Friends of the blog and SBN Boston College bloggers Jeff and Brian at BC Interruption were kind enough to trade questions and answers with us this week on Saturday's Maryland-Boston College tilt. You can find what we said over there, so be sure to check that out but for now, read on:
Boston College seems to have a very similar situation as Maryland with regard to their QBs, with slightly more experienced options like Mike Marscovetra and Dave Shinskie being passed over for the younger, more promising option, in this case Chase Rettig. Rettig's stats have been middlin' so far; has his play mirrored that? Is he officially "the guy" for the rest of the year, or maybe several years?
Brian: Last question first. Rettig is clearly "the guy" for the foreseeable future. Barring further injury (knock wood), I think BC has seen the last of Dave Shinskie and Mike Marscovetra this season. How we got into this situation is a frustrating affair that starts with some poor coaching decisions but is too long and involved to get into here. Just know that it only took the first four weeks of the season - and a miserable 19-0 loss to Virginia Tech, at home - to decide that Rettig is the future of the BC football program at QB1.
We've only really gotten to see what Rettig can do last week at Florida State. Rettig was the starter for the Notre Dame game, but went out in the second quarter with an ankle sprain, and didn't play in an embarrassing 44-17 loss to N.C. State. Spaz and OC Gary Tranquill went ultra-conservative on the play-calling against FSU, but I think we saw flashes of what Rettig can do.
His final stat line looks fairly pedestrian, but he's working with a) working with a very inexperienced WR corps and b) working behind an offensive line that has been maddeningly inconsistent. He was also going up against a much-improved Florida State defense in front of a hostile Doak Campbell crowd. Not exactly ideal conditions to be truly breaking in your true freshman signal caller.
Montel Harris has very quietly led the ACC in rushing and has put up some huge performances, like last week's 191-yarder against Florida State. He's done this despite an offensive line that, on the surface, seems below-par (for example, they're 103rd in sacks allowed). Does BC have a star in Chestnut Hill? Describe what makes him so good. And just because I'm curious, do you think you'll get another year of him?
Brian: As much heat as Spaz has gotten from the BC fan base, he made a very good point in his postgame press conference. He said:
"You like to run the ball. Running the ball and two home runs is different."
For the most part, I agree with this. Last game, Montel had two HRs and was held in check for most of the game. Montel's struggles this season can be traced back to some inconsistent play on the offensive line. Montel is getting yardage in spite of some poor O Line play and opponents stacking the box and daring BC's QBs to beat them through the air. Like Spaz said, you like to run the ball, but Montel has been impressive when you consider BC's offensive has been fairly one-dimensional.
With the schedule lightening up a bit, I think you'll see Montel have much more success in the second half of the season. That's a scary proposition when you consider Harris has already gone over 500 yards in the first six games and ranks third in the ACC in rushing yards despite all this.
My gut tells me Montel will be back for his senior season. Despite the O Line struggles, Harris should still be poised to break every school rushing record. He already owns both the freshman and sophomore rushing yard records.
BC has one of the best defenses in the country, particularly against the run and in forcing turnovers. I imagine Mark Herzlich's return, especially when paired with tackling machine Luke Kuechly, has had a lot to do with that. Is Herzlich back to every-down status, and has his impact been as big as expected?
Jeff: Great against the run yes, but great overall, maybe not this season. Herzlich has not had the statistical impact hoped for this season, but as you said, Kuechly eats up most of the tackles so it is tough for him to get his. He has had two INTs so far this season and will be a key for us as long as he is on the field.
Similarly, Spaz's defenses are always good, but the potential in this one seems particularly high. If there's a limiting factor or weakness on this D, what is it?
Brian: Defensive line is clearly a weakness of this year's defense, though Alex Albright is having a great season so far as he's been able to steer clear of injury for the first time in his career (knock wood). The inability of the defensive line to get pressure on opposing QBs has been an extreme weakness of this unit. That said, Spaz and Bill McGovern were able to dial up some new plays and really get in Ponder's head last game. That doesn't bode well for O'Brien and the Maryland offensive line.
When I look at Boston College's schedule, I see a lot of pretty good teams to start the year and a lot of bad teams to end it. How much has the competition hurt? That is, is BC as bad as they've looked and their record indicates, or is that yet to be decided? On that same note, with a closing stretch consisting of four of the bottom five teams in the ACC plus Syracuse (and a probable loss vs. Clemson), I legitimately think a bowl is a possibility, if perhaps a long one, for BC. What are your expectations for second half of the year?
Jeff: BC is not as bad as the current record indicates. We have had serious QB issues that could've been salvaged if Rettig had stayed healthy when he took over. Unfortunately, the move to replace Shinskie with Rettig backfired a little since Rettig couldn't play the whole game against Notre Dame or at all against NC State. Shinskie then regressed with decreased practice time and his mental state was further injured which is a problem for a guy who has struggled to bounce back from adversity for two seasons now.
Brian: I don't know how Eagles fans look at the second half of the season and don't see at least four wins on the schedule. Maybe I'm reading BC's remaining opponents wrong, maybe I've lost it and am simply way too optimistic. But I am leaning towards BC wins against Wake Forest, Duke, and Virginia. Slight lean BC against Maryland (mostly, because the game is at home) and toss-up games against Clemson (who has proven to be the most enigmatic of ACC teams this year, but I think is slightly overrated) and Syracuse (on the road, Big East grudge-match style).
Last year, I asked you about the Boston College magic: despite a perceived lack of talent seemingly every year, BC just wins. Well that magic looks like it might've run out. What broke, and how quickly can it be fixed?
Jeff: BC is not very broken. The players are still there. This is the same team that managed to win 8 games last year despite a lack of talent at quarterback. A leader on offense is lacking and right now we are getting poor QB play coupled with our weakest group of wideouts in a long time. Being one dimensional on offense and letting the opposing defense dictate what we do is really setting a bad tone for the entire game on both sides of the ball. A few plays or a playmaker developing could allow BC to get right back to where it was the last few seasons.
As always, we end with a prediction. Score appreciated, but not required.
Brian: Jeff is usually in charge of the predictions so I'm in a bit of unchartered territory here. I'm oddly feeling good about this game. I have nothing to really base this on considering BC is 2-4 and Maryland is 4-2, but I think we saw last week that the Terps' 4-2 record might ring a little hollow.
I'm a bit concerned about the crowd - attendance will probably be very light - but I think in the end, the Eagles get back in the W column. As for a score, I'm going to say Boston College 33, Maryland 21. Rettig does just enough, Nate Freese continues to be a FG kicking machine and the defense will again get on the scoreboard.