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Opponent Film Preview: Boston College

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The Eagles may not score, but their defense will challenge a maturing Clemson offense.

Do you see the ball? These dudes do not.
Do you see the ball? These dudes do not.
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston College Eagles (Dudes) visit Death Valley Saturday night, and we expect a school-record 14th consecutive win in the deafening confines. If you watched BC at any point this season, you were undoubtedly struck by their resilient defense and atrocious offense. This team was shutout by Wake Forest last weekend, and provided the gift which keeps on giving: another beautifully cringeworthy #goacc moment:

In fairness, BC is utterly lost partially because quarterback Darius Wade broke his ankle in a shutout loss to FSU. The caveat: BC rarely threatened to score with him on the field, anyway. In the last four games, BC scored a combined 26 points, two of which were the aforementioned shutouts. There is a very real (read: very likely) chance BC will not score on Brent Venables' tenacious defense on Saturday.

Offense

In an act of self-sacrifice/hate, I found a dark corner of the internet known as "WatchESPN" and viewed the Wake-BC game in your place, so that you can live a happy life without such torment.

On second thought I submitted this to Spencer Hall and Ryan Nanni for their "ERASE THIS GAME" column.

I chose not to include any stills from this game due to poor video quality and to protect you from its vulgarity. BC employs heavy fronts with the use of multiple tight ends and a fullback to create advantages in the run game -- which features a running quarterback.

Steve Addazio says he will pick one quarterback for this game and move forward with him, but given the likely struggles against Clemson's defense I feel it is inevitable we will face a second quarterback at some point -- not alternate each drive like you would expect from Steve Spurrier, but a wholesale change to find a spark.

Troy Flutie and Jeff Smith are one-dimensional quarterbacks. They each seek to run first, particularly Smith. Flutie appears more serviceable in passing situations, but even then he gets happy feet and scrambles all too quickly or throws off his back foot. Obviously this plays to our strength since we have a ferocious run defense and aggressive safeties. BC will, of course, try to take advantage of our aggression and hope for busted coverage like we saw against Georgia Tech or burn us on the wheel route like BC did last year (Notre Dame showed it remains a vulnerability). Fortunately, we possess the athletes on the back end to keep BC from hitting us over the top -- and after last week, the hunger to prevent further busts.

I picked stills from each quarterback we will likely face. Below, you will see Smith's immaturity in the option game, his supposed strength. (All images courtesy of ESPN/YouTube user: cinefunk)

BC option 1

Looks like a potential big gain, only one Nole in position to defend two ball carriers. Smith need only wait for the defender to commit.

BC option 2

Smith bailed on the option and managed to outrun the defender to the edge, but much more was available if he played the option properly. Jayron Kearse will eat this alive.

Below, Flutie enters the game and looks to run within a second of completing his drop, despite a clean pocket and plenty of time to throw.

BC Flutie

This is common in young, excitable quarterbacks who hope to find yards on the ground rather than read each progression. The primary target was covered, and Flutie bailed in a heartbeat. Expect Flutie to either run into huge hits, or throw ill-advised passes on the run. Even when he steps into his throws, the ball appears slow and wobbly. Were I Addazio, I wouldn't know which quarterback I could win with, either.

Clemson should have shut out Georgia Tech last week, but we gave them points on turnovers and busts. Eliminate those mistakes, and I see no way BC will score any points.

Defense

I chose to analyze BC's defense against an opponent with similar talent and personnel to Clemson: Florida State. BC allowed one touchdown on the opening drive, and then nothing else for the remainder of the game. FSU iced the contest with a fumble recovery touchdown early in the 4th quarter. On the (ultimately deciding) opening drive, FSU only gained the drive's initial first down when a defender slipped in pass coverage on a corner route. The next play was a receiver reverse for 15. The finishing touch was a simple 10 yard slant (albeit in a tight zone window) for a touchdown.

Those were the Seminoles' only substantial gains which resulted in points against this BC defense -- no glaring weaknesses of which FSU took advantage. FSU was without Dalvin Cook for part of the game, but I think most will agree Clemson's offense is superior to FSU's right now, even with Cook at full strength. BC is nonetheless a fantastic measuring stick for the continual development of the Clemson offense.

BC v FSU buck 1
Here FSU tries a bucksweep which should have been a big play. The right guard and backside tight end pull, the right guard's responsibility is to seal the DE so the tight end can lead Cook outside.

BC v FSU buck 2
The DE throws the pulling guard 2 yards into the backfield (you see him on the left of the frame grasping at nothing). The TE is assigned to lead Cook to the edge and does not react to his guard getting thrown into the backfield in time. The DE slips the TE and stuffs Cook for no gain. This was not the only time a BC linemen threw an FSU lineman to the ground, either. It's problematic for Clemson since we tend to run power lead plays in short yardage (both on handoffs and keepers) but our guards are not particularly fleet of foot.

BC's defensive line dominated FSU throughout the night. They stuffed the inside run and rushed the passer with stunts, blitzes, and even straight bull rushes. Near halftime, though, Cook hit a long run on an offset-I formation counter. FSU caught BC in a mike bullet blitz, leaving one less man to fill an outside running lane.

BC v FSU counter 1

See the mike linebacker already charging the A gap at the snap. This illustrates the chess match otherwise known playcalling: anticipate the opponent's call and run a play which will expose its deficiency.

BC v FSU counter 2
With only two defenders at home on the playside and Cook's elite burst, you can already see a huge gain before Cook even leaves the backfield.

BC v FSU counter 3
I include this frame only to show the importance of solid perimeter blocking when an offense already has a speed advantage like Clemson will enjoy against BC. Charone Peake had an excellent seal and pancake to free Gallman on his first touchdown last week, and now that Hunter Renfrow (what a guy) supplanted Germone Hopper, I feel much better about Clemson's prospects of running around BC.

Summary and Prediction

BC will not score more than 10 points -- if they do, it is either on busts, turnovers, or in garbage time (the only ways Georgia Tech scored). There is no identity and no threat in the passing game. The run plays are predictable and poorly blocked. There is no Tyler Murphy or veteran line to make this frazzled single wing/zone read offense run.

The other side of the ball is another story. The Eagles will challenge Clemson's offensive line early and often -- they abused FSU's front and are not intimidated. Look for Clemson to run and pass around an aggressive front. Deon Cain showed Charone Peake how to play boundary receiver last week and we can only hope the light came on. Jordan Leggett is a pleasant surprise thus far. It may start slowly, but eventually Clemson's talent, scheme, and tempo will wear down an aggressive, chasing defense. Clemson may not score 40, but we won't need to. Clemson 31, BC 3.