Friday, September 30, 2011

ACC Expansion

Discussion of this topic may be coming about two weeks too late, but with Texas A&M's jump to the SEC made official and rumors of Missouri and West Virginia's interest in the SEC still mulling about, it still seems pertinent.  Expansion seems unavoidable at this time as conferences and television stations (ESPN) are trolling the waters for more exposure and more money.  Previously, I was against expansion.  The conferences, as they were, made sense.  The ACC took care of the Atlantic Coast, the Big East the Northeast, the PAC-10 the Pacific Coast, and the SEC existed as the newest incarnation of the Confederacy.  But then all hell broke loose when A&M went to the SEC, Baylor started suing everybody in sight, Oklahoma started looking west, and ACC Commissioner John Swofford came out of nowhere and made the ACC the first super-conference.

I hoped two things during the latest round of conference expansion.  First, was that John Swofford was doing everything he could to keep the ACC intact and second, was that Gene DeFillipo was making sure Boston College was going to be in the best position it possibly could. As it turned out, both of these things happened.  Gene is a member of the "444" committee begun by John Swofford to consult about the shifts in college sports, specifically expansion.  The 444 committee is an organization of four university presidents, four athletic directors, and four faculty representatives from each of the ACC schools.  Certainly, any decision regarding conference expansion would have been made only after consulting with the 444 committee.  By making the move to add Pitt and Syracuse, Swofford ensured the survival of the ACC as conference expansion continues (which it most assuredly will).  Gene, for his part, almost certainly was privy to knowledge about the expansion, if not actively involved in the decision making process.  Through the efforts of Swofford and of Gene, BC remains in a strong position in the conference it wants to keep as its home.

Pitt and Syracuse shifts the focus of the conference north. BC no longer remains as the lone northern outpost of the ACC.  The teams also bring football programs with strong traditions to the conference and although irrelevant in recent years, Pitt has consistently posted winning seasons over the last decade.  Syracuse, though certainly not what it once was, is resurgent under the leadership of Doug Marrone and brings with it a strong history of excellence on the football field.  I think I am most excited to continually play Syracuse.  I was excited last year when the series was renewed and now look forward to playing them in conference each year.  BC vs. Syracuse has the potential to become a great rivalry again and Gene has said publicly he would like to see it become a Thanksgiving game.  The opportunity to play Pitt each year will also give BC exposure in western Pennsylvania which could help in future recruiting.

The one fear I have about the addition is the shakeup it could have for the current Atlantic and Coastal Divisions.  For one, I like the way the divisions are set up and the current form of inter-division scheduling, allowing for one cross division rival.  Ideally, Syracuse would be added to the Atlantic and Pitt to the Coastal maintaining the current division formats.  What I expect to occur, however, is that Wake or NC State will move to the Coastal with the other Carolina schools and Pitt and Syracuse will be added to the Atlantic.

Swofford's move to add Pitt and Syracuse was a great move for the ACC.  The addition of two great programs, in the north, will make the ACC stronger in the long run and will give BC two neighbors north of the Mason- Dixon.  Most important though, is the stability Pitt and Syracuse will give the ACC as conference expansion continues.  With 14 teams and arguably the best basketball conference in the nation, the ACC will most assuredly have a seat at the table as college football moves towards super conferences.  For BC, this will allow us to remain in the conference that we want to keep as our home as we begin to assert ourselves more on the national stage in football and basketball.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Seeing the final score of 45- 17 was a good feeling.  It certainly is nice to put one in the win column especially since many feared that this could be another upset loss for BC.  Yet despite the good feelings that come with winning a game many BC fans, including myself, have been left with a feeling that this win was, well, empty. 

Take away the facts that BC was 0-3 coming into the game and that the team and fans were in dire straits going into Saturday.  With these blinders on, BC won against a Division 1-AA, FCS team.  We're supposed to win against these types of teams.  This win became more than it was because BC was 0-3 going into it and many have viewed this win as the springboard that will get us to bowl eligibility if not the ACC Championship and the Orange Bowl.  While in my heart this is what I believe will happen, my gut is an entirely different story. 

As a disclaimer I did not see the game, so everything that I say comes from what I have read about the game.  By all accounts, the same problems that have plagued BC in the previous three weeks still exist, but just aren't as glaring when playing an FCS opponent.  The line play, offensive and defensive, was sloppy.  The defense is not getting the push it needs to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and the offensive line is not opening the holes that will help the run game, nor do they seem to be able to give Chase Rettig the protection that past offensive lines have given past quarterbacks.  Injuries still plague BC on both sides of the ball.  Kaleb Ramsey aggravated his injury from the Northwestern game making him questionable for this weekend's game against Wake Forest and Montel Harris, although back playing, still seems limited in his ability, rushing for just 27 yards on 9 carries this weekend, though much of that can be chalked up to UMass being his first game since last year. 

On the positive side, Chase Rettig seems to be progressing well.  For the record, I am a big proponent of Chase and think, in the right system and with the right coaching, he has the potential to become one of the great Boston College quarterbacks.  Chase has continued to show progression through the season and is making better decisions.  Although Montel is limited, his mere presence is going to help Chase going forward.  Opponents tend to stack the box against BC in general, but especially when Montel Harris is in the backfield.  If Montel can even be just 80% this season, his threat can enable BC to open up the passing game and create a much more balanced offensive attack rather than the run heavy offense BC has been used to since Matt Ryan left.  The 45 points that BC put up on the board this weekend is an indication of that, especially since 21 of them came from the arm of Chase Rettig into the hands of Colin Larmond, Jr., who is quickly becoming Chase's number one target and the deep threat BC has lacked in past seasons.  However, these points came against UMass and, at risk of becoming a Sullen Saturdays, BC is going to face much more stout defenses (paging Bud Foster) in the weeks ahead.  

There is reason for hope.  There are always reasons for hope in college football.  If week four of the college football season taught us anything it is that BC's upcoming opponents may be more vulnerable than previously expected.  Florida State is beatable.  Clemson may just be a little too cocky in two weeks.  And Maryland just lost to Temple.  If BC can get even just a little bit better on both sides of the ball, Boston College is looking at some very winnable games in the coming weeks.  This weekend's game against UMass doesn't tell us much, but it made us feel good.  Our upcoming, parent's weekend game against Wake Forest, I think, will give us a better sense of what we can expect from the season.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Present State of BC Football

For my first real post I wanted to discuss the current state of football at Boston College as a way to frame my posts for the rest of the season.  The season is only three weeks old and yet Boston College football, even to an unbiased observer, is having severe difficulty winning games early on in a schedule that is only going to get harder with trips to Virginia Tech, Clemson, Notre Dame, and Miami.  The only saving grace is that BC gets to play Florida State at home, but that may not be saying much since BC is still 0-2 at home this season against Northwestern and Duke.

The simple fact is BC is having difficulty scoring touchdowns.  In three games this season BC has scored four touchdowns which puts them on track to score 16 total touchdowns this season, half of last season's production (33 touchdowns) and just one third of offensive touchdowns in 2007 (48, Matt Ryan's senior year).  There are a few excuses that can be made for the lack of offensive production.  First, is youth.  There are just three total seniors on the offensive two deep for BC. Chase Rettig is a sophomore and making sophomore mistakes: taking sacks instead of throwing the ball away, not tucking and running when no receivers are open, etc.  In the backfield senior Montel Harris, the ACC's leading rusher in 2010, has been out with a lingering knee injury leaving tailback duties to sophomore Andre Williams, who saw limited action at the end of last year, as well as sophomore Rolandan Finch and Redshirt Freshman Tahj Kimble.  Couple this with a young offensive line and youth and lack of depth at the skill positions and scoring touchdowns has been difficult for the Eagles.  Second, is injuries.  Ifeanyi Momah is out for the season after tearing his ACL against Northwestern.  Montel's knee injury coupled with pre-season injuries on the offensive line make it difficult for BC to gain consistent positive production on offense.

However, youth and injuries do not tell the whole story.  Since Frank Spaziani became the Head Coach in 2008, BC has lost one more game each season going, 8-5 in 2009 and 7-6 in 2010 and in 2011 could potentially be a 2 or 3 win team.  The in game coaching since this staff took over has been less than inspiring.  The signature Frank Spaziani play seems to be taking a knee to end the half, something that has become almost a joke in the blogosphere.  Additionally, poor clock management has kept BC opponents in the game.  This past weekend against Duke with the ball in the red zone, BC coaches called an unnecessary time out, leaving Duke enough time to receive the ball back and march down the field to score on their ensuing possession.  The current staff's lack of effective strategy and play calling has, statistically, cost BC one win each season since it has been in place.  While youth and injuries do not help, it seems the offense's hands are tied by an incapable coaching staff.

The lone bright spot of the current BC team remains the defense.  Strong defenses have been a BC hallmark for nearly a decade, with much credit going to Frank Spaziani for producing consistently strong defenses that, year in and year out, send players to the NFL (two BC defensemen, BJ Raji and Robert LeFrancois, were members of the Super Bowl winning Green Bay Packers).  Yet the defense is not immune to the same problems as the rest of the team.  Eleven freshmen are listed on the defensive two deep and three sophomores are listed as starters.  Injuries have also plagued the defense.  Sophomore defensive back CJ Jones is out for the season after a knee injury against UCF and senior defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey hasn't played since Northwestern with a foot injury.  Despite this the defense has remained stout in games. Led by junior linebacker Luke Kuechly, who after three games has recorded 58 tackles, the defense has kept BC in many of its games.  However, the inability of the coaching staff to adjust the defense to counter the offensive production of opponents has cost BC some of it's early games.

Three games into the season BC is still winless.  A win against UMass this weekend could put things back on track but, even then, it is still an FCS team and a win could feel, well, empty.  Furthermore, a win against UMass would still not be able to tell us much about the direction the team is headed.  Kevin Rogers' leave of absence certainly hurt the offense, however there were flashes of brilliance, offensively, amidst the mediocrity in the last few games.  Certainly, BC has so far this season always seemed one or two plays away from winning their games (except for, maybe, UCF).  However, if Boston College remains on the track it is presently on, and things do not begin to change for the better, then the discussion of change at the top may have to being in earnest.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Reason For This Blog

Why am I starting this blog?  The answer is simple.  I love college football and, specifically, I love Boston College football.  My passion for these two topics have spurred me to write this blog.

Six years ago I could hardly tell you a thing about college football or even Boston College football.  I was vaguely aware that USC had a great football team and that Texas and Oklahoma did too.  Michigan was pretty good and Notre Dame had had some guy named Rudy play for them and he was so good he had a movie made about him.  That was the extent of my knowledge about college football in my senior year of high school in 2005.

When I set foot on the Boston College campus a few months later in September 2005, things began to change.  I swear the moment I walked through the door of my dorm, a deep hatred of any and everything Notre Dame was ingrained in me (Rudy was so clearly offsides) and my appreciation for college football began to emerge.  One of the first games of my student life at Boston College was an 8PM home game against Florida State on ESPN.  Since it was Boston College's inaugural game into the ACC, College GameDay set up in the Dustbowl and I watched Lee Corso put on the Seminole headdress.  With this, my attitude to BC football, and college football began to change.

Admittedly, the passion for college football that I have now did not begin until the summer before my junior year at BC which, conveniently for me, was the summer before Matt Ryan's senior year.  Would I have become as crazy about college football as I am now were it not for that amazing season?  Who knows, but the fact of the matter is Matt Ryan led us to a #2 ranking and the ACC Championship Game that year and I was hooked.

By the time the 2007 college football season ended I was borderline obsessed with college football.  Let alone everything I could tell you about Gerard Phelan, Charlie O'Rourke, and O- Line U, I could wax poetic about Chief Osceola, Rocky Top, the Horseshoe, the Backyard Brawl, Boomer Sooner and Big Al.  My number one love will always be the Eagles, but there's a reason Saturday is my favorite day of the week and fall my favorite time of the year and it's because of, as Bill King calls it, "God's Sport"... college football.

My aim with this blog is to start out small, touching on topics pertaining to Boston College football, a topic which currently will be able to keep me very busy.  But my ultimate goal is to at some point parlay this into a blog about all aspects of college football.  I look forward to embarking on this adventure and see where it goes.

I hope you enjoy your Saturday on Shea.