Not often does a team go from a 45-point favorite to a 7.5 point underdog at home in one week. Especially not after a 76-point win. But that’s exactly the situation the Boston College Eagles find themselves in this weekend. After back-to-back victories against FCS opponents Maine and Howard, the Eagles are set to face their first true test of the season Friday night: perennial powerhouse, Florida State University.
With ESPN taking over campus for a 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter, the atmosphere should be electric when the Eagles take on the reigning ACC champions. In all likelihood, Alumni Stadium will look and sound like a completely different place than it did last Saturday against Howard, when a majority of the reported crowd of “26,000” left early.
Don’t expect to see a 41-0 score at the end of the first quarter this week. The Seminoles come into Friday night’s matchup with just one loss since the end of the 2012 season. But this year’s installment of FSU is notably different than the past two years.
Of course, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston has moved on to the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but Tallahassee has seen far more turnover than just Jameis since the last matchup with the Eagles. Over the past two years, FSU has lost 18 players to the NFL Draft, the program’s highest number over a two-year span.
Yet somehow, FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher replaces his stars year after year. Everett Golson, a graduate transfer who last suited up for Notre Dame, has taken over behind center, and brings a different kind of a threat with his legs than his distinguished predecessor.
“He is a talented guy,” BC head coach Steve Addazio said of Golson. “He is a dual-threat quarterback. They lost a great quarterback and now they are replacing him with a quarterback who has a great game experience and in big time games.”
Addazio, who used to battle FSU on the recruiting trail while offensive coordinator at the University of Florida, praised the school’s ability to consistently churn out top-level talent. “Watching them on tape, they are a very talented football team,” Addazio noted. “They’re an electric team, as they always are. They have great athletes, as they always do. They’re well coached, as they always have been.”
A more pressing issue than Florida State’s undeniable talent lies in house for the Eagles. Despite a 100-3 point total so far this season, BC remains an unknown. The starters have only played around four full quarters’ worth of football in two games against FCS teams. New starting quarterback Darius Wade has barely been given the chance to prove he can throw. The offensive line hasn’t had much in-game experience to mesh as a unit. They have yet to be challenged at all in terms of size, speed, or athleticism. The list goes on. For a young team, these are all legitimate causes for concern.
Addazio expressed uneasiness about his very young team transitioning from teams like Howard and Maine to Florida State.
“Young players just don’t have a reference point,” Addazio said. “What have they seen? They’ve seen Maine and Howard. They don’t understand the intensity of these games. The speed and the physicality of these games is so much greater and different.”
Everyone in Chestnut Hill remembers last year’s upset victory over Southern California, and understandably, will compare the two games in the hopes of a repeat. After all, USC did come into Chestnut Hill ranked ninth in the nation in a September, Week-Three matchup. Despite its familiarity, it’s a lazy comparison. Last year’s team pulled off the upset because of a dominating performance on the ground, thanks to a veteran offensive line and quarterback. All five linemen and starting quarterback Tyler Murphy are gone.
Addazio admitted as much, acknowledging: “The fact that [Florida State is ranked], the guys who played aren’t intimidated by that in any stretch of the imagination, but there is a high percentage of players who had neither experience so it’s not applicable.”
Defensively, the comparison can seem more clear. Last season, the Eagles fell to Florida State on the road in a tight, 20-17 matchup. While the youth of the offense is undoubtedly a concern, the defense that kept the Seminoles on their toes a year ago remains mostly intact.
Prior to the season, BC defensive end Connor Wujciak stated that he believed the Eagles would have a top-five defense in the nation this season. So far, so good. With a total of three points allowed through two games, the BC defense has dominated. Again, this domination has come against subpar competition, but there is still no denying how strong the defense has looked. To go an entire half without allowing a first down, as the Eagles did last week, is a major testament to the skill of a defense regardless of the opponent. In order for the Eagles to pull off their second top-10 upset in as many years, BC will have to rely on its defense.
Do the Eagles have another major upset in them? It won’t be without a lack of motivation.
“Quite frankly, we have had two years of tough games that we have come out on the short end of the stick on these games,” Addazio said. “I think our kids are highly motivated to play here at home, to play well and get a win.”