Saturday, September 15, 2012

Boston College @ Northwestern Preview

So, I was sitting around in my nice new room in 626 Emerson, with nothing to do. "I could work on unpacking," I thought. However, my laziness, exacerbated by the tedium and exhaustion of band camp, responded with a hearty "nah." But then, while reading up on my beloved 'Cats, I noticed there is a link to this blog on the wonderful NUHighlights page. "Gee," I thought, "Any time anyone clicks that link, they are met with a preview of the oh-so-thrilling Ticket City Bowl. I should remedy that." The lazy part of me chimed in with an enthusiastic, "And it sure beats the heck out of unpacking." So remedying the situation is exactly what I shall do. So let's dive ride in, and check out a position-by-position breakdown of these teams.


Northwestern: The Wildcats have been splitting time between Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian under center. Many expected Kain to be the true starter this year. They cited his athleticism, arguing the importance of such a factor in our offense, especially with a suspect offensive line, as well as his leadership. And started he has. However, many (myself included) argued that Trevor should see significant play time as well, believing him to have a vastly superior arm to Colter. And indeed, he has seen a fair amount of play time, even especially in critical situations. Pundits frequently--I would argue too frequently--slam two quarterback systems, but the fact is, the system has worked quite effectively for NU. Kain has struggled a bit throwing the ball, completing only 58.3% of his passes (quite low by Northwestern QB standards) for a mere 88.5 completion percentage. However, he has protected the ball (0 INTs), and his frightening athleticism has been important for Northwestern, allowing him to run the option effectively. Excluding sacks, he has carried the ball 23 times for 128 yards, good for 5.6 yards per carry. He has also been effective at pitching the ball out to Venric Mark in space on option plays. Trevor has proven to be a far greater passing presence. Despite seeing significantly fewer series than Colter, Siemian has managed to complete 66.7% of his passes for 84.5 yards per game, 1 TD, and 0 INTs mostly in high-leverage situations. And while he is by no means the running threat Colter is (he has only one non-sack rush attempt: a 9 yard scramble), he contributes to the running game in other ways. Specifically, the threat of downfield passes forces the safeties back and gives the NU running backs more space between the tackles. Expect Northwestern's two-QB system to get further refined, and more deadly, in the coming weeks.
Boston College: BC's starting QB duties fall on junior Chase Rettig, and he is certainly an interesting figure. Initially he scared me a bit. I saw the 441 yards he dropped on Miami and worried about what he would do to our secondary. I also had vivid memories of the 375 yards he put up against us last year. However, aside from those performances, he has not been terribly impressive. He has only completed 57.8% of his passes this year (note: this is lower than Colter's "quite low" percentage). Furthermore, last year, he had the following mediocre totals: 53.6% completion percentage, 1,978 yards through the air passing, 12 TDs, and 9 INTs. He is not much of a running threat either. Excluding sacks, he has only carried the ball 21 times for 49 yards. If the NU secondary plays up to last week's standards, I expect him to have an OK, but not great, day.
Advantage: Northwestern

Running Backs

Northwestern: For the first time since Tyrell Sutton, NU has an everyday back: Venric Mark. And, boy, he's been good. He's carried the ball 38 times for 205 yards and a TD and has looked good doing it. He has bounced off tackles, fought for extra yards, and made guys miss. It really makes you wonder what he'd be doing behind a better offensive line. The problem, however, is that no other backs have been even slightly successful. Treyvon Green, Mike Trumpy, and Tyris Jones have managed a measly 19 yards on 15 carries. However, as long as Venric stays healthy (although his size is a cause for concern here), the NU backfield is in good shape. 
Boston College: BC has split carries between 3 guys, Andre Williams, Rolandan Finch, and Tahj Kimble. Williams has received a large plurality of the carries, but has not been terribly successful, as he has had 32 carries for 110 yards (only 3.44 yards per carry). Finch has averaged 5.29 yards per carry and Kimble has managed 4.92, but on only 17 and 12 carries respectively. Williams and Finch are listed as co-starters on this week's depth chart. Overall, this appears to be another OK, but not great, unit for BC. 
Advantage: Northwestern 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Northwestern: Northwestern's receiving corps, at least in theory, is supposed to be one of the best and deepest in the Big Ten. It's hard not to get excited about a unit that contains Demetrius Fields, Kyle Prater, Rashad Lawrence, Christian Jones, Tony Jones, etc. However, the unit has far underperformed expectations this year, often looking shaky catching the ball. Pat Fitzgerald, however, was not shy about calling out his receivers' poor performance, and I am certain wide receiver play was this week's number one focus. Expect this unit to improve by orders of magnitude. 
Boston College: The BC Receiver/Tight End corps is not terribly impressive, thanks primarily to a series of injury. Their three leading receivers from last year (Colin Larmond, Jr., WR; Bobby Swigert, WR; and Chris Pantale, TE) are out with injuries. As a response, BC has had to dive a bit deeper in totheir depth chart, giving Spiffy Evans and Johnathan Coleman targets, as well as throwing a lot to running backs (two of their top three receivers this year fall into that category). However, a substantial plurality of the catches have gone to Junior receiver Alex Amidon, last year's number four receiver, and I would not expect this to change against NU. Overall, BC is seriously lacking in depth in this unit.
Advantage: Northwestern by a landslide

Offensive Line

Northwestern: Northwestern's Offensive line has not been terribly impressive. Against Syracuse, both Siemian and Colter were feeling substantial pressure all day, and Mark had success despite their play, not because of it. If it weren't for the electric athleticism of Colter and Mark, the problems with the line would likely be all the more glaring. This is by a large margin NU's worst offensive unit. 
Boston College: Full disclosure, I'm working entirely off paper here; I have not seen much BC offensive line game footage, but the first thing that stands out is that they are huge. The smallest starter on the line in both height and weight is 6-3, 300 lbs. That's impressive. They have also allowed only 2 sacks. So, honestly,  I don't know much about this unit, but it seems potentially solid. 
Advantage: Boston College by Default

Defensive Line

Northwestern: Last year, Northwestern's defensive line was a tremendous disappointment. This year shows some sign of improvement however. Tyler Scott could be a star, and Brian Arnfelt and Quentin Williams have shown significant potential. Ifeadi Odenigbo also has significant talent, but is very undersized. Hard to say what we'll get from him. Expect this to be a solid, but not great, unit for Northwestern
Boston College: Honestly, I don't know much at all about Boston College's defensive line, other than the fact that they've recorded only one sack, and one of their games was against Maine. That number should be higher. They also recorded only 8 sacks all year last year. That's awful. That's less than half of Northwestern's disappointing 17. 
Advantage: Northwestern


Northwestern: This is supposed to be NU's best defensive unit and they certainly played the part last week.  Chi Chi Ariguzo seems to be the star of the unit, recording 10 total tackles, 3 for loss, against Vandy. The other starters, Proby and Nwabuisi, contributed 5 and 6 total tackles respectively. The unit as a whole played a big role in Northwestern's solid defense against the run, and the backups, Colin Ellis and Roderick Goodlow have shown promise as well. 
Boston College: It's hard to make a judgment on the Boston College starting linebackers. They have been very successful tacklers. The three of them have recorded 54 total tackles. However, no linebacker on the team has yet recorded a tackle in the backfield. 
Advantage: Northwestern, by a bit

Defensive Backs

Northwestern: Oh, the defensive backs... Last year, Northwestern was horrendous in this area, with the only bright spot being the now-departed Brian Peters. The unit frequently had almost unbelievably bad breakdowns, and it seemed other teams could complete 40 yard passes almost at will. This trend seemed to continue into game one. While Ibraheim Campbell and Nick VanHoose looked promising, Davion Fleming and Demetrius Dugar were absolutely tortured by the Syracuse offense. For game two, Fleming was replaced by Jared Carpenter who looked pretty solid. Dugar also stepped up his game, and while VanHoose got injured, Quinn Evans looked pretty good filling in. It's hard to say which secondary will show up this week. 
Boston College: It's tough to know what to say about the BC defensive backs. They embarrassed the Maine passing game, but that's not exactly a feat. However, they also successfully shut down the Miami game, which is at least slightly more impressive. All in all, however, I honestly do not know what to expect from this unit. 
Advantage: BC, tentatively

Special Teams

Northwestern: First punting: While not all of Brandon Williams's punts are winners, I really like him back there. He has a very strong leg at his best, and he has placed some punts beautifully. 
Place kicking: Jeff Budzien has added some range this year and has looked absolutely perfect on his kicks thus far. 
Return game: Venric Mark is unbelievable. 
Boston College: Punting: Greg Levano is averaging 41.7 yards per punt. That's pretty solid. 
Place kicking: Nate Freese is a perfect 5-5 this year on field goals, but was only 10-16 last year. 
Return game: They don't have anyone of Venric's caliber, but Spiffy Evans did return a punt for a touchdown. 
Advantage: Northwestern, based solely on the Venric factor. 


Well, Northwestern won 6 of 8 position battles, and, frankly, I think the game will be a similar blowout. If I were a superstitious man, I would not say this, but I think Northwestern wins by 20. Yes, I know all of our games are close, but we are vastly better team than Boston College, and I sense a different attitude from this team than in past years. I think we have a chip on our shoulder and it will show. 

Go 'Cats!

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