Team: Boston College Eagles
2011 W-L: 4-8 (3-5)
Head Coach: Frank Spaziani (20-19; three seasons)
Returning Starters: 17 (10 Offense, 7 Defense)
After 13 years of successful football, rife with postseason berths, Boston College missed a bowl game in 2011. They posted a losing record for the first time since 1997, and experienced their fourth consecutive decline in overall wins from the year before. Of course, for any program, this usually means you’re in a free fall, and it’s time for the coach to be shown the door.
Yet up in Chestnut Hill, athletic director Gene DeFillippo decided that head coach Frank Spaziani and his mustache will get one more go-around to try and right the ship. Even with 17 starters returning this season though, can he do so successfully?
In 2011, the Eagles’ offense was absolutely abysmal. They finished 100th in the country in passing yards, 82nd in rushing yards and a ghastly 112th in scoring, with just 18.2 points put up per game. Quarterback Chase Rettig was largely unimpressive, the receivers were non-factors and the running game just never quite got going without the school’s career rushing leader Montel Harris (lost early in the season to injury). To fix this, Spaziani changed direction on offense, bringing in offensive mastermind Doug Martin.
In just one season as New Mexico State offensive coordinator, Martin turned a seemingly inefficient passing game into one that ranked 26th in the nation in 2011. In turn though, this buried their running game. The good news for Martin at BC is that the talent level’s much higher. Or at least it’s supposed to be. Rettig has shown competence in the past, but just needs to be empowered with a more open offensive gameplan. Despite lacking the playmakers to throw the ball to in 2012, Rettig will likely be seen throwing the ball downfield more. After last year, it’s a necessity to both his development and the offense’s development as well that he seize those opportunities.
Unlike their offense last season, Boston College’s defense was actually something to brag about at times. Led by all-world linebacker Luke Kuechly (who has now gone pro), the unit was able to hold opponents to just 23.5 points per game. Sure, it’s nothing to scream from the rooftops, but in a league that doesn’t lack for QB talent, it actually becomes quite a feat. The team lost several close games last year (including a brutal 20-19 defeat versus Duke) and managed to hold six of their opponents to 25 points or less. So while the loss of Kuechly obviously creates a huge hole in the middle of the field for this group, there is still hope with seven starters returning. They’ll be anchored at linebacker again, this time by Kevin Pierre-Louis. Another slightly undersized LB, just like Kuechly, KPL will be getting by on his quickness and ability to uncanny ability to get to the ballcarrier. He’s aggressive and a tough tackler — just the type of leader BC needs.
In this lame duck season for Spaziani, it’s unlikely that anything short of a BCS berth is going to keep him around, but despite the loss of Kuechly, this team may actually be better than last year’s squad. Martin should inject some life into the offense with a more open passing game, which will pay some immediate dividends. You can’t win games if you’re not scoring points. And as discussed, Boston College wasn’t doing much of either last year.
Taking a look at the schedule, BC will be tested heavily, both at home and on the road. In their own division, they’ll take difficult trips to Florida State, NC State and Wake Forest — with the former two showing real potential to head to the Orange Bowl next January (maybe further for the ‘Noles). They also draw contests with an improved Notre Dame squad, plus Clemson, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. It’s an unenviable slate, and it magnifies how relative improvement may appear for the Eagles. With a tough schedule and a deeper ACC than we’ve seen in awhile, there’s not a lot of wiggle room from middle-of-the-pack to the conference cellar. Boston College may not deserve to be at the bottom of the ACC, but factors beyond their control may just end up placing them there anyway.
Prediction: 4-8 (2-6); no postseason