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A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

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The Eagles Are Batting .333, Says Spaziani

It was 14-0, 17-14, even 23-20 early in the third quarter, and then the bottom dropped out. Boston College had no answer for Miami running back Duke Johnson, a true freshman whose debut – 135 yards on 7 carries, 2 touchdowns – even had LeBron James raving: “Duke Johnson is the truth!” said James, on his Twitter account, adding that “#speedkills.” For the Eagles, the silver lining in an otherwise dismal season-opening defeat was the play of junior quarterback Chase Rettig, who completed 32 of 51 attempts for a career-high 441 yards; that total constituted nearly a quarter of his total passing yards from the 2011 season.

There’s your bright spot: Rettig, after scuffling a year ago – scuffling in equal measure to the Eagles’ entire offense – gave B.C. tremendous production from the quarterback position. The 51 attempts were the most by a B.C. quarterback since Matt Ryan attempted 52 passes in the 2007 A.C.C. title game. The completions were the most since Ryan hit on 33 throws in the same game.

The yardage? That was a program-high since 1993, when Glenn Foley threw for 448 yards, and marks the sixth-most prolific passing performance in program history. Rettig got the job done; after years of inadequate quarterback play, that is something for B.C. to feel positive about heading out of the opener.

But that’s all B.C. can feel good about – and Frank Spaziani, the much-maligned fourth-year head coach, intimated as much during yesterday’s A.C.C. teleconference. Via Chip Patterson of CBSSports.com, paraphrasing Spaziani: “[He identified] pass defense, run defense, kicking game and running game as areas to improve.”

So… what’s left? Just Rettig and the return game, it seems. On kickoffs, the Eagles averaged 12.1 yards per their seven returns; on punts, the Eagles gained one yard on their one return. On coverage, B.C. held Miami to nine yards on three punt returns and an average of 18.3 yards per its six kickoff returns. I suppose the fact that his team covered well led Spaziani to remove the return game from those areas that demand improvement.

Let’s do the math. If you break every game down into individual units, you’re looking at six categories: passing offense, running offense, passing defense, running defense, the kicking game and the return game. Per Spaziani, the Eagles are batting .333 – good enough to lead the American League, perhaps, but not good to beat the worst Miami team in a generation.

Over the summer, I highlighted five must-win games if B.C. wanted to reach bowl eligibility: Miami, Maine, Northwestern, Army and one of Maryland and Wake Forest. With the Hurricanes in the books, the Eagles now need to look at the remaining five games on that list as mandatory – because there’s no way that a team with these sort of holes can run with Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech and the rest of this year’s schedule.

The sad thing? Nothing’s changed. The Eagles are still tumbling downwards. Given months and months to get mentally prepared for the opener, B.C. crumbled after Miami struck back in the second quarter. Spaziani’s honesty remains somewhat refreshing, but his team’s continued lack of success, on the other hand, remains as stale as it was a year ago.

Up next: Maine. This is a good time for B.C. to get every category on the same page – with the passing game and return game in place, it’s time for the rest of the Eagles to get on board. A loss to Miami dropped B.C. into the bottom quarter of the A.C.C.; a loss to Maine would send the Spaziani era off the rails. (This assumes that it hasn’t already, and that’s not a safe assumption.)

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Comments

  1. 31southst says:

    Paul, great take as always. You did miss the one huge positive BC has going for it – GDF’s retirement. With Spaz’s protector gone, he might as well be called an interim head coach.

  2. cvilleagle says:

    Although the offense in the Spaziani era has been consistently awful, the defense has also been slowly crumbling as more and more of Spaz’s “recruits” get playing time. This year, there’s no Kuechly to hide the decline, and it’s going to show.

  3. Brian says:

    Great take as always, Paul.

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