Wake Forest vs. Boston College (ABC, 3:30PM)
This is the fifteenth meeting all-time between Boston College and Wake Forest, with the series even at 6-6-2. The two teams have played each other the last four consecutive years, with Wake Forest taking three of the last four. In the last four years, the home team has won every contest. The Demon Deacons won last year 21-14 on their way to the ACC Championship.
Players to Watch:
BC's Matt Ryan enters the season as the ACC's Preseason Player of the Year. Last year Ryan threw for 402 yards against Wake. Other notable BC players who should factor considerably in the contest, include: RB Andre Callender, WR Brandon Robinson, FS Jamie Silva, CB Dejuan Tribble.
Wake's Sam Swank[/dbn] is a preseason All American, who doubles as the Kicker and Punter. Other notable Deacons include: QB [db]Riley Skinner, RB Micah Andrews, DB Alphonso Smith, DT Boo Williams and DT Zach Stukes.
What has to happen for the Deacons to win: Create havoc up front defensively. Not only is BC deploying a new offensive running scheme (the Alex Gibb's derivative of the zone blocking scheme), but they are also starting four players of whom sport a collective 0 starts at their respective positions along the offensive line. Gosder Cherilus has moved from Right Tackle to the crucial "Blind-Side" while Matt Tennant, Clif Ramsey and true freshman Anthony Costanzo are all making their first start. Last season, the Deacons allowed a paltry 3.1 yards per rush and have their best defensive players along the d-line, highlighted by their tackle tandem of Zach Stukes and Boo Williams. If the Deacons can stuff Jags' running game, and create pressure off the edges, Matt Ryan will have a lot of trouble exploiting the young Deacons' defensive backfield.
What cannot happen for the Deacons to win: A shootout. While Wake's offense returns nine starters from a year ago, including sophomore QB Riley Skinner, it's doubtful they would be able to match BC TD for TD with Preseason ACC POY Matt Ryan at the helm of Steve Logan's juggernaut offense. Last season, Wake scored under 10 points (twice) nearly as often as they scored over 30 (three times). Wake's offense is predicated upon ball security and field position with points resulting from big plays in lieu of defensive lapses. Conversely, BC scored over 25 points in eight of their games last season and have the ability to ride Matt Ryan's arm for multiple scores. An explosive offensive game would play right into BC's plans
The Deacon's Secret Key to Success: The Big Play. While this is no "secret," the Deacons have been able to successfully "surprise" Boston College defensively with minor tweaks in their normal formations and plays, often resulting in substantial gains, if not scoring plays. Whether it's a double reverse, counter or halfback pass, Wake often manages to catch the weakside defense flat-footed. Will BC learn from mistakes past and stay true to their defensive assignments and alignments, or will they succumb to Wake's misdirection? Much of the game will ride on this result.
What has to happen for the Eagles to win: Stop the big plays. Rarely, if ever have the Deacons put together long, sustained drives against the Eagles' defense. In last season's contest in Winston-Salem, the Eagles forced five 3-and-outs, while all of Wake's points came off three TD drives with the following number of plays: 6, 1, and 1--a 9 yard TD run, a 46 yard TD pass, and an 81 yard TD, respectively. Stop the big plays, don't be lulled to sleep by their misdirection running game, and you win the ball game. If the Eagles can force Riley Skinner to create myriad plays to beat them, BC should be in very good shape.
What cannot happen for the Eagles to win: A kicking dual. Wake Forest sports arguably the nation's greatest special team's ace in Sam Swank. The field goal kicker who doubles as the team's punter, hit 5/7 field goals over 50 yards last season, while also helping the Deacons to the 9th national ranking in net punting. If Wake is able to move the ball on the Eagles' defense, even the slightest penetration into the BC side of the 50 could put the Deacons in field goal range. Unfortunately, for Eagles fans, BC does not have a similar weapon. Steve Aponavicius' Cinderella story is over now that the young kicker has become a scholarship player for the Eagles. With freshman phenom, Billy Bennett unable to take advantage of Sid Vicious' limitations due to nagging injuries throughout camp, Aponavicius will be the Eagles' kicker for at least the start of the season. A kicking dual from a former SuperFan with a career long of 37 yards would be dangerous waters for BC.
The Eagle's Secret Key to Success: The Unknown. While many Eagles' fans have fretted over the imposing start to the 2007 campaign under a new regime, little has been made of BC's residual advantage: What will BC do offensively? Steve Logan is regarded across the world for his offensive creativity, so much so that the Wake coaching staff has spent the offseason studying Logan's strategy in NFL Europe games! That's akin to relying on your local village newspaper to catch up on national events. Wake's inability to game plan and watch video of BC's new offense as they normally would have been able to do, could result in a significant competitive advantage for the BC offense. While a new offensive strategy wouldn't normally create this much of an advantage, Steve Logan is no Dana Bible. So, while BC's offense won't be firing on all cylinders, Matt Ryan's experience and precision should mitigate many of the early season offensive troubles and as a result of Logan's experience, exploit any defensive hesitation.
Outlook: As Coach Jags said last week, the key to this game will be winning the turnover battle and avoiding (defensively)/creating (offensively) big plays. While we've watched Wake capitalize on big play after big play against the Eagles over the last few years and we've read about Steve Logan's explosive offensive gameplan, it's time to see if the BC players can learn from their mistakes and their new offensive brain trust. Don't expect to see everything come together tomorrow afternoon, particularly from an offensive standpoint, but BC should be able to capitalize on their distinct talent advantage and Wake's defensive uncertainty. If BC can put points on the board, keep Matt Ryan off his back, and prevent the big plays, they should prevail over the defending ACC Champs. With expectations high and dreams of a BCS bowl dancing in players' and fans' heads, the first game under Coach Jagodzinski could be crushing or inspiring. I'm going with the later.
The road to the Sugar begins in Chestnut Hill....
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