Containment by Boston College Front Seven
The struggles of Virginia Tech's offensive line have been well-documented early this season, so we have seen less of RBs Ryan Williams and Darren Evans one-two punch than we may have expected.
But that has been easily supplemented by QB Tyrod Taylor's ability to scramble out of trouble on passing downs and the speedy David Wilson being part of the mix at tailback. With Ryan Williams out with a hamstring injury, expect Tech to utilize Wilson's speed to try to get outside of BC's linebackers and Taylor to to "tuck and run" whenever he sees an opening.
The much-maligned BC defensive line needs to step up with big tasks in front of them trying to stuff Evans and contain the speedy Taylor/Wilson duo. The outstanding linebacker corps, which includes Luke Keuchly and Mark Herzlich, may be put in a position to "spy" Taylor throughout the day but even their athleticism is a tough matchup against Tyrod's ability.
Expect BC to play its typical soft cushion in the defensive backfield and attempt to keep every single play in front of them; the linebackers will have to be the difference makers and prevent Wilson and Taylor from racking up first downs on the outside.
Last year's 48-14 annihilation of the Eagles in Blacksburg is far from old news, but the BC players have done their best to move on, apparently watching very little film of it leading up to today's game at Alumni Stadium. BC was dominated in every statistical category but particularly suffered all game in the field position battle, not gaining a first down until the third quarter.
Shockingly, BC currently stands as the nation's top team in net punting and Virginia Tech is found all the way near the bottom at 118th. Granted, these are not huge sample sizes but the instances in which the Hokies are having a down year on special teams are rare to say the least. BC's depth and athleticism at linebacker has also helped translate into excellent kick coverage teams.
The Eagles will need to take advantage of their (finally) solid kicking game in punter Ryan Quigley and placekicker Nate Freese to put themselves in easier positions to score points.
Boston College Pass Protection
The biggest criticism that BC quarterback Dave Shinksie has received is his inability to stay calm and work quickly through his WR progression, also known as "happy feet." With Eagles' offensive guard Thomas Claiborne banged up and only available in a limited role (Mark Spinney will be starting in his place) the rest of the starters will have to be better than they were last year.
Virginia Tech is much less experienced on defense than they were last season (only four returning starters) but defensive coordinator Bud Foster is always willing to turn up the heat and dial up a blitz.
While BC does not have great depth on the O-line, seniors Anthony Castonzo, Rich Lapham, and Claiborne will be seeing this defensive scheme up close and personal for the sixth time (ACC Champ games in 2007 and 2008 boost that total).
The line's overwhelming size is not as big a factor against a team with Tech's speed, but experience will play a big role in opening holes for RB Montel Harris and protecting Dave Shinskie as the Eagles' passing offense continues to evolve.