Boston College (7-3) vs. Florida State (4-6) Game Preview
TALLAHASSEE, FL —Six years ago, Boston College hired coach Steve Addazio to turn around its middling football program.
That process has been neither quick nor easy. The Eagles still have yet to win more than seven games during Addazio’s tenure, and they bottomed out with a 3-9 campaign in 2015 in which they didn’t win a single conference game.
BC, though, has stayed the course with Addazio and in 2018, his sixth year at the helm, there are signs that the program is turning a corner.
The Eagles are 7-3, ranked No. 20 in the latest College Football Playoff poll and have the reigning ACC offensive player of the year in running back AJ Dillon.
And on Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium, they’ll have a chance to win an eighth game for the first time since 2008. The Eagles meet Florida State at 3:30 p.m. in a game televised by ESPN2.
“You can see a team that’s been in their system for a while,” coach Willie Taggart said. “And they understand it well and they’re well coached and they play the brand of football they want to.”
Boston College’s turnaround is one of a handful of similar stories in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Syracuse’s surge under coach Dino Babers is perhaps an even better example – from 4-8 in each of his first two years to 8-2 and ranked No. 12 now.
Pittsburgh, a program on the wrong side of mediocre when coach Pat Narduzzi took over in 2015, is closing in on an ACC Coastal Division title in Narduzzi’s fourth season. Wake Forest, meanwhile, has a chance for three straight winning seasons after going 3-9 in each of coach Dave Clawson’s first two campaigns.
And then there’s Clemson. The Tigers famously lost 15 of coach Dabo Swinney’s first 34 games and seemed on the verge of making a change. They then went 10-4 in 2010, Swinney’s fourth year at the helm, and haven’t lost more than three games in a season since.
Although the scales and aspirations at each of those schools are different, the blueprint might be the same: Find a coach you believe in, give him time to build his program while riding out the early speed bumps and, eventually, reap the reward.
No, it doesn’t always work out that way.
But the hope at FSU is that, given time, Taggart will put a stop to Florida State’s slide, return the program to its former and recent glory and make a difficult 2018 campaign feel like a distant memory.
“A lot of these (teams), they didn’t start, and everything just clicks for them,” Taggart said. “They didn’t just start and just get it. … We’re going to get there.”
Taggart knows the Seminoles won’t truly have made it until the scoreboard reflects as much.
But before that can happen, the program must first make strides in the things that lead to on-field success – things like practice habits, classroom success and personal discipline.
And, in that respect, he feels the Seminoles are making progress.
“I see a lot of things we’re doing well off the football field,” Taggart said. “…The frustrating part is they’re not showing what they’re capable of doing on Saturday, and we’ve got to help them, as coaches, however we can.”
In his Monday press conference, Taggart was asked how his first season at Florida State compares with his first seasons at previous stops, and if his experience with lean years at Western Kentucky and South Florida could give him an indication that things were close to clicking at FSU.
Taggart’s experience has taught him that there’s no way to pinpoint the exact moment it will come. But he also feels like the elements are falling into place.
“I think it can happen at any time,” he said. “Because of our guys, our attitude, our practice, the way we do things.
“It’s just that we’ve got to do it on Saturday. We’ve got to do it under the spotlight, when it counts.”
And none of that is to say that Taggart isn’t as ready to see some results as the rest of the Florida State fan base.
It’s one thing for, say, Boston College to hover around .500 for a few seasons before breaking through. At Florida State, the expectations are higher and the patience level is lower.
Taggart feels that way, too.
“We want it right now,” he said. “People say ‘It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.’ But it is a sprint.
“We want it right now, but those things will come. We’ve got to keep working towards it. If we don’t keep working towards it, it definitely won’t come. I see the progress in certain areas and we’re going to get there. I promise you that.”
B-52 to fly over Doak Campbell Stadium: Florida State on Saturday will celebrate Military Appreciation Day in emphatic fashion, when a B-52 Stratofortress makes a pass over Doak Campbell Stadium near the end of the pre-game national anthem.
The massive B-52s – in service since 1955 – have a wingspan of 185 feet. A standard American football field is 160 feet wide.
“This is going to be one of the most memorable flyovers that’s ever happened in this stadium,” said Chuck Morris, FSU’s assistant athletics director for operations and events. “What better day than Military Appreciation Day.”
Morris, who served 27 years in the U.S. Army, has spearheaded efforts to bring a variety of fighter jets, helicopters and even stealth bombers to Florida State over the last decade.
And he helped lay the foundation for Saturday’s B-52 flyover during the run-up to last year’s Independence Bowl, when the Seminoles visited airmen at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, La.
Barksdale is one of two Air Force Bases to host B-52s, and the B-52 that flies over Doak Campbell Stadium will originate in Shreveport before stopping by an airshow in Alabama.
Odds and Ends
- Florida State leads the all-time series with Boston College, 11-5 and is 9-4 against the Eagles since BC joined the ACC in 2005. That includes a 5-2 mark at home. BC hasn’t won in Tallahassee since 2008.
- Boston College has won consecutive games against Florida State just once – in 2008 and 2009.
- The Seminoles enter Saturday’s game needing a win in each of their last two contests to become bowl eligible for the 37th consecutive season. FSU hasn’t missed a bowl since 1981 and hasn’t had a losing season since 1976.
- FSU last week debuted its ninth different starting offensive line combination. That’s the most of any “Power Five” conference team.
Five takeaways from Willie Taggart’s Boston College press conference
Football round-up: Meet the Hippos
Week 12 Interviews
Head coach Willie Taggart
Offensive coordinator Walt Bell
Defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett
C Alec Eberle
WR D.J. Matthews
One Reason Why Boston College Will Win
This isn’t going to be a hard formula – Boston College needs to be Boston College.
Run AJ Dillon, win the turnover battle, and come up with a huge day from the defensive front.
Put this one on the Boston College pass rush.
The Eagles might have been stuffed cold by Clemson, and QB Anthony Brown might be hurt, but the pass rush is still terrific and the D is great at getting into the backfield.
And that’s been Florida State’s biggest problem over the last two years – the O line just doesn’t work. The Noles continue to be totally unable to run the ball – 127th in the nation in rushing – with no pass protection whatsoever, and second-to-last in the nation in tackles for loss given up.
FSU commits too many penalties, turns it over way too often, and can’t convert third down tries. However …
One Reason Why Florida State Will Win
Can EJ Perry really handle the work for the Boston College offense?
With Brown hurting, it’ll likely be up to Perry to take over the offense and come through. He struggled against Clemson when thrown to the wolves – completing 12-of-21 passes – and couldn’t run.
For all of the bad parts of the FSU puzzle, the defensive line really is solid. The run defense is terrific, and the pass rush is strong. The defensive front hasn’t been able to carry the team and make up for the offensive woes, and this is going to be a one-dimensional Eagle attack that should have a tough time going on long marches.
BC might have an effective ground game, but it doesn’t come up with enough first downs, and it’s awful on third downs. If the Noles can avoid the big turnovers, stay patient, and score when they get their chances, they should be able to hang around long enough to keep this close.
What’s Going To Happen
Notre Dame just tore off 365 rushing yards on the FSU defense. Boston College won’t do that, but it won’t make the big mistakes needed for the Noles to make this an easy win.
Deondre Francois will throw well, but he’ll also give up a few picks and have problems with the pressure coming all game long.
Lastly, Boston College lines are good, the FSU O line isn’t.
We think FSU has just enough gas left in the tank to stagger out of this game with a close, come from behind, victory to make the Florida game all the more meaningful next weekend.
Our Fearless Prediction & Line
Florida State 27, Boston College 25
Line: Boston College -1.5, o/u: 49
Date: Saturday, November 17
Game Time: 3:30 ET
Venue: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL