Florida State Opponent Preview: Boston College

Florida State returns to Doak Campbell Stadium this Saturday night with a chance to move to 4-0 for the first time since 2015. Getting a home game against a struggling Boston College team feels like just what the doctor ordered for a banged-up FSU team. 

However, FSU is certainly not in a position to overlook any opponent right now, but I feel pretty good about this one with or without a few key starters. While we’ve seen positive signs hinting that some of the injured players may be back sooner than later, and Norvell has said if they are available, they will play, I am still doubtful we see anyone who’s not 100% if there is any risk of further injury given the opponent at hand and tough slate ahead.

Make no mistake, Norvell needs to keep the momentum going and losing to this BC team at home would be a disaster so we may see some guys get the go ahead. Speaking of injuries, Boston College has had to deal with a ton of them up front on the offensive line. This is one of the largest contributing factors that goes in their struggles this season. 

The Eagles are better on defense than offense but neither side of the ball is stellar. I predicted this game to be a win for FSU in the preseason and from what we’ve seen so far, they are worse than I expected. I still feel FSU wins this one, but nothing has come easy for this team so far this season. Let’s take a look at BC and what you might see on Saturday night.

Offensive Preview

The BC offense is led by Senior quarterback Phil Jurkovec and star receiver Zay Flowers. But the story really starts up front because of the influence it has on the offenses ability, or inability, to function.

Coming into the 2022 season, BC already had to replace 4 of their 5 starting offensive linemen. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they lost the only returning starter they had during the off season. To make matters even worse they suffered another season ending injury up front in the Virginia Tech game. 

BC has an ok passing offense when Jurkovec has time to throw, which isn’t that often. Zay Flowers is a dynamic receiver who poses a real threat to defenses. They have a productive tight end and a couple other receivers who aren’t bad. As we mentioned before, the success of the pass game starts up front. Jurkovec has already been sacked 12 times in 3 games and is pressured on about 40% of his drop backs. 

On the flip side, the BC ground game is honestly one of the worst I’ve ever seen and it’s almost impressive how bad it is. Currently BC is averaging 48 yards rushing per game and if you throw out their FCS game they are averaging just 16.5 rush yards per game vs FBS teams. With negative plays included, BC had 4 rushing yards against VT…4! That’s pretty unbelievable for a team like BC who usually has a good ground game.

This speaks to the struggles they are having up front. Their lead back, Pat Garwo, was a 1,000 yard rusher last year which leads you to believe the issues stem entirely from up front. In fact, one staggering stat I found is Garwo has 118 rushing yards this season, 116 of those yards came after contact which means he’s getting hit at the line of scrimmage pretty much every time he gets the ball.

Let take a look at the stat rundown for the BC offense so far this season. 

BC Offense Stats

As you can see the BC offense is very one dimensional. They run a slower paced offense and so far, only average 48 plays per game. For reference, FSU is currently averaging 74. If you can pressure Jurkovec and find a way to limit Zay Flowers, you can have success against this offense which is exactly what VT did. Flowers didn’t have a reception in the entire first quarter of that game and it was probably no coincidence that BC had less than 5 net yards in that same first quarter. 

The offensive line mostly suffers from inexperience and even has a former walk-on starting at left tackle. Only 2 of the starting 5 have a PFF grade above average (60) and the other 3 are well below average with the LT being in the 40’s. If FSU is at full strength up front for this game, it’s going to be a long night for the Eagles. 

Even a depleted defensive line for FSU will still likely find success vs this offensive line. However, with Lovett and Verse out they didn’t have the best game against Louisville so that could be something to watch. The BC line isn’t good, but they had a few instances against Rutgers where they gave Jurkovec time in the pocket. 

FSU will need a good game from its secondary because while he’s somewhat inconsistent passing, Jurkovec is capable of finding a few of his better targets. Watch out for Zay Flowers, George Takacs and Jayden Williams to be his top targets. 

Personally, I haven’t been that impressed with Jurkovec. He has size and the tools to be a good quarterback. Maybe he’s just limited by the pieces around him, but I haven’t been blown away by what I’ve seen from him.

He had one of his worst games against FSU last season after returning from injury which is a good sign for the FSU defense. The good news is FSU finally gets a break from having to face a mobile quarterback! Jurkovec will scramble for a first down on occasion but he’s not the most athletic guy and FSU defenders should have no problem running him down. Here’s our passer profile on Jurkovec.

Virginia Tech held BC to just 155 total yards and 10 points. I’m sure FSU will be looking at that game film to see what they did to have that kind of success. I don’t know if we’ll see the first shutout of Fuller’s Career at FSU, but I expect a big night from the defense against a woeful offense. 

For FSU, it feels like the mid 20 point range should about win this game. BC may have a little confidence after getting their first win last week vs FCS Maine in a game where they put up over 400 yards of offense. But that Maine team is 0-3 and suffered a 31-0 loss to New Mexico this season so it may be false hopes. Again, I want to emphasize, FSU should dominate this offense if they have a majority of their starters back, but it’s not guaranteed to be a walk in the park if they  have to get into the depth chart again. 

Defensive Preview

Things get a little brighter for BC on the defensive side of the ball although they still have their own fair share of struggles too. The BC defense is experienced and full of upperclassmen if nothing else. The Eagles had a solid pass defense last season and was expected to be their strength this year which has been the case so far. 

However, to be fair they’ve faced the 119th and 86th ranked passing offenses as well as an FCS team who put up 289 passing yards on them last week. Their defense plays pretty disciplined and has a low missed tackle rate with no starter having over a 20% missed tackle rate. For reference, Louisville had 12 players with over a 25% missed tackle percentage. 

Where the BC defense struggles the most is stopping the run. Their defensive line is somewhat undersized and doesn’t get a lot of push. Rutgers was able to rush for over 200 yards against them and VT put up 144 yards on the ground. 

FSU finally has some size up front and should be able to get a decent push against this group. Up front their PFF grades actually aren’t bad but look at who’ve they played against as well. FSU will certainly be the best team BC has faced this season. 

Their linebackers aren’t the greatest in coverage, but they play well against the run. This isn’t the most athletic group and if FSU can get the edge on them, they will probably get left in the dust until a DB catches up. I saw this happen multiple times against VT and Rutgers. 

If FSU can get some mismatches on the linebackers in the pass game that is something they could exploit as well. Former FSU transfer Jaiden Woodbey plays a hybrid linebacker/safety position for them. He will line up in the box quite a bit and is their best coverage “backer” by far.

The BC secondary is experienced and an above average group of college football players but far from anything special. This will be the best group of receivers they have faced this season especially with what we just saw from Johnny Wilson and also Pokey Wilson in the LSU game. Of course, we still don’t know who will be throwing them the ball yet. FSU should have success on the ground which will open up the pass game for whoever is throwing them the ball.

BC will play multiple fronts usually based on down and distance. Most of the time I saw them switch to a 3-4 on obvious passing downs while opting for a 4 man front on shorter down and distances. In either formation BC is not scared to bring some heat either. 

FSU put up 24 points (should have been at least 34) on LSU which is a far superior defense to what BC offers. They put up 35 on the road despite losing their starting quarterback and left tackle for part of the game.

I would like to think FSU can get into the 30’s or even 40’s in this one if Jordan is back. Even if Tate plays, they should be able to get into the high 20’s if not 30’s depending on the night you get from the backs and that feels like enough to get a win with a good showing from the defense. To close this segment out let’s take a statistical look at the BC defense so far this season.

BC Defense stats

Special Teams

It’s no secret that certain aspects of the FSU special teams unit have been anything but special. However, it’s not all been bad. Their kick coverage has been exceptional and outside of one shank the punting has been solid too. 

Obviously, kicking field goals has been quite the struggle for FSU so far this season but they aren’t alone. The Boston College kicker is currently 40% on field goals and has missed a kick from all ranges. Hopefully, Ryan Fitzgerald can knock a few through at home to regain some confidence and we can watch someone else’s kicker struggle for a change. 

The Eagles are 118th in kickoff return defense but pretty solid everywhere else on special teams. Zay Flowers has been back there once or twice to return kicks for them so FSU’s coverage unit will need to stay on their game. 

Final Thoughts and Prediction

FSU opened as a 16.5-point favorite over BC which is a pretty large spread for an FSU team that hasn’t had a 20-point win over a power 5 team since the Duke game in 2020. If they get a majority of the starters back from injury, particularly Jordan Travis, Jared Verse and Fabien Lovett, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them cover. If they are missing those 3 guys, especially Jordan Travis, I still see them getting the win but maybe not covering. 

Tate had a great game last week but there’s no guarantee he will be able to back that performance up this week when a team has had a week to prepare for him. If he does start and can put together another good game FSU should be able to get a win with him behind center. 

FSU is the better team talent wise and will get them in a packed Doak Campbell Stadium on a Saturday night. This game almost has a trap feeling to it with a possible ranked match up coming next week if Wake were to knock off Clemson and FSU gets ranked as well.

However, I think we’ve seen a change in the mentality of this team, and they will be focused and ready to play. This team plays hard and fights until the end which counts for a lot. The games (vs power 5 teams) have all still been close, and it would be nice to see FSU pull off in one. Like I said before, FSU certainly can’t overlook anyone right now, but I like them to win this game comfortably depending on a few variables. 

If FSU has the 3 guys back, I mentioned give me FSU something like 38-13. If they don’t get them back, I’ll still take FSU something like 24-10

Either way, if FSU can get another conference win to move to 4-0 after getting one, possibly two, big commitments this week it would be huge for keeping the momentum train rolling in Tallahassee.

This is also slated to be a big recruiting weekend with a lot of recruits coming to the game. I’m sure Norvell wants to put on a show for them as well as the home crowd. This game, like every other one, is important at this point in FSU’s journey back to where it wants to be.

Which is why I think if some of the guys are available to play you play them. Playing through injury is part of football unfortunately. Of course, you don’t need to take any undue risks but FSU needs all the wins it can get and can’t afford to drop a layup like this one.

You need to win the games you’re supposed and steal a few you aren’t. This is one FSU “should” win and hopefully we see the Noles show up and handle BC the way they can if they play up to their potential. Not to mention it would be nice to finally have a game you don’t need an Aspirin for in the 4th quarter. Thanks, and Go Noles! 

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