like Kuechly don’t come around very often and we realize that we probably won’t get close to that kind of production out of anyone else, but I think the linebacking corps is still the best unit on the team and they’ll be fine. The tackle numbers won’t be as flashy, but they’ll be fine.
CFBZ: What are the games that the fanbase wants to win the most?
Soaring to Glory: Obviously, they want to win them all, but the one BC fans circle their calendar for every year is Notre Dame. It’s more of a pride thing than anything else; frankly I would rather BC beat a big-time ACC opponent, but the fans love the BC-ND rivalry and always have. Another one the BC fans are really going to want this year is Miami in Week 1; they saw us get off to an 0-3 start last year, and they know that if we fall at home to the Hurricanes, the season will start off on a bad note right away and could dig themselves another hole, which is possible given the early schedule. If BC loses to Miami I could see a scenario where we're opening at 1-3.
CFBZ: What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2012 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
Soaring to Glory: I have not been optimistic about this team as my readers would know, with good reason. The trajectory of this program is straight down and almost every year since Spaz took over, BC ended up being worse than I expected. In 2010, I figured 8 or 9 wins; BC won 7 but it could have easily been less with some of the games they played. Last year I figured us at 7-5, and clearly that didn't happen, either.
The best-case scenario for this team is probably something like 6-6. A few would celebrate the team sneaking into a fourth-tier bowl game but we won’t be anything better than mediocre. Worst-case scenario is probably something worse than last year’s 4-8, and it’s not entirely implausible. Right now I’ll split the difference and say I’m expecting us to be about a 5-7 team this year. This season would be a success if BC goes better than 6-6, because it would be quite unexpected and actually an indication that things have improved. I’m not going to throw a party over a .500 team and obviously anything worse would be a sign of stagnation or further decline.
The 2011 season could not have started out worse for Boston College as they won just one of their first seven and endured a loss to Duke and a blowout at the hands of a UCF team that turned out to not be very good. Like 2010, the Eagles finished the season on a positive note by winning three of five and coming within two points of beating Notre Dame. Will that positive momentum continue in 2012 or are they doomed to repeat the horrors of 2011?
This year the Eagles must re-place their best player on defense (Luke Kuechly) and their best player on offense (Montel Harris). Harris was only able to play two games last year but fans were eager to get him back in the mix this season. Back in May, Harris was dismissed from the team. BC will lean on Rolandan "Deuce" Finch and Andre Williams to replace Harris. They did a good job in 2011 by combining for 1,222 yards on 281 carries (4.34 ypc) and 7 TD. The question this year is if one of those rising juniors can step up and have more of an impact on the game.
For the second time in two years, the Eagles have a new offensive coordinator. This time they bring in Doug Martin. Statistically he wasn't very impressive in his run at Kent State but last years New Mexico State team did see about a nine point improvement with him on board (of course they were 117th in scoring offense when he took over). Martin is known for being a quarterback mentor and his first task is getting Chase Rettig to the next level. Out of all the QBs in the ACC only Tevin Washington and CJ Brown completed a lower percentage of passes.
Defensively, BC allowed a respectable 23.5 ppg. The problem was they scored the least amount of points in the ACC. One area the Eagles did a really good job at was keeping it's opponent's out of the end zone once they got in the red zone. BC was fourth in conference allowing 48.89% TD percentage once it's opponents were in the red zone. One third of the time it's opponents entered the red zone they came out with just a field goal. An area that BC will have to improve on is getting after the quarterback. They had just eight sacks last year. Eight sacks! Georgia's Jarvis Jones got that in three games and Clemson's Andre Branch and FSU's Brandon Jenkins had that by themselves last season. Getting pressure on the quarterback, even when you don't sack him, creates turnovers and BC was tenth in the conference in creating turnovers with just 16 (including a league low three fumble recoveries). With losing Luke Kuechly, it's hard to see BC improving on defense but if they can become more explosive (in regards to sacks and turnovers) it would greatly help them.
The biggest thing with BC right now comes down to the man calling the shots and I don't think you will find many out there that have a great deal of confidence in Frank Spaziani. This is a make it break it year for him and I think they will have a difficult time getting back to a bowl.
2012 Prediction: 4-8
Previous 2012 Previews:
Big 12: Kansas
Get more great college football analysis over at College Football Zealots.