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August 30, 2013
The Preview: BC/Nova
The day that everyone has been waiting for is here. Saturday is the opener for BC football and also the debut of new coach Steve Addazio. The Eagles have what at first glance appears to be a warm-up game to start the season against FCS opponent, Villanova. However, taking the Wildcats for granted would be a huge mistake to kickoff the Addazio Era.
Villanova enters this season as the 9th ranked team in the FCS coaches poll and 5th ranked in the media poll. 'Nova is the preseason favorites to win the Colonial, the league Towson is also from. Villanova should be riding high after seeing their conference foe's big win over UConn on Thursday night.
Long time coach Andy Talley leads a team that is only 4 years removed from being FCS National Champions, and has appeared in the FCS playoffs in 3 of the last 4 seasons. Talley has built a program that has become a consistent winner each year.
The Wildcats have plenty of talent on the roster with 6 players being votes to the preseason All-CAA team. The best of the bunch might be quarterback John Robertson who was the FCS Freshman Player of the Year last season.
When BC Rushes: Advantage BC
Steve Addazio has been saving running back Andre Williams for the start of the season. Will his move pay off? Only time will tell. Two years ago, Williams was completely healthy in the opener against Northwestern and compiled 114 yards on 22 carries. Last year, a trimmed down Williams was only able to muster 49 yards against Miami. I'd look for the Williams from the Northwestern game to appear in this game. Williams looked great throughout spring practice and was also good in the limited reps he received in the summer and looks poised to have a 1,000 yard season.
Dave Dudeck is listed as the backup to Williams, but don't be surprised to see the freshmen duo of Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse get some carries in this game. Both backs are really dynamic and have the potential to give BC some explosive plays on the ground.
Villanova's rush defense is not what makes the team impressive. The Wildcats allowed 156 yards per game on the ground last year, which ranked them in the middle of the pack in the CAA. Addazio's Temple squad was able to roll 301 yards rushing on 'Nova in the season opener. It would be disappointing if the Eagles didn't roll-up at least 200 yards on the ground on Saturday.
When BC Passes: Advantage BC
Short on experience at receiver and tight end or not, Chase Rettig and the BC offense have no excuses for not producing on Saturday. Retting still has his favorite target Alex Amidon and young players Dan Crimmins and Harrison Jackson were both very solid during summer camp. Both Crimmins and Harrison should use their height to their advantage against the short "Nova cornerbacks. When you throw the speedy Spiffy Evans into the mix as well, Villanova simply doesn't have the personnel depth to cover all of these players effectively.
When Villanova Rushes: Advantage Villanova
The BC defense is coming of one of its worst seasons in recent memory and a big part of that is because of poor rush defense last year. Opponents averaged 214 yards per game on the ground, which ranked 111th worst nationally. A healthy unit going to the season should improve this.
The strength of the Villanova offense is its run game. Quarterback Josh Robertson rushed for 1,021 yards and 14 touchdowns last season and is a threat to run on any play. Running back Kevin Monangai was second in the CAA in rushing with 1,210 yards last year.
Until the BC defense proves that it has solidified its rush defense you cant give it the edge on a run-first team.
When Villanova Passes: Advantage BC
Villanova is clearly more effective on the ground than in the air. Last season the offense averaged only 168 yards per game through the air. Still, Robertson's arm has to be respected because he has proven he can put up big numbers when needed.
Starting cornerback Al Louis-Jean will miss this game after being suspended by Addazio this week for a violation of team policies. Even without ALJ, I'd be surprised to see the defense allow over 200 yards.
Special Teams: Advantage BC
One thing to monitor will be BC's kicking game. While Nate Freese heads into the season as one of the best kickers in the ACC it's worth mentioning that he struggled a bit on his field goals in the two scrimmages that were open to the media. Based on the kicker's history though, I'll assume that Freese will give his normal strong performance that you'd expect out of him.
What there is limited history on is Freese's punting skills. Last year Freese attempted 6 punts, 4 of which pinned the opponent inside of the 15-yard line. On two punts where Freese wasn't trying to pin an opponent deep, the punts traveled 36 and 34 yards. Luckily, punting shouldn't be that big of an issue for BC on Saturday.
Where BC has a huge edge is in the return game. Spiffy Evans is considered one of the best returners on the east coast, and has a history of a big return against a FCS opponent.
Villanova was 109th in kickoff returns so there isn't a concern there. It should be noted that they have a quality punt returner in Lawrence Livers though. Livers had returns of 50 and 66 yards last year, with the 66 yarder going for a touchdown.
Prediction BC 31 Villanova 17
The Eagles need to be on upset alert after Villanova's conference foe; Towson put a double digit beating on UConn on Thursday. It should be helpful for the BC team to see the outcome from the UConn game and take Villanova very seriously.
The Wildcats certainly pose some threats to the Eagles, particularly with their strong running attack. Quarterback John Robertson is a legitimate threat to run and needs to be accounted for on every play.
BC comes into this game as healthy as it's been for any opener in many years. As such, the BC starters should be too much for Villanova. I'd expect a close game for a couple of quarters until BC pulls away.
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