We caught up with Brian over at BC Interruption and were able to ask him a few questions about the upcoming Clemson/BC matchup this weekend. In turn, we answered a few of his questions as well. I highly encourage you to take a peak at the information that BCI has and their views on the Eagles.
STS: Boston College has experienced a couple of close, tough losses in conference the past two weeks. What does BC need to do to finish these contests out and get a win in close games like the ones against Maryland and Florida State?
BCI: Where do you want to begin? How about don't give an offense as anemic as yours a short field by protecting the football? Or getting your defense off the field by moving the ball on offense? Or catching the ball when its thrown to you? Or maintaining some semblance of consistency on the offensive line?
BC is finding all sorts of fun and creative ways of losing. One week, it's getting shutout at home for the first time in 12 seasons. The next? Dropping a 31-13 contest to your Catholic rivals. After that? Getting pasted by your former head coach 44-17, a year after you handed them a 52-20 beatdown. The following week? Going +4 in turnover margin and losing to the ACC's best team on the road by 5 points. The week after that? Going -3 in turnover margin and losing to a very beatable ACC opponent at home by 3 points. It's almost become comical how many different ways the Eagles have lost this season. I'm not sure I can even think up a new and creative way to lose that the Eagles haven't already accomplished.
If there's one thing I can point to that will help BC turn some of these Ls into Ws, it's converting on third downs. BC has converted just 30 of 105 third down attempts, a 28.57 percentage. That's good for 114th nationally and is the second-to-worst conversion percentage for a BCS conference team (thanks, Vanderbilt!) If you don't include our I-AA game against Weber State, that percentage goes down to 28.13. You can't realistically expect to win when you can't get your defense off the field. At some point, they are just going to break.
STS: BC has a few guys who have taken a lot of snaps at the QB position this season. Neither 26 year old Sophomore Dave Shinskie nor Mike Marscovetra has played the past two weeks as Freshman Chase Rettig has taken all the snaps. Who will we see Saturday (barring injury) and what are the biggest differences between the three quarterbacks?
BCI: You'll likely see Chase Rettig take all the snaps on Saturday. If you don't, BC is in trouble. Neither Dave Shinskie or Mike Marscovetra proved to be the answer for the Eagles earlier this season, causing Spaz to burn Rettig's redshirt and throw him to the fire against Notre Dame on national television. Rettig's debut didn't last long, as the Irish defense knocked him out of the second quarter of the game with a sprained ankle.
Rettig has showed much more pocket presence than either Shinskie or Marscovetra. He's also shown that he can use his legs more than the other two Eagles QBs. That said, Rettig is still a true freshman and has played at times like he was playing high school ball a year ago. He's missing open receivers and not going through his full progression.
It certainly hasn't helped that the offensive line has been wildly inconsistent, giving all three BC QBs little time to operate. Still, Rettig clearly has the most upside of the three signal callers and all signs are he'll be the future of the BC program.
STS: BC's offense has been lackluster to date. What can the Eagles do to improve on their 79th nationally ranked passing attack, 105th ranked rush offense, and 104th ranked scoring offense? Has this offense improved since the beginning of the season and what do you think the big issue(s) for Boston College in terms of offense for the Eagles so far?
BCI: It's start up front. As I said, the BC offensive line play has been very inconsistent. It looks like Spaz has finally found a combination that might just work (LT-Castonzo, LG-Richman, C-Spinney, RG-Claiborne, RT-Lapham) and hopefully the line starts to put things together. Amazingly, BC only had to replace one starter on the line - center Matt Tennant - but the offensive line shuffle has produced some very inconsistent results through seven games.
Better line play will open up the running game a bit, but the biggest improvement has to come from the Eagles' passing game. Like Clemson, the Eagles' receiving corps is very young and inexperienced. They aren't running as crisp routes as they could be and haven't really been able to develop any sort of chemistry with Rettig. If defenses respect the Eagles' passing game - and BC has given opponents no reason to do so - that will also open up the run game a bit and give Montel Harris more holes to run through.
As it stands now, opponents have free reign to stack the box and dare Rettig to beat them through the air. So far, that strategy has largely worked.
STS: Clemson has been up and down on offense all season and will need to run the ball to be successful against the Eagles. Do you see Boston College bringing extra guys into the box to try to slow down the Tigers? How confident are you with BC's secondary in man situations with little help over the top?
BCI: BC has been solid against the run all season. This has been the signature of the Frank Spaziani/Bill McGovern defenses for quite some time. I don't know if BC will bring extra guys into the box on Saturday, especially with DE Alex Albright lost for the season to injury. If there's a weakness on the Eagles defense, it has been in the pass rush. BC has gotten little pressure on opposing QBs giving them time to work.
Both the linebackers and DBs have struggled in pass coverage. The BC D left Maryland QB O'Brien have a big day on Saturday and played some soft coverage. I understand that the Clemson WRs are pretty inexperienced but with Wes Davis and DeLeon Gause both potentially out on Saturday, this unit becomes much more thin.
STS: Is there a player that Clemson fans should pay particular attention on BC's defense? On BC's offense?
BCI: On defense, watch for linebacker Luke Kuechly. The kid is a tackling machine. He just seems to find a way to the ball and has great football instincts. The scariest part is he's just a sophomore. Kuechly has largely had to prop up a linebacking corps that has struggled in the passing game. The return of Mark Herzlich from battling cancer has been nothing short of amazing, but he isn't quite the player he was in 2008.
The offense runs through Montel Harris. Harris is easily our best offensive weapon. He recently eclipsed the 3,000 yard mark for his career ... as a junior ... and is poised to break nearly every school rushing record. This season, he's (almost quietly) rushed for 694 yards on 149 carriers and is averaging 4.7 yards a carry. He's gone over the 100 yard mark four times already this year, and that's despite some inconsistent play from his line. As long as Rettig can keep the Clemson offense honest, I think Harris will have another good day running the ball.
STS: Off topic, I have heard a few Clemson fans talk about heading up to New England this weekend for the game. Can you give Clemson fans some suggestions on "must do" items in Boston? Any nightlife or off-the-beaten-path items that the folks from South Carolina should know about?
BCI: The great thing about visiting Boston is that there is no shortage of things to do. Everything from the history to parks to some great food and bars. What BC lacks in gameday atmosphere, they make up for it with proximity to one of the more fun cities in the country.
On game day, be sure to check out Cleveland Circle. There are plenty of bars where Superfans and visiting fans hang out before the game, including Roggie's, Cityside and Mary Ann's, a BC dive bar special. Roggie's and Cityside serve food. There's also two good pizza places in Cleveland Circle - Presto's and Pino's. And if you are feeling very hungry, you can stop by Eagle's Deli to take on the Godzilla Burger challenge - a 1 pound burger and 1 pound of fries. If you finish the burger in an hour, you can get your picture on the wall.
If you are in town the night before, consider checking out the BC men's hockey team game against Merrimack. It's the first home game of the season, and the Eagles will raise their 2010 National Championship banner.
Around town, be sure to check out Kenmore Square and Fenway Park (I'm a Yankees fan but if you've never seen Fenway Park, it's worth seeing once). There are plenty of good bars and restaurants on Landsdowne Street right outside of Fenway (Jillian's, Lucky Strike, House of Blues, Boston Beer Works, Cask ‘N Flagon, Tequila Rain). There are also plenty of places to eat, drink and shop on Newburry Street and Fanuil Hall.