September 7, 2006

Vital, Urgent, Critical...

Significant, critical, vital, urgent, consequential....what do all of these words have in common? They are synonyms for the word important. You can use any of these words to describe how big Boston College's showdown with Clemson is.

This game was going to be important no matter what the outcome of the Florida State and Miami game was. Now that FSU won, it's going to be imperative for B.C. to win this game if they want to keep pace with the Seminoles in the ACC Atlantic Division.

A little "home cookin", might be just what the doctor ordered for the Eagles after their sluggish seven point win over Central Michigan. B.C. has won nine out of their last eleven games at the Heights, and they always seem to be able to stand toe-to-toe with opponents that come in as favorites.

The biggest storyline of this game can be summed up in one two words...injured stars. For the Eagles, Matt Ryan's ankle injury has been a concern all week. I'd be more surprised if Ryan didn't play than if he did play. I think Coach O'Brien is pulling a Bill Belichick with the media this week.

With that being said, the biggest injury news is probably on the other side of the field. Clemson middle linebacker Anthony Waters was lost for the season last weekend, when he tore a ligament in his knee. Waters was the returning leading tackler in the ACC coming into the season. Not only was the middle linebacker a great player, but he was the leader of the defense as well.

When Clemson runs: Advantage Clemson

To be frank, any of Clemson's three running backs on their depth chart could start for B.C. The leader of the pack is sophomore James Davis. In Davis's freshman campaign, he ran for 879 yards, which is pretty impressive considering that he missed a few games due to injury. Davis has a good combination of speed and power, and probably the best thing about him is he has an uncanny knack at finding the hole his line makes for him. Last weekend against Florida Atlantic, Davis rushed for 94 yards on 14 carries in very little playing time.

Backing up Davis, is freshman running back C.J. Spiller, and senior Reggie Merriweather. Spiller is one of the best incoming freshmen in the ACC, and has the ability to go the distance on any carry. Merriweather is a bruising back, that's built like a bowling ball. The Tigers count on Merriweahter in some short yardage situations. Normally, it would be irrelevant to mention anyone's three deep at running back, but in Clemson's case it is totally relevant. The Clemson offense isn't quite a running back by committee, but you can count on the fact that whatever running back is in the game is probably pretty fresh.

The news doesn't get any better for B.C. when you consider the fact that the entire offensive line has returned for Clemson this season. Like CMU's line, the Clemson offensive line is stronger at run blocking than pass protection. The star on the line is senior guard Roman Fry, who was 2nd team All-ACC last season.

What does all of this mean for B.C.? It means that Brian Toal and his fellow linebackers could be in for a long day if they don't get better help from the defensive line. B.C.'s linebackers are all going to have to play as well as they can to slow down the Clemson rushing stack.

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