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Rutgers Football Game #3 Preview vs. Boston College

Those saying this is the fork in the 2019 season, here you go.

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Iowa
Blackshear when he was able to get the ball, was surrounded at Iowa every time.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

How To Watch, Stream & Listen

Boston College (2-1; 1-0) at Rutgers (1-1; 0-1)

Where: SHI Stadium, Piscataway, NJ

Kick-off: Saturday, September 21 at 12:01 p.m. EDT

Weather: 79 degrees, mostly sunny with a 1% chance of rain, 2 mph winds

TV: BTN, Joe Beninati and Shaun O’Hara, Out of market channel finder

Stream: FOX Sports App

Radio: Rutgers IMG Sports Network with Chris Carlin, Ray Lucas, Eric LeGrand, and Anthony Fucilli - Rutgers IMG Sports Network: WCTC 1450-AM, WOR 710-AM, WENJ 97.3-FM, WNJE 920-AM, Sirius 113, XM 196. (WRSU 88.7-FM: Justin Sontupe, Raj Shah and Jake Schmied)

Current Spread: Boston College -8.5

Against The Spread: Rutgers 1-1; Boston College 1-2

Series History: Eagles lead the all-time series, 19-6-1

SB Nation BC site: BC Interruption

Boston College Statistical Leaders

Passing: Anthony Brown - 41 for 76 pass attempts, 53.9%, 633 yards, 6 TD, 0 INT; Dennis Grosel - 3 for 6 pass attempts, 50.0%, 21 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT.

Rushing: AJ Dillon - 318 yards on 67 attempts, 4.7 ypc, 4 TD; David Bailey - 160 yards on 32 attempts, 5.0 ypc, 1 TD; Zay Flowers - 126 yards on 8 attempts, 15.8 ypc, 1 TD;

Receiving: Kobay White - 7 catches for 133 yards, 19.0 ypc, 1 TD; Hunter Long - 6 catches for 101 yards, 16.8 ypc, 0 TD; Korab Idrizi - 6 catches for 67 yards, 11.2 ypc, 2 TD; Zay Flowers - 3 catches for 101 yards, 33.7 ypc, 1 TD;

Defense: Mike Palmer - 23 tackles, 1.0 for a loss, 0 sacks, 0 interception; Max Richardson - 21 tackles, 2.0 for a loss, 0.5 sacks, 0 INT, 0 pass defended; Mehdi El Attrach - 19 tackles, 1.0 TFL, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble

Kicking: Aaron Boumerhi - 14 for 14 PAT’s, 2 for 4 FG attempts, Long of 40 yards

Boston College Statistical Comparison Versus Rutgers

S&P+ Advanced Stats Profiles: Boston College | Rutgers (2018 data)

What To Watch For

Good play call, good execution needed desperately.

It was the McLane Carter show at times in his first Rutgers start, but he struggled even before injury in his second. Carter has not yet been cleared from concussion protocol after an injury at Iowa, so sophomore Art Sitkowski will get the start. Sitkowski has some talent, and is still very young and less experienced than even freshmen for some other schools. He joined a difficult situation at Iowa when inserted into the game at halftime, but it is silly to call it “mop-up duty” because a good quarterback could have given his team a chance down 20 with two quarters to play.

Boston College has a similar defensive philosophy to Iowa, but lacks the elite pass rushers at defensive end. It’s a poor matchup from the standpoint that Rutgers has turnover problems and ironically BC and Iowa lead the country in turnover margin the last few years. Sitkowski led the nation in interceptions last year, so he needs to be much better with the football for RU to have a chance in this game. Every college football fan outside of Piscataway and even many in the Rutgers fan base have little confidence in Art based on his performance a year ago, especially with the TD-INT ratio. He has a strong arm and was unfairly thrown into the fire last year, so maybe something has clicked for him in the time since. If it hasn’t, Rutgers has only one chance, that its running backs play at an even higher level than we have seen from them thus far in their careers.

Pacheco and Blackshear watch

For how poorly the Rutgers offense fared at Iowa two weeks ago, the running backs did a decent job. Isaih Pacheco carried 10 times for 42 yards after his 100+ yard effort with 4 TD in Week 1. 4.2 yards per carry isn’t great, but you can look back even at the 2014 Rutgers squad that went 8-5 who had multiple games where its starting back failed to crack 4 ypc. The team seems to have extra life in its step when Pacheco is pounding the ball, so Rutgers needs to outwork BC up front and get him some opportunities to run people over.

It’s not just Pacheco though, Kansas defeated Boston College last week on the strength of multiple backs running wild. Raheem Blackshear was awesome in Week 1 and will be the X-factor Boston College seeks to re-orient their defense to defend against. BC’s linebackers were exposed against the Jayhawks, so if Blackshear can get one on one matchups in space on jet sweeps, short passes, or runs “not fit correctly” by the BC defense, he could wreak a ton of havoc. Aaron Young will get some opportunities as well because if they can get the BC safeties closer to the line of scrimmage they are comfortable, there will be less ballhawking opportunities.

Chris Ash, Head Coach. Andy Buh, D.C.

Rutgers as an offense had three players record a receiving touchdown in 2018. Through just three games of 2019, Boston College on the other hand has had six different players score through the air. The biggest reason for this is their success like Iowa, is an ability to sell play-action and hit on seam routes to reliable pass catchers. The second down success is something Kansas locked down in the second half to shutout BC after intermission.

Good play-action is predicated on a good rushing attack and Boston College boasts several running backs who can drive that engine. The best of them is AJ Dillon, bigger than modern era linebackers. Dillon will tote the rock and wear down a defense and is spelled by another 240 lb. bruiser in David Bailey. The Eagles’ offensive line is well oiled in the run game, but are not imposing enough to overcome a lack of any aerial success, sound familiar?

Is Anthony Brown just too solid for BC to lose this game?

Last game I asked, Is Nate Stanley just too solid for Iowa to lose this game? Anthony Brown is a little more of an interesting case. I give the Rutgers Rant podcast credit for exploring the question of whether Rutgers would be favored in this game if Brown was its starting quarterback. Personally, I feel Stanley at the helm of this Rutgers offense would be exactly what they need, but Brown brings a little bit different skillset so I am not so sure.

Anthony is completing just 53.9% of his passes, down from 55.4% a year ago. His yards per attempt is even higher though, up to 8.3 from 7.4, which indicates its more of a boom or bust attack. This makes sense that the more defenses stack the box against the prowess of the BC backs and Brown himself, there should be open men downfield. So there’s a chance we see some long backbreaking completions, but if those fall harmlessly incomplete, Rutgers can stay in this game.

Special Teams

The Rutgers special teamers were special in Week 2, headlined by Adam Korsak. Tre Avery seems ready to break a big return which could provide even more of a boost. Let’s hope Justin Davidovicz isn’t rusty after seeing the field only for the opening kickoff at Iowa.

Without sounding like a broken record, BC generally has solid special teams which is key when you play a lot of close games and are a middle of the pack Power Five team. Aaron Boumerhi is a transfer kicker who was pretty solid at Temple and is now in his finally year of eligibility for the Eagles. Travis Levy is a good kick returner, averaging a solid 24.7 yards per return so the vaunted RU kickoff and punt coverage needs to be excellent. The one area Boston College is vulnerable is that none of their punters is Adam Korsak, then again, who is?

Path to victory

As per articles from Fred and Aaron earlier in this week, this is a huge game for a variety of reasons. The Rutgers season is not dependent on this game singularly, but football seasons can often go off the rails which Rutgers, Jets, and Giants fans are all too familiar with. Rutgers has to be competitive in this game. Though there would be more paths to victory if McLane Carter was under center, there is still one with Art Sitkowski. As the aforementioned Jets and Giants fans learned already this year against the Buffalo Bills, Josh Allen is not an elite quarterback yet the team from upstate still earned two victories at MetLife stadium.

Rutgers needs a similar approach to have any chance in this game. The defense needs to be willing to accept a ton of responsibility to dig in and keep the game close. Boston College is going to keep running the ball downhill with its battering rams and some feel as though Rutgers will inevitably surrender, but I am not so sure. I see some fight in this Rutgers front seven led by Tyshon Fogg and Drew Singleton that we haven’t seen in a few years even if the talent is less than it has been at times. When the defense does make stops, the entire team needs to seize the momentum. Offensively, Rutgers needs to run the ball effectively and I don’t just mean running up the middle over and over. They need to have wrinkles in the run game and be aggressive with the play calls then hit a few crucial passes to keep the chains moving. Sitkowski doesn’t need to be great, he just needs to complete passes to open men and punish BC’s defensive backs if they let someone get behind them.

Very few people think the Scarlet Knights should win this game, but know that Rutgers could. Boston College was expected to destroy Kansas, but they were soundly defeated instead. Are the Eagles a bad team or was this an example where a toss up game just went the other way? This is college football and if the home team can keep digging in and the longer this game stays close, the more likely players on both sides will begin to believe. If nothing else, it’s worth tuning into this game to see if Rutgers can show more on the field than we have seen in a year and a half against a Power Five foe.