2011 Kraft Fight Hunger
Boston College (7-5) vs.
Sunday, January 9, 9:00, ESPN
Get Expert Football Picks from ATS Consultants - Absolutely Free.
- Get Tickets For Your Team, Any Game
SCROLL DOWN to the bottom for all the CFNers' confidence picks and bowl history
By Richard Cirminiello
Kraft is huddling up for hunger. Nevada arrives in California looking to put an exclamation point on the best season in program history.
The Wolf Pack is No. 15 in the current BCS standings, a record-setting season that’s included 12 wins and a momentous upset of Boise State the day after Thanksgiving. Heck, had the school not lost to Hawaii back on Oct. 16, it might have had a case for one of the system’s five major bowl games. Instead, it’ll gladly take the four-hour trip west to San Francisco, a city close enough to attract interest from the Reno fan base. The bowl committee passed on the Broncos for this slot, banking on the Nevada fans buying tickets and spending money in the city.
The Pack was more than just that rousing overtime victory against Boise State this season. Fueled by a relentless running game that rolled up more than 300 yards a game out of the Pistol formation, it also torched Cal in September and finished in a three-way tie for the WAC title, its final season as a member of the conference. Still, Nevada and Hall of Fame head coach Chris Ault need to close the deal at AT&T Park, especially considering their recent postseason history. The school has lost four consecutive bowl games and was thoroughly embarrassed by SMU in last December’s Hawaii Bowl. The seniors, in particular, who’ve meant so much to the rise of the Pack, are eager to leave with win No. 13.
For Boston College, this will be its 12th consecutive bowl game, and arguably its most rewarding. At 2-5 toward the end of October, it sure looked as if the streak was headed for extinction, but the Eagles rallied in just the nick-of-time. Behind a rugged defense and a disciplined ground game, they won their final five games, navigating the softer portion of the schedule by an average score of 19-12. While not overly pretty, it was effective, landing the school a coveted bonus game and head coach Frank Spaziani an extension of his contract through the 2015 season.
Boston College is a blue-collar football program. Period. Running the ball behind a big line and playing stout defense are rarely problems. The play behind center, however, has been an entirely different issue since Matt Ryan left for the Atlanta Falcons. The Eagles have been spotty in the passing game, the underlying reason for this year’s offensive stumbles. Good news for the future, though, comes from Chase Rettig, who took his lumps as a true freshman, yet also absorbed as much as possible in his rookie campaign. More than any player on this roster, he’s going to benefit from the team’s strong stretch run that made this game and extra practice time possible.
Nevada is third nationally on the ground. Boston College leads the country against the run. Rock meets hard place in an intriguing match up of wildly contrasting styles of play.
Players to Watch: As RB Montel Harris goes, so goes the Boston College offense. A legit workhorse in every sense of the word, he leads the ACC and is No. 11 nationally at 113 yards a game, despite not getting any support from the passing attack. He has no problems toting it at least 30 teams in a game, and should find uncongested running lanes versus a smallish Nevada defensive line. In front of the junior is a beefy, veteran front wall that’s accustomed to moving the pile and creating daylight. LT Anthony Castonzo, in particular, has been a popular subject for visiting NFL scouts.
While Nevada doesn’t possess a ton of girth on the D-line, it is blessed with plenty of speed and quickness. Take DE Dontay Moch, for instance. Sixth in NCAA history in tackles for loss, he explodes off the edge, moving with the suddenness of a safety. No. 55 must be accounted for at all times, or else he’s liable to take a game over with his big-play ability. As big and experienced as the Boston College blockers are, they haven’t been nimble or light on their feet. The Eagles ranked 10th in the ACC in sacks allowed, which is a particular concern against this Pack team and with a wide-eyed quarterback standing in the pocket.
Both teams share the same desire to establish the running game. Nevada is just much better at it. QB Colin Kaepernick and RB Vai Taua aren’t just good. They form the most prolific all-time rushing tandem in NCAA history, passing SMU’s Craig James and Eric Dickerson. Both have run for at least 1,000 yards in each of the last three years, slicing through the wide lanes in opposing defenses. Kaepernick is no slouch as a passer either, giving the Pack a dangerous dual-threat look. He’s thrown 81 career touchdown passes to only 23 picks, and has talented targets in WR Rishard Matthews and TE Virgil Green.
Nevada can obviously run the ball, but will be facing its toughest test on Jan. 9. Boston College yields a nation’s-low 80 rushing yards a game and just 2.6 yards a carry. In Chestnut Hill, it all begins with LB Luke Kuechly, who leads the country with 171 tackles. Just two years removed from high school, he combines the requisite physical skills with instincts that belie his age. In this type of a game, he could be good for 20 stops, which has already happened against NC State and Duke. Not to be forgotten is fellow LB Mark Herzlich, who’ll be suiting up for the final time as an Eagle. An inspiration after battling back from cancer, he has four picks and played at his highest level in the second half of the year.
Boston College will win if ... it’s allowed to play its style of game.
Obviously, this is going to be a battle of wills and tempo, with the Eagles trying to slow things down and the Pack looking to supercharge the pace. Boston College is competitive when it isn’t forced to play from behind, can run the ball methodically, and doesn’t have to gamble on defense. It’s an old-school framework designed to put a cap in the pistol offense. The early wins over Weber State and Kent State aside, the Eagles have not scored more than 23 points in a game all season. That includes dates with Duke and Wake Forest, which were 11th and 12th in ACC scoring defense, respectively. They cannot win a game that’s played in the 30s, needing instead to limit possessions, play the field possession game, and drag Nevada into the alley with them.
Nevada will win if ... Kaepernick has a positive day as a passer.
Hey, there’s no mystery about Boston College’s defensive gameplan. It’ll go to whatever lengths are necessary to slow down that Wolf Pack ground assault, even pressing up safeties Jim Noel and Okechukwu Okoroha to support the front seven. Maybe the plan works, but what happens if Kaepernick is on target through the air? The Eagles won’t have the manpower to contain an attack with that degree of diversity and explosiveness. Once he starts dishing the ball to Matthews, Green, and Brandon Wimberly, BC won’t have any choice other than to respect the pass. If the Pack spreads the field, it’ll expose the Eagles’ average athleticism and vulnerability on the perimeter. From there, it’ll have a choice of how it chooses to move the sticks and enter the red zone.
What will happen: Defense wins championship. This isn’t a championship game.
Nevada simply has too much firepower for a Boston College team averaging less than 19 points a game and so heavily reliant on a methodical running game. Even if the Eagles can plug the dam for a time, eventually it’ll spring a leak, with Kaepernick and Taua gushing through. This is one of those match ups in which speed will get the better of physicality, on both sides of the ball. Harris’ 100 yards will be tough ones, and the lack of support from the passing game will prove costly. Once the Pack builds a double-digit lead, the postseason losing streak in Reno will essentially be over.
CFN Prediction: Nevada 31 … Boston College 20 ... Line:
- Expert Football Predictions from ATS Consultants - Absolutely Free.
- Get Tickets For Your Team, Any Game
Emerald Bowl History
2009 USC 24, Boston College 13
2008 Cal 24, Miami 17
2007 Oregon State 21, Maryland 14
2006 Florida State 44, UCLA 27
2005 Utah 38, Georgia Tech 10
2004 Navy 34, New Mexico 19
2003 Boston Col 35, Colorado St 21
2002 Virginia Tech 20, Air Force 13
Pick ATS: Nevada
Confidence Score: 66
OVERALL CONFIDENCE (35 most - 1 least): 20 out of 35
Pete Fiutak: Pick ATS - Boston
College Pick Confidence -
- Nevada has been a complete and utter dud in the bowl games over the last few years, but if the offense is working and Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua are playing up to their capabilities, the 12-1 Boise State slayers could become one of the stories of the bowl season. Boston College doesn't score, ranking 109th in the nation in scoring offense and 105th in yards, but it's No. 1 in the nation against the run. It's strength vs. strength.
Richard Cirminiello: Pick ATS -
Boston College Pick Confidence - 6
- This is a classic case of strength vs. strength. Nevada is third nationally on the ground and has two 1,000-yard rushers. Boston College boasts the country’s best run defense, allowing 2.6 yards a carry. Enjoy.
Matt Zemek: Pick ATS - Nevada Pick Confidence -
- Boise State rightfully didn’t want a piece of Boston College and the first Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Nevada probably won’t be happy to be here, but then again, after beating Boise State, the Wolf Pack has already made its season. The boys from Nevada shouldn’t sulk very long; they should thrive against a team whose offense can’t hurt the WAC co-champions.
Russ Mitchell: Pick ATS - Nevada Pick Confidence -
- Nevada had the best season in program history! And was rewarded with the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Every Pop Warner’s dream fulfilled...
Barrett Sallee: Pick ATS - Nevada Pick Confidence -
- The last collegiate game for B.C. linebacker Mark Herzlich, who has been one of the most inspirational players in recent memory. He’s got his work cut out for him in this one, taking on Colin Kaepernick and the mighty Wolf Pack.
Gabe Harris: Pick ATS - Nevada Pick Confidence -
Brian Harbach: Pick ATS - Boston
College Pick Confidence -
Matthew Smith: Pick ATS - Boston
College Pick Confidence -
Billy Gomila: Pick ATS - Nevada Pick Confidence
Clucko (A coin flip): Pick ATS - Nevada Pick Confidence