CHESTNUT HILL, Ma.–The drama is likely to be more pre game than anything that happens later.
ESPN’s Game Day crew will take over the Boston College campus on Saturday morning and there will be the hoopla–even here at The Heights-with crowd shots dreams of upsets. The Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division meeting between BC and Clemson will be the prime time ABC national television Game of the Week
There will be the natural talk about No. 2 ranked and unbeaten Clemson.
How can there not be? The Tigers are the best program in football, this side of Alabama. They are 9-0 for the season with an astonishing 70-9 record over the past 5 3/4 seasons.
They have been on a roll over the past month, rolling over Wake Forest, NC State, Florida State and Louisville by an average score of 60-9–this was ACC competition, not FCS schedule fillers.
Now standing in their way is perhaps their most serious challenge since the Tigers squeezed past Syracuse 27-23 on Sept. 29th, in a 7-2 Boston College which finds itself in the rarefied atmosphere of being a Top 20 ranked team. The Eagles are coming off back-to-back victories over Miami and Virginia Tech, which would normally be season-changers, but neither the Hurricanes nor Hokies are anywhere close to being ACC contenders this season.
Still, it is Spotlight Dance time for the Eagles, who can truly shake up the college football world–not to mention ruin Clemson’s season–with a victory Saturday night at Alumni Stadium, which is a sold out for the the first time in almost two seasons.
Almost none of the numbers are in the Eagles’ favor.
Clemson is a three touchdown favorite. The Eagles’ strength is in their running game, led by tailback AJ Dillon, who is dealing with a recurring ankle sprain but a year ago, Clemson held a healthy Dillon to 57 yards on 18 carries. Clemson is also leading the country in defense against the rush.
Wait there’s more.
BC is 2-28 teams in games against teams ranked in the Top 5, never beating a team ranked that high not named Notre Dame. And in their last three meetings against Clemson, the Eagles have lost 34-7.. 52-7 and 56-10.
There is no chance Clemson will not take the Eagles seriously. The Tigers have too much at stake (they can clinch the ACC Atlantic Division title with a win against BC and are obviously in prime contention for a spot in the CFB Final Four playoffs.
BC can not win a division title with a win over Clemson, but the Eagles will be the front runner with a win and it will give them their 8th victory of the season, a plateau no BC team has reached in 11 seasons.
And there is this: there is absolutely no pressure on BC because almost no one expects them to win.
BC coach Steve Addazio has played off that role, telling his team to just enjoy itself (as much as any team can in facing Clelmson). But he urges caution.
“”It’s hard to make plays against Clemson,” said Addazio. “”But we’re going to make it as physical a game as we can.”
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who has built the Clemson program from good to great over the last five years, recognizes the dangers from not treating BC like a team which can spoil the Tigers’ season. “”They have gotten better as the year as gone,” said Swinney. “”We’re going to be who we are on Saturday night.”
This has been an amazing season in the ACC. How else to explain that Clemson vs. BC has more meaning than FSU at Notre Dame, which will also be held in Prime Time on Saturday night? Notre Dame, like Clemson, is a heavy favorite (16 points) over FSU, although ND will be playing without QB Ian Book, who suffering from a rib injury….More ACC strangeness. Normally Miami and Virginia Tech are Coastal Conference ACC powers. Yet here we are in Week 11 of the season and neither team is yet bowl eligible (6 wins). The irony is that the two teams face each other next week, not for the division title, but perhaps to become bowl eligible.