October 30, 2009

CMU vs. Boston College preview

Well…here Central Michigan sits. On the verge of the programs first ever Top 25 ranking and still holding only one blemish on the loss record, the Chippewas head the Chestnut Hill to face the Boston College Eagles in an exciting out of conference contest. CMU has proven over and over again that they are a resilient team and the toast of the MAC conference this season, but do they have what it takes to beat their second BCS opponent of the year and take the program to new heights?




Taking a look at Boston College:

Glancing over their 5-3 record, it's clear the Eagles are much more comfortable at home then on the road. In fact, all five wins are at home and all three losses are on the road. While some of that is to blame on their tough road opponents (Clemson, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame), it's still worth noting that BC has some inexperience and has yet to prove they can win away from their home field. But, this game is being played at Chestnut Hill and as previously mentioned, BC is undefeated at home this season. They hold victories over Northeastern, Kent State, Wake Forest, Florida State and NC State and have proven they can finish games at home.

Despite a 5-3 mark and a record few experts predicted in the pre-season, Boston College is still in a bit of flux right now. They had coaching issues in the off-season when Jeff Jagodzinski was relieved of his duties after interviewing for other jobs and Frank Spaziani was promoted to head coach. Then BC recently faced the departures of third string quarterback Justin Tuggle and backup running back Josh Haden, who both decided to transfer earlier this week. Haden was cleary the much bigger loss as he was the Eagles second leading rusher and used to spell starter Montel Harris.

Regardless of what's happening outside the program, BC still sits at 5-3 (3-2) and hold their own fate the rest of the season. The Boston College program has been among the best, if not the best in the ACC the last 5-10 years and they continually put a talented product on the field.

Boston College on offense:

Boston College is a run first team with an inexperienced quarterback at the helm. Starting running back Montel Harris has been the workhorse for BC this season and has gained 794 yards on 156 attempts (5.1 YPC) this season. With Haden gone, he will likely be spelled by Rolandan Finch, who has gained 142 yards on the season. As a unit, BC averages 144.6 yards per game on the ground and have 287 rushing attempts compared to 211 passing attempts.

Leading the passing game is 25 year old freshman quarterback Dave Shinskie. Shinksie spent years in the baseball minor leagues before coming to BC and earning the starting quarterback job during the first few weeks of the season. He has been asked to manage games to the tune of 1097 yards through the air. He has completed 52.7% of his passes and has a touchdown to interception ratio of 10-7. While he is still developing and prone to making poor decisions, he has the ability to make every throw and proved in last weeks game against the Fighting Irish that he is capable of making big plays when they are needed (see 4th and 17 conversion). His go to guy is wide receiver Rich Gunnel, who has amassed 32 receptions for 439 yards and 4 touchdowns on the season. Shinksie looks for Gunnel in clutch situations and the two have developed quiet a combination. If Gunnel is the go to guy, then C Larmond Jr. is the big play threat. Larmond Jr. has accounted for 429 receiving yards on just 20 receptions, for an average of 21.5 yards per reception.

Boston College averages 29 points per game on offense, but have been stifled in the games they could not establish a run game.

Boston College on defense:

Hard nosed defense and talent a plenty. That's what the defense at Boston College has been accustomed to and this year has been no different. Even with the loss of reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year Mark Herzlich (illiness), the Eagles have developed one of the top defenses in the ACC. They give up an average of 20.6 yards per game and have been incredibly stout against the run, allowing opponents only an average of 3.1 yards per carry. They are led by linebacker Luke Kuechly and his team leading 83 tackles. Kuechly also has accounted for 7 tackles for a loss.


The Eagles have been a tad vulnerable through the air this season and have allowed opponents to throw for an average of 216 yards per game. They may also be without starting corner DeLeon Gause, who is questionable for the game.

The rest of the Boston College defense is done by committee. BC has nine players with at least one sack and five players with an interception, not to mention thirteen players with 20+ tackles.

How Central Michigan wins:

To put Boston College in an unfavorable position, opponents must limit the damage they do on the ground. The Eagles are most effective when they can pound the rock and have Shinkskie work play action off that, but have struggled when the run game isn't working and Shinskie must throw often. While Shinskie is a talented QB, he is still inexperienced and prone to some bad decisions. The more he throws the ball, the better for the Chippewas.

Offensivly, CMU has been on a tear as of late. BC lacks the dominant edge rushers that have given them trouble, but still field a tough defense that hits hard and has multiple players who can make big plays. With running backs Paris Cotton, Bryan Schroeder and Tim Phillips banged up, CMU will once again count on the experienced Carl Volny to carry the load. CMU presents some match-up problems at wide receiver with Bryan Anderson, Antonio Brown and Kito Poblah, so the Chippewas should look to exploit that at all costs, especially if BC is banged up in the secondary. And finally, CMU will need another big performance out of Dan LeFevour. Due to the running back injuries, LeFevour can expect his number called multiple times to run the ball and he has to make smart decisions with the football and hit on the big plays when they are available.



PREDICTION

Central Michigan: 31
Boston College: 27


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