November 22, 2006

22 years in the making?

What does the number 22 mean to Boston College and Miami? Well, the most obvious answer is that the number 22 is Doug Flutie's jersey number. However, consider also, that Thursday will mark 22 years to the day since the last time BC has defeated Miami. That game of course was the famous Flutie to Gerard Phelan "Hail Mary" touchdown pass that gave BC a 47-45 win over the 'Canes. Something seems downright eerie about that doesn't it? Perhaps the planets are aligned for BC to break their horrible losing streak against Miami.

All superstitions aside, let's consider another reason that this might be the year that BC takes down Miami...The 'Canes just plain old stink! Miami comes in with a pathetic 5-6 record and on the heels a 4-game losing streak. The best win Miami has all season is a one-point win over Houston. The 'Canes are ranked 88th nationally in scoring offense. Add all of these facts up with the possibility that for the 1st time since 1994, Miami might not have a single player drafted in the 1st round of the NFL Draft. Yikes. Things look pretty bleak for Larry Coker down in Coral Gables.

With a victory over Miami, BC fans will be setting aside their maroon and gold colors for red and white, and instantly becoming fans of Maryland. An Eagles victory coupled with a Maryland win over Wake Forest means BC will be booking a flight to Jacksonville for the ACC Championship on December 2nd. Don't worry there are plenty of good seats still available!

Speaking of championship games here is a fun fact to point out. With all of this talk that USC should be playing against Ohio State for National Championship consider this. USC lost to Oregon State, who lost to UCLA, who lost to Washington, who lost to Stanford, who lost to Navy, who lost to Tulsa, who lost to BYU, who lost to BC. Maybe BC should be considered to play against Ohio State. O.K. time to take my meds, on to the preview....

When Boston College runs: Advantage Miami

If there's one thing that hasn't changed about the 'Canes it's their run defense. As usual, Miami has had a dominating presence over their opponents rushing attack. The 'Canes defense is ranked 4th nationally and 1st overall in the ACC allowing only 69.8 ypg on the ground. The 'Canes have things taken care of both inside and outside. If the Eagles run up the middle, they will surely find Miami's 300+ pound defensive tackle Kareem Brown. Brown takes up a lot of room up the middle, so there won't be a lot of room for L.V. Whitworth and Andre Callender to run. On the outside, linebacker Jon Beason does a lot of the dirty work for Miami. Beason leads the 'Canes with 58 tackles, and is coming off of an impressive performance against Virginia where he registered 15 tackles.

BC struggles on the ground when they go up against fast defenses. With that being said, this match up against the 'Canes is hardly what the doctor ordered. The Eagles have been pretty steady rushing the ball all season, but I'd definitely look for a drop off in production against Miami.

When Boston College Passes: Advantage Boston College

The 'Canes took a big hit when they lost strong safety Kenny Phillips with a thumb injury. Phillips and free safety Brandon Meriweather formed one of the best safety tandems in college football. After Phillips went down, both Maryland and Virginia were able to throw for over 200 yards on Miami, which is well above both team's season averages. The 'Canes can cover up some of their struggles by pressuring the quarterback. Miami is 2nd in the ACC in sacks per game. However, the quarterback pressure can't cover up all of the secondary troubles. All in all, the Miami defensive backfield has been a major disappointment this season.

That leads to an interesting thought. Remember at the beginning of the season when there were all of sorts of question marks surrounding the depth of the BC wide receivers? I guess that all worked out O.K. huh? There's no doubt the BC receivers have came through in a big way this season. Kevin Challenger is ranked 12th in the ACC in receiving yards while Tony Gonzalez ranks 16th, and Brandon Robinson 17th. I would've never thought that 3 months later, heading into a match up with Miami, that BC receivers would have an edge versus the Miami secondary.
The ineptness of the Miami secondary, combined with many different options for Matt Ryan should lead to BC being able to have a good game through the air against the 'Canes.

When Miami runs: Advantage Boston College

It seems as though Miami should be a lot more successful running the ball than they are. The 'Canes have two talented running backs in highly recruited freshman Javarris James (cousin of Edgerrin James) and senior Tyrone Moss. James has become primary ball carrier, and has gone over the century mark in rushing yards in three different games this season(also ran for 99 against Virginia). The freshman back is very quick, and can take it the distance on any carry. Moss on the other hand, has been one of the bigger disappointments this season. After gaining over 700 yards in just 8 games last season, Moss has been relegated to back up duty much of '06. It's pretty clear that Moss is in Coker's doghouse, as the senior is mainly just used in shorts yardage situations, or when James needs a breather.

Another runner on Miami to watch out for is quarterback Kirby Freeman. In his 1st start against Maryland, Freeman rushed for 50 yards. He's not afraid to run, and is a better runner than passer.

One big advantage that BC will have in this match up is that the Miami offensive line is banged up. There are a number of players that are on the injury report listed as questionable. BC's front seven should be able to handle Miami's banged up line, and thus keep their running game under control.

When Miami Passes: Advantage Boston College

Miami will be forced to start Kirby Freeman at quarterback instead of Kyle Wright once again. Wright will miss his 3rd straight game with a thumb injury. Freeman does scramble more than Wright, but he's not as good of a passer. After 2 starts, the most yards Freeman has thrown for in a game is 152. With Miami's banged up offensive line, look for the Eagles to keep Freeman on the run a lot. The Miami passing game shouldn't be much of a factor in the game.

Special Teams: Advantage Miami

Senior kicker Jon Peattie came into this season as a favorite for 1st team All-ACC. The preseason hype stemmed from Peattie's '05 performance, when he had a field goal accuracy rate of 75%. With one game remaining in '06 it doesn't look like Peattie has a chance to get those honors. This season, Peattie has converted only 11-of-17 FG attempts. A 67% FG accuracy is a respectable average…. except when you come in with such high preseason accolades. There's no doubt that Peattie has been yet another disappointing Miami players.

One man that has lived up to preseason hype is punter Brian Monroe who is 3rd in the ACC averaging over 42 yards per punt. As a team, Miami is also 3rd in the ACC in net punting. The 'Canes are better than the Eagles in both categories.

The one area that BC has the edge over Miami in special teams is in kickoff returns. At this point in time, everyone knows how good Jeff Smith has been for BC this season. On the other side of the field, Miami has been pathetic at returning kickoffs this season. As a team, they are averaging less than 20 yards per return. For all of the great return men Miami has had in past years it's surprising to see the cupboard bare now.

Final Analysis: The 2006 season is not the norm of what you'd expect from "The U". The team has been boring and ineffective on offense, and defensively they can't seem to get a stop when they really need one. To make matters worse, the 'Canes have multiple injuries to key players on both sides of the ball. That's exactly why BC rolls into Coral Gables as slightly over a FG favorite.

The Canes have a couple of explosive players on offense, and for that reason I think you might see a big play or two from them. On several occasions this season, the BC defense has allowed a big yardage TD run or pass. It will be more important than ever for the Eagles defense to have a solid night tackling. If there is a tackle or two missed on a play you will definitely see a long TD run for the 'Canes.

For BC, it's important that they don't come out flat. As I just mentioned, the Eagles defense really has to make sure their tackling is solid. Not only do the Eagles not want to give up a big play, but they don't want to give up a big play early. BC does not want to spur any kind of life into Miami by letting them rail off some huge plays. This Miami team is a double digit deficit away from completely rolling over for the Eagles.
Offensive coordinator Dana Bible has done a fantastic job all season for opening the playbook up for Matt Ryan to throw the ball downfield. There's no reason that Bible should sway from that against Miami. If Bible opens up the playbook early, it could lead to Miami completely giving up on the game.

BC has come so close to beating Miami in the past 22 years. From Glenn Foley's near upset led victory, to Tom O'Brien mistakenly going for a two-point conversion in overtime, to Brian St.Pierre throwing an end zone interception with seconds remaining the year Miami won the National Championship…'s been a long time coming. November 23, 2006 marks the night BC ends their losing streak to Miami.

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