Wednesday, November 17, 2010

q&a with BC Interruption

This week, with the last game against Boston College until 2014 looming large, we get a head start on previewing the game with BC Interruption, a BC blog of much distinction and member in fine standing of the ACC Roundtable. The format is familiar: their answers to my questions are below, and the other half of the exchange can be found at BCI. Brian was good enough to go greatly in depth so it's a good read this week.

1. Preseason, I figured BC's offensive line and Montel Harris would team up to give BC one of the best rushing attacks in the ACC. Harris has topped 1,000 yards, but BC averages 3.4 yards per attempt, worst in the ACC. What happened?

The usually outstanding BC offensive line came back down to earth a bit. That’s what happened. Well, that, and opponents stacking the box and daring Dave Shinskie then Mike Marscovetra now Chase Rettig to beat them through the air.

The O-line struggles were definitely a head-scratcher at the beginning of the year. That’s partly why BC struggled at QB since the line was very inconsistent in pass protection and establishing the run. As for Montel, he’s a workhorse. He takes the vast majority of BC’s rush attempts and is the bulk of the Eagles offensive output.

Without those 1,000 yards, I don’t think BC would have been able to right the ship and rattle off 3 straight wins as they have done over the last three weeks.

2. Chase Rettig seems to have settled in as BC's quarterback and BC is on a winning streak. Is that Rettig's doing, or are other factors involved?

BC’s winning streak is a result of a few things. For one thing, and probably most importantly, the schedule lightened up considerably for the Eagles the past few weeks. During BC’s five game losing streak, BC lost to teams with a combined record of 34-13 (.723) and only one team – Notre Dame – isn’t above .500 at this point in the season. BC’s three wins have come against teams with a combined record 10-20 (.333), and only one of those teams is at the .500 mark (Clemson).

That said, this team is slowly starting to improve now that Rettig has firmly established himself as the starter and the Eagles quarterback of the future. The aforementioned offensive line play has slowly started to improve as well, though in recent weeks it’s been a bit of a patchwork offensive line with several injuries.

More than anything though, our defense has been able to keep BC in every game this year except for the N.C. State game, when they couldn’t get off the field and got worn down by Russell Wilson and the Wolfpack passing attack.

3. How long a leash is Frank Spaziani on with the fans and/or the administration?

Short answer is it depends who you ask. There are pretty much two camps at this point. Those that think BC will never win the ACC under Spaziani and who think we’ll endure another 3-4 years of .500 football until our AD finds the next great football coach. Spaz is a great offensive mind and a good, loyal person, but this school of thought thinks he really doesn’t know how to run the team (and in particular, coach up an offense that has taken a serious hit to its talent level in the post-Matt Ryan years).

The other school of thought is that Spaz deserves more time to develop this program in his own mold, and the fact that BC has had 3 different coaches in 5 seasons has finally caught up to the program. While this camp is willing to give more time to Spaz, I think even this camp would agree that we have to ditch 70+ year old offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill and make shake up the coaching staff a bit, particularly on offense.

If I had to choose sides, I think I would slightly lean towards the fire Spaz now camp. I think Spaz made a bad hire in Tranquill, and I think the coaching staff’s inability to realize that Rettig was the most talented QB on the roster at the beginning of the season put the program at a serious disadvantage to start this season. With a very favorable 2010 schedule, the opportunity to win the Atlantic Division was now. I think BC will find a schedule this manageable won’t be coming around again over the next several years with the unbalanced ACC schedule.

4. BC was mentioned, occasionally and peripherally, as a Big Ten expansion target. If or when the Big Ten starts another round of expansion insanity and it looked like dominoes were going to fall very unpredictably, how would BC react? Would BC welcome overtures from the Big Ten, especially if the next northernmost team (Maryland) also did? Or would BC ride it out with the ACC and maybe try to encourage the conference to expand northward?

BC would be in a delicate position, having already burned plenty of bridges and being accused of all sorts of deceit and wrong-doing in our last move from the Big East to the ACC. But the school would be crazy not to at least entertain the Big Ten’s overtures, right?

For whatever reason, other programs like TCU have been able to successfully bounce around conferences (from the SWC to C-USA to WAC to MWC to the Big East?) with a little more impunity than BC has. Old rivalries die hard, I guess.

I think BC is an attractive Big Ten expansion candidate. The school and the greater Boston area represent a huge northern TV market with decent-to-above average football, basketball and -- maybe equally important – hockey (see below). People may be quick to point out that Boston is a pro sports town that doesn’t care about BC or watching the Eagles on TV, but those people are missing the point of Big Ten expansion. It’s not about TV viewership (though BC’s TV ratings are relatively strong nationally given the size of the school), it’s about the size of the television market.

If the Big Ten is able to successfully lure Notre Dame from their cushy independent lives, I think a move from the ACC to the Big Ten would be a very interesting proposition.

From everything I’ve read and heard, I don’t think the ACC would be proactive in moving from 12 to 16, choosing instead to react to other BCS conferences should the era of the 16-team super conference come about. With all the bridges that were burned in our last conference move, I don’t think BC would encourage to expand the conference northward, with the possible exception of Syracuse.

5. My readership won't give a damn about this one, but I'm curious. Penn State's addition of varsity hockey has a lot of people excited about a Big Ten hockey conference. If five ACC teams decided to add hockey (admittedly about as likely as Duke dropping basketball but just go along with me here), would BC be into the idea of ACC hockey?

I don’t think so. Here’s why. A varsity hockey program is an extremely expensive program to run. Quite possibly more expensive than any other collegiate varsity sport with the exception of football. And unlike football, there isn’t the same big money revenue stream pouring in to defray the costs of running the program in the first place.

BC is in a nice spot in Hockey East. Six of the league’s 10 programs are in the state of Massachusetts, while others like New Hampshire and Providence are a short bus ride away. Only Maine and Vermont are more than a 3 hour drive away from campus. Add in the Beanpot, non-conference games against teams from the ECAC and Atlantic Hockey and the Hockey East Tournament at the Garden, and BC conceivably wouldn’t have to get on a plane until the NCAA Tournament.

With ACC hockey, travel costs become a serious issue. Sure, you could combine a Saturday road football game with a weekend hockey series to cut down on costs a bit, but you are talking about adding a significant amount of costs to a program that doesn’t have the same revenue stream coming in as football or even basketball.

If five ACC programs actually went ahead and fielded D-I hockey programs, I think I would like to see BC become an independent in hockey and get a Notre-Dame like arrangement for inclusion in the NCAA Tournament. It sounds crazy, but I would want to play those ACC programs but also maintain our existing rivalries with Boston U., Maine, New Hampshire, Northeastern and UMass. As a member of Hockey East, BC couldn’t really do that. With a 27-game conference schedule and 2 games for the Beanpot, BC is only afforded 4-5 non-conference games a year.

The other thing is the quality of ACC hockey would be pretty poor for a while as those programs started to establish themselves. That would be really bad for BC when it comes to NCAA Tournament time. The difference with Big Ten hockey is those programs are already established, national powers with schools like Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan State.

6. Seriously, start a lacrosse program already.

Ahh, the joke of a conference that is ACC men’s lacrosse. I’m really not sure what BC joining ACC men’s lacrosse would do for the league though. Instead of having a three-way tie in the regular season standings at 2-1, you’d simply have a three-way tie atop the standings at 3-1 ... with BC at 0-4.

In all seriousness though, this is probably THE hot button issue surrounding Boston College athletics in the last, oh, 8-9 years since the school cut men’s varsity lacrosse. If you smart boys down in Charlottesville can figure out a way around Title IX, please contact BC’s athletic director at your convenience.

7. Prediction time.

This is a game of mismatches. The ACC’s leading rusher against the nation’s 107th best rushing defense. The second best passing offense in conference against a defense that ranks in the middle of the ACC in terms of passing defense. I think though that BC has all the momentum, is playing for bowl-eligibility and is playing at home on Senior Day. I think Montel Harris has another big day and the BC defense puts points on the board. Final score: BC 27, Virginia 13.

That said, through 10 games, nothing would surprise me at this point. If Virginia pulls off the upset, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

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