Previewing 2018 Football: No. 23 N.C. State

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With five games in the books, Boston College football now has seven consecutive conference matchups left on the schedule. While the ACC has not looked like the powerhouse it has been in recent years, nothing comes easy in this league, and the Eagles (4-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) have to be prepared for a dogfight every week. BC has not played its best football in the past two weeks, losing big to Purdue and needing every minute to hold on and beat Temple. The Eagles will need to find another gear to keep winning as the level of competition steps up in ACC play.

The next game on the slate will take place Saturday against No. 23 N.C. State (4-0, 1-0), a team that now graces the ranking that the Eagles held just two weeks ago. The Wolfpack broke into the Top 25 after a dominant conference win last week against Virginia. For the Eagles, they just hope to have their star running back on the field. A.J. Dillon went down in the third quarter against Temple, and while head coach Steve Addazio has commented on his improvement, the sophomore has not practiced all week and will be a game-time decision on Saturday.

Who is BC playing?

North Carolina State

When is BC playing?

Saturday, Oct. 6, 12:30 p.m.

Where  is BC playing?

Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, N.C.

How to Watch:

This game will be available locally on NESN and can also be livestreamed on WatchESPN via the ACC Digital Network.

By the Numbers:

BC:

1) BC ran 100 offensive plays last Saturday against Temple. The Eagles took their up-tempo offense to the next level on Saturday, running the most plays they have on the season, and well-above their average of 78.2 snaps per contest. However, BC was not incredibly efficient. It amassed just 423 total yards—50 yards less than its season average.

2) Dillon racked up 161 yards in just over one half of play before exiting in the third quarter. He was on pace for an even bigger day, but he did have 28 carries by this point. The Eagles have been feeding Dillon, and he was on pace for over 40 totes last Saturday. It begs the question if the talented sophomore is being overworked in this no-huddle, power running scheme.

3) The Eagles are 15-for-18 in converting red-zone trips into touchdowns this season. BC has been very consistent and creative in the red zone in recent weeks, relying on a blend of hard-nose running, play-action, and trickery, which occurred last week when Jeff Smith took a pitch and tossed it to quarterback Anthony Brown in the end zone, mimicking the fabled “Philly Special”.

N.C. State:

1) Ryan Finley has led the Wolfpack to victory so far by throwing for 1,313 yards in his first four games, while posting eight touchdowns compared to just one interception. Finley is a graduate student and has looked as comfortable as ever in his fifth collegiate season.

2) The offensive line has done a great job protecting Finley so far, allowing just two sacks in four games. The starting unit features three seniors who have also paved the way for running back Reggie Gallaspy Jr.’s five touchdowns on the ground.

3) Larrell Murchison racked up three sacks and four tackles-for-loss last week against Virginia. The transfer from Louisburg College, who redshirted last season, is coming into his own at defensive tackle, replacing the star-studded defensive line from last year’s Wolfpack team that is now playing on Sundays.

Last Meeting:

The two sides met at Alumni Stadium last season on Nov. 11, 2017 when the Wolfpack was also ranked No. 23. It was the fateful game where Brown sustained his season-ending knee injury in the first half of action. Darius Wade came in to lead the Eagles, and Dillon rushed for 196 yards, but it was not enough as a fourth quarter 50-yard run from now Indianapolis Colts running back Nyheim Hines sealed the 17-14 win for N.C. State.

Outlook:

It cannot be understated what Dillon means to this team and how he affects BC’s offensive philosophy, as well as the defensive strategy for opposing teams. With Dillon in the backfield, teams will typically load the box and bring down their safeties to help out with stopping the run. This opens up the opportunity for deep passes, especially off play-action. If Dillon does not play, the safeties will most likely retreat farther back, and be better adept at covering those long balls.

Ben Glines looked solid replacing Dillon against Temple, running for 120 yards of his own. But if Dillon cannot go on Saturday, it would most likely be a committee between Glines, freshman David Bailey, and passing-down specialist Travis Levy. If this trio can pick up the slack and force N.C. State to play the run, BC could open up the game the way it has so far this season, by keeping defenses off balance with power runs, jet sweeps, and play-action passes.

On the other side of the ball, much of last of the struggles of last week’s game should be taken in context, as Lukas Denis was ejected in the second quarter for targeting. This altered BC’s defensive gameplan, as Addazio typically uses the versatile Denis at both safety and corner, leaving him with fewer options after the ejection. What was legitimately concerning was tackling. The defense let Temple runners bounce off their tackles, which is something that needs to be shored up to stop a dynamic Wolfpack offense.

Special teams continues to doom the Eagles as well. Michael Walker is an electric return man, but he has had trouble holding onto the ball of late. Extra point misses and punting miscues also contribute to this unit that has looked dreadful so far. If this is the game where BC’s special teams unit figures it all out, it could relieve a lot of the pressure on the offense and help the Eagles leave Raleigh with another conference win.

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor