FSU Football: First Look at Boston College

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Florida State ends its 2018 season with home stands against the Boston College Eagles and Florida Gators. The Seminoles are 4-6 this season and will need to win both games in order to be bowl-eligible. That’s a tough ask for a team which has been blown out in three straight weeks.

Saturday will decide whether a historic record is broken. It might also decide quite a few things down the road for FSU head coach Willie Taggart. We break down Boston College and what it will roll into Tallahassee with on Saturday afternoon.

2018 Record: 7-3 (4-2 ACC)
2018 S&P Offensive Ranking: 86th
2018 S&P Defensive Ranking: 25th
2018 S&P Special Teams Ranking: 75th

On Offense

The star of the show is sophomore running back A.J. Dillon. After bursting onto the national scene last season, Dillon has lived up to his billing as an all-around stud and helped lead the creation of a legitimately threatening Boston College offense. He’s almost at 1,000 yards on the ground (936) despite missing two games due to injury. He has totaled eight rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown as well. It helps when you have a veteran-heavy line like Boston College, whose front five are some of the best in the ACC when it comes to run blocking.

More interesting for Florida State’s chances is the health of quarterback Anthony Brown. Brown finally gave Boston College its much needed passing threat who could divert attention away from Dillon. Through 10 games, Brown averaged slightly above 58 percent completion and amassed 1,573 yards, 16 touchdowns, and five interceptions. He also had the ability to maneuver the pocket and evade pressure.

But Brown suffered an injury against Clemson and is now questionable for the Florida State game. His backup is sophomore E.J. Perry, who is a bit of an unknown. He’s not as mobile as Brown, but he still fits the system as a pocket passer. Despite attempting 21 passes against Clemson, Perry did not break the 100-yard mark.

The Eagles do a good job of spreading the ball to their receivers. Three players have over 200 yards and three touchdowns: Kobay White (379), Jeff Smith (259), and Tommy Sweeney (237) are the biggest names to know. White and Smith are the more explosive options, as both average more than 15 yards per reception.

On Defense

In what seems to be a recurring theme with Boston College, head coach Steve Addazio has put together another good defense without a treasure trove of talent. It operates with the same focuses of his previous defenses, which are susceptible to certain schemes…but apparently not Florida State, who managed just three points against a structurally similar unit.

Stopping the run is the name of the game. Boston College is fine with putting one safety up top and crowding the line of scrimmage. It helps when one has a quality defensive line led by ends Wyatt Ray (10.5 tackles for loss, 37 tackles) and Zach Allen (13.5 tackles for loss, 50 tackles). The group of linebackers also includes Connor Strachan and Isaiah McDuffie, who have combined for 11.5 tackles for loss.

The secondary is a good bit weaker. In third down situations, the Eagles play much more conservatively and try to help out their cornerbacks as much as possible. Hamp Cheevers is an opportunistic defender who has amassed an ACC-leading six interceptions, including three in the past four games. The safeties Will Harris and Lukas Denis are seniors with Denis being the most impressive. There are not many blown coverages, but there is a lot of losing 1-on-1 battles.

On Special Teams

S&P ratings put this unit at 75th in the nation, but some of the individual talent is good. Punter Grant Carlson averages a little over 40 yards per attempt, but he’s had 19 punts land inside the 20-yard-line. Kicker Colton Lichtenberg is perfect on extra points but is seldom used for field goals. He’s 5-for-6 on the season with a long of 38 yards.

The main returner on both punts and kickoffs is Michael Walker, who averages around 15 yards per punt return and 24 yards per kick return.

Summary

Boston College is a more winnable game than any of Florida State’s past three. The Eagles do specific things very well, and Dillon is a terrifying back to go up against. But they are increasingly one-dimensional as the season wears on.

Anthony Brown potentially being out is a huge deal. Florida State’s defense has been declining for three weeks, but if it can load up a box and focus on stopping Dillon, it can be competitive with Boston College. Perry has not shown much in the way of being a threat. At this point, Florida State will accept it if Boston College beats them with deep passing.

What will be frustrating for Florida State fans is watching the offense struggle yet again. Despite talent mismatches at wide receiver, the Seminoles are routinely unable to capitalize on opportunities. Whether it’s Deondre Francois missing open receivers, those open receivers dropping passes, or the coaches not putting the right personnel in for various situations, Florida State’s offense inspires confidence in absolutely no one. The run game improved against Notre Dame but it’s hard to see that staying true.

So the Seminoles have the players and the setup to beat Boston College at Doak Campbell Stadium. But that has been said before about multiple opponents who stuck it to Florida State.

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