I've long wondered what's with the "BC Magic": how can a team that always seems at a major talent deficiency somewhere and whose recruiting classes are usually in the mid-60s win 8, 9, and even 10 games a year? The last time they won fewer than 8 games was in 2000. Between 2004 and 2009, they had five consecutive 9-win seasons. It was like Ralph's first three years on crack.
But whatever magic that was there seems to have broken.
Through six games this year, BC is 2-4, their sole wins coming against FCS squad Weber State and lowly Kent State. They were shut out by Virginia Tech and beat up by N.C. State and Notre Dame before finally putting up a fight against FSU - and still losing. What went wrong?
A major culprit is the lack of an established QB. Boston College started 25-year-old freshman Dave Shinskie there last year, but he was fair-to-middlin' at best. When highly-touted freshman Chase Rettig came in from California, you could smell a QB controversy from miles away.
Shinskie and Mark Marscovetra shared the QB duties for a time, neither impressing very much, until a scoreless outing against VT prompted Rettig to get the start against Notre Dame. After a short period of energizing the offense, and even scoring a first-quarter TD (huzzah!), Rettig sprained his ankle, was done for the day, and missed the next game against N.C. State. He had recuperated in time to play FSU, but, even though BC played FSU close, he wasn't all that impressive, throwing just 9-24 for 95 yards.
Rettig may or may not be the answer at QB for the future, but it's pretty easy to see that he doesn't have a ton to work with here. BC's offensive line is at a Maryland-level of play, coming in at 103rd in the country in pass defense. Top returning wide out Colin Larmond, Jr. was lost for the season in training camp. His top wide receiver so far is true freshman and former three-star Bobby Swigert. That's not to hate on Swigert - he has a respectable two TDs and 16.9 yards/catch average - but the fact that they essentially made the BC version of Tyrek Cheeseboro their #1 does show just how desperate BC is for weapons.
They do have one weapon that isn't really getting the credit he probably deserves, and that's Montel Harris. He's the Eagles' only threat on the ground, which means his stats are a little inflated, but he absolutely went off against FSU's top 20 run defense last week, picking up 191 yards. Seriously, running for 190+ against one of the best run defenses in the country is no joke; Harris has turned in a few duds of a game (just 28 yards against Notre Dame, notably) but he came up huge against FSU and looked good against another solid run D in Virginia Tech (111 yards). If there's one offensive worry in this game, it's Harris.
Partially, that's because there's nothing else to worry about; the stats are as bad as the situation looks. BC is 80th in passing yards, but have been worse recently; Harris is impressive, but because no one else is helping him pick up yards they're just 103rd in rushing offense; they score even less frequently than they find success, either in passing or running, as they're 104th in points scored. This is a motley bunch, for sure.
It's a different story defensively, thankfully for any BC fans, and that's probably BC's best hope at being competitive down the line. Linebacker Luke Kuechly is like a younger version, less-hyped version of Alex Wujciak, by which I mean he's a tackle machine. Like Wujciak, he probably leaps on top of a lot of piles to pad the stats, but not nearly as much: he leads the nation in total tackles and is a very close third in solo tackles (Wuj, by comparison is 11th in total tackles and not even in the top 50 for solo tackles). He's a star-in-the-making from the middle linebacker spot thanks to an uncanny nose for the ball.
Next to him is Mark Herzlich, who is famously back from his battle with cancer, and highly-touted true freshman Kevin Pierre-Louis, who is second on the team in tackles. CB Donnie Fletcher has intercepted three passes, and senior DE Alex Albright has become a force, with 3.5 sacks and 9 TFL.
Those five help to lift BC to seriously impressive heights on defense, including a rush D that comes in at 10th in the nation and an impressive record of forcing turnovers, where the Eagles are 7th in the country.
That's a bad combo for Maryland. I have faith in Danny O'Brien becoming a great QB eventually, but this is a ballhawking group that will probably be able to force Maryland to throw the ball. That means that, again, O'Brien will be unnecessarily taxed and Maryland will probably be unable to set up any sort of offensive rhythm. And after O'Brien reached the Chang Threshold of three interceptions against Clemson last week, I'm a little afraid of what will happen against a BC team that's 8th in the country in passes intercepted.
Now, I do think BC might be a little better than they've seemed the past few weeks. Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, N.C. State, and FSU is a gauntlet, one that Maryland would probably have nil chance at coming out of with a win. That they almost did in last week's thriller (I use the word loosely) against FSU is plenty impressive. BC's offense is too good to remain near the bottom of the conference for long, as long as their offense (and Montel Harris, in particular) can produce at acceptable levels. With a closing stretch that includes four the ACC's five worst teams, I have a feeling that we'll be seeing a "new BC" in a few weeks.
Unfortunately, I have a feeling that will start this week. It'll be up to the offense, and probably Danny O'Brien, to win this one.