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WTWF: Boston College Eagles

This week's What To Watch For focuses on Boston College's defense.

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports


The Eagles defense is one of the best in the nation. They've proven to be able to shut down Dalvin Cook. They've made Deshaun Watson look human. They have also allowed less rushing yards on the year than the worst rushing offense in the nation has gained. This defense is legit and the're defensive coordinator knows it. Don Brown is the same defensive coordinator that forced Teddy Bridgewater into two of the worst games of his career. He gives offenses fits and this year he has a group of players that are perfectly suited for it.

BC has been great at stopping chunk plays this season. They're in the top five in plays over 10, 20, and 30+ yard plays this year. They do an outstanding job of flowing to the ball on defense and playing with correct angles. They also gang tackle better than any team I've seen this year. Throw that in with a pass rush that collapses the pocket unbelievably well and you have a defense that makes it very hard to get a big play on. Clemson is the only team to get to 100 yards rushing this season and they also did some things in the passing game that I think Louisville can emulate.

Louisville has been somewhat reliant on big passing plays in the middle of the field. What Clemson did last week was pretty simple. They ran go routes with tight splits on the outside. What that means is they lined their outside receivers up closer to the ball (Around the numbers) and they relied on their really good receivers to beat the BC corners at the line of scrimmage. Louisville should utilize what Clemson figured out in the second half from the get-go Saturday. Louisville's offense struggled all year with throwing the ball down the field consistently but against FSU they were 6-11 on downfield passes. If they can continue that success they can exploit the one area BC's defense has been vulnerable.


Darius Wade and Jon Hilliman went down with injuries earlier this year and this offense hasn't been able to recover yet. Jeff Smith was finally named as the full time starter last week and he showed some flashes of playmaking ability. Smith can run pretty well but he isn't the type of guy that can break contain when a play breaks down. Where he has shown promise is when the pocket clears for him and he can run up the middle. He also has plenty of arm strength but the ball isn't always on target.

Where this offense really has issues is with it's receivers outside. Just like NC State, the talent on the perimeter leaves a lot to be desired. Sherman Alston and Thad Smith are both small receivers that have had a few big plays in their careers, but neither has been consistent enough to be "the guy". Outside of those two there isn't a single receiver that I've seen that gives you the feeling that he could break a big play at any moment. The leading receiver for the Eagles is even a fullback.

BC needs to find a way to create offense and to be completely honest I don't think Steve Addazio has ever had less to work with as a head coach or an offensive coordinator. He had Tim Tebow as an offensive coordinator at Florida. He had Bernard Pierce and Montel Harris at Temple. He walked into Andre Williams when he took over at BC and last year he had Tyler Murphy transfer into the program as a senior. That group of guys make it really easy to get your offense going. When you get killed by injuries in a year when you're playing a bunch of young guys in the first place you get the struggles they've had this year.


I watched four of the Eagles' games from this season and they have the hardest working defense I have seen in a long while. The defensive line pursues run plays across the field. The pass rush pushes the pocket back into the quarterback until the pass is gone. The linebackers fly to the ball and they blitz with power, not just speed. The goal never seems to be the guy that makes the play. It always felt like they were doing what they were supposed to do and letting their coaching work. The effort is there every single play and it is a big part of why this defense has played so well.

Louisville's defense looked like a group of guys that are playing for themselves last weekend. A group of guys that are willing to make a play in their area of the field but couldn't care less once it left that space. There were a few bright spots when Trevon Young had a nice sack on a stunt that required two other players to clear a hole for him. The first half of the game saw defensive linemen eating up blockers to allow the linebackers an easier route to Dalvin Cook. That all faded away quickly in the second half when guys got lazy and tried to dive at one of the best players in the country instead of running through the tackle. Instead of multiple guys being there to make a tackle, FSU players were making plays without a Louisville defender in the camera shot. Effort is what sets a defense apart. BC has it. Will we see it from Louisville?