Ah, the week of the bowl game is finally here. It snuck up on us, right? It's suddenly cold and dreary outside, and the 6-6 Lions are on the verge of taking on a foe at Yankee Stadium. Remember that time it seemed like we may not have gotten to kick the season off against UCF because of a got dang Icelandic volcano? That was fun.
So yes, bowl game, the opponent is Boston College. The Eagles! Led by former Urbz disciple Steve Addazio, BC went 7-5 on the season with a 4-4 clip in the ACC. So that's lovely. But...
YOU KNOW WHAT, BC? YOU KNOW WHAT? WE HAVEN'T DONE THIS IN A WHILE, SO THE LEAD IN IS A BIT CLUNKY BUT...
YOU, BOSTON COLLEGE, WILL NOT BEAT PENN STATE IN THE PINSTRIPE BOWL.
Of course, compared to the beginning of the season when we were brimming with confidence, we are a bit timid about this game. But Penn State really should win, and we're not even being biased.
The Ground Game
The one thing that BC does really, really well is run the football. It's not a smoke and mirrors type of running game a la Georgia Tech or Navy, they run it over and under and through you. If you like old school, smash mouth football, the Eagles play a style that will almost certainly appeal to you.
Of course, we all know that the one thing that Penn State does well is stop the run. Actually, that's an understatement, because Penn State has quite possibly the best rushing defense in America. It's a great strength vs. strength matchup...one that the Nittany Lions are absolutely going to win.
Let's look at some common opponents. The team that most closely resembles Boston College in terms of rushing offense, per Football Outsiders and based on the style of offense they use, is Ohio State. The Buckeyes had 57 runs for 219 yards and three touchdowns in the 31-24 double overtime win. That's an awful 3.8 yards per carry for Urbz's crew. Sure, the numbers look gaudy, but when you break it down on a per carry basis, the OSU rushing attack was, relatively speaking, shut down.
As for BC's rushing offense, the team that it played which most closely resembles Penn State is Clemson. Again, per FO, Clemson is the No. 2 rushing defense in the country, while PSU is No. 3. The Eagles shat the bed against the Tigers on the ground when the two teams played, as it ran the ball 36 times for 120 yards (3.3 YPC) and no touchdowns en route to a 17-13 loss.
We're willing to bet anything we own that James Franklin, Bob Shoop and the entire defensive stat is pouring over that Clemson footage and looking back on the game against OSU to figure out what it needs to do against Boston College. We are also willing to bet that they will put together a dynamite gameplan that, relatively speaking, shuts the Eagles down.
Tyler Murphy Against Great Passing Defenses: Not Great!
We've already decided that Boston College probably won't have much luck on the ground on Saturday. Now let's see what they may do through the air.
Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy will be going up against a Bob Shoop-coached defense for the second time in his career when he steps on the Yankee Stadium grass this weekend after taking on Vanderbilt last year when he was quarterbacking the Fightin' Muschamps (RIP) of the University of Florida. Here is his stat line from that game:
Of note: 154 of those passing yards came in the fourth quarter when Vanderbilt had the game well in hand.
Tyler Murphy is not a great quarterback. This becomes even more apparent when he goes up against a great passing defense. Over the past two years, Murphy has played against five top-20 S&P+ passing defenses (2013: LSU (20) and Missouri (11), 2014: Clemson (1), Virginia Tech (2) and Louisville (18)). Penn State enters the Pinstripe Bowl as the ninth-ranked passing defense in the nation according to S&P+.
Here are Murphy's average passing statistics against those five schools:
Completion percentage: 49.9%
Passing yardage: 114.8 yards
QB rating: 109.0
Total TD/INT ratio: 5/5
Yes, obviously Murphy isn't your quintessential passing quarterback as he rushed for over 1,000 yards this season. But, as described in the previous section, he will have to throw the ball at some point when progress on the ground comes to a halt. That strategy didn't play out well for Heisman contender J.T. Barrett. It isn't going to go great for Tyler Murphy.
This game will be ugly. The offenses won't do much. The defenses will be stiff. But one team will emerge victorious.
I'm afraid we've got some bad news, dudes of Boston College. Penn State will be that one team on Saturday and leave New York with a 17-10 victory.