The recovery process from Boston College football’s disastrous 2015 campaign begins right now.
On Tuesday afternoon, the ACC released the football schedules for each of its 14 member programs. Although each school has already sorted out its non-conference agreements and knows the teams it will play in the conference, this announcement by the ACC reveals which games will be nationally televised, highlighting those which are on non-Saturdays. This should include BC’s annual Friday night Red Bandanna Game, in honor of Welles Crowther, BC ’99, a former lacrosse player who gave his life saving 12 others in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
While the non-conference slate may pose little threat, the road of returning to respectability isn’t going to be an easy one for the Eagles.
In Steve Addazio’s fourth season, BC will host ACC Atlantic Division opponents Clemson, Louisville, and Syracuse; Buffalo, a MAC team; regional foe UConn, of the AAC; and FCS Wagner. The Eagles will travel to divisional opponents Florida State, NC State, and Wake Forest; Coastal Division rival Virginia Tech; and FBS Independent UMass, which plays its home games at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
But, of course, we begin in Dublin, Ireland, at Aviva Stadium. The Eagles will travel to the Emerald Isle to take on Georgia Tech on Sept. 3 for their “home opener.” The Yellow Jackets, the universal favorite to run away with the ACC Coastal Division, finished a poor 3-9. Their only ACC win came in an upset over Florida State, famously dubbed by announcer Brandon Gaudin as the Miracle on Techwood Drive.
The Eagles will then travel to the home of the New England Patriots on Sept. 10 to challenge the Minutemen, who were 3-9 last season. Last time the two teams met, BC throttled them, 30-7, in 2014 with Tyler Murphy behind center. UMass left the MAC to pursue the unknown paths of independence in 2016. This will include dates with three SEC teams—Florida, Mississippi State, and South Carolina—as well as trips to Provo, Utah to play BYU and Honolulu, Hawaii to take on the Rainbow Warriors. Yikes.
Next up for BC is a trip to Lane Stadium to face the Hokies on Sept. 17, the first time in nearly three decades that legendary Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer will be absent from the sidelines in a game against the Eagles. Nevertheless, new head coach Justin Fuente, who took the reigns after leading the University of Memphis to its highest-ever ranking in school history, presents a serious challenge for BC. Virginia Tech finished last year at 7-6, yet still manhandled the Eagles in a 26-10 drubbing at Alumni Stadium. If freshman running back Travon McMillian racked up over 100 yards on the ground against last season’s stout BC defense, this year’s game against the Hokies could bring a familiar result.
Remember the 76-0 blowout win against Howard last year? Well, BC’s Sept. 24 matchup with Wagner reeks of a similar FCS rout. Wagner’s 2015 season included only one win, against Central Connecticut, as the team stumbled to a 1-10 record against less-than-stellar competition. This is the first-ever date between the two schools.
BC will then open a new month against Buffalo on Oct. 1. The MAC’s Bulls faltered in their only showdown—a 27-14 loss to Penn State in Happy Valley—against a Power Five team (ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12, SEC) in a 5-7 2015 campaign,. The program has had mostly downs in its existence: SUNY Buffalo cut football in 1970, returning it as a D-III sport in 1977. It moved up to the FCS level in 1993 before returning to FBS in 1999. Since then, the program has compiled two winning seasons (2008 and 2013) and has not beaten a Power Five school. BC is 6-2 against the Bulls in the all-time series, the most recent matchup a 41-0 destruction by Matt Ryan in 2006. And they’re only on the path to more pain in 2016—their best player, quarterback Joe Licata, has moved onto (likely) warmer pastures after turning in a solid senior campaign (2,969 yards, 62.4 completion percentage, 15 TD to 13 INT)—putting Buffalo back in the rebuilding boat.
Mark your calendars: on Friday, Oct. 7, National Championship runner-up Clemson visits BC on what will most likely be Red Bandanna Night at Alumni Stadium. Deshaun Watson is returning after his impressive 2015 campaign, which saw him throw for over 4,000 yards and rush for over 1,000, becoming the first quarterback in FBS history to do so. He will try to carry his team to another National Championship game as he builds his case to be a 2016 Heisman candidate. Yes, there will be hype: ESPN will pounce on the Red Bandanna storyline and Deshaun Watson’s unbelievable resume. Beneath all this, however, lie two football teams with ferocious defenses. Prepare for controlled chaos.
At this point, BC has what it so desperately needed last year: a midseason bye. Following what could be a physically and emotionally draining game against Clemson, the Eagles will have a week to rest and prepare for two winnable battles at home versus Syracuse and on the road at NC State. Last season, BC didn’t receive a bye until November—by then, it was too late to reap many of the benefits that a bye week provides.
Coming out of the bye week, the Eagles will host the Orange on Oct. 22. Although the two schools normally play on the final week of the season, which is usually considered “Rivalry Week,” BC Athletics confirms that is has not received an explanation from the ACC for why the game against Syracuse will now take place in mid-October; however, there is no change, according to BC Athletics, in the two schools’ relationships and both are considered the other’s rival since the Orange joined the ACC in 2013 and reunited the two former Big East foes. Syracuse collected its fourth and final win of 2015 against BC in the Carrier Dome during Rivalry Week, but the team is a lot less scary away from home—last season, the Orange didn’t win a single game on the road.
BC then travels to NC State on Oct. 29 in a pre-Halloween clash in Raleigh. Last year, Jacoby Brissett and his receiving corps torched the Eagle secondary en route to a 24-8 win in the final home game of the season. This year, however, Brissett is gone, leaving a gap in the Wolfpack offense and few clear remedies. Regardless, NC State is returning a top-tier defense that rivals BC’s own defensive unit, which could make this year’s matchup another low-scoring affair.
ACC Freshman of the Year Lamar Jackson will lead his Louisville squad into Chestnut Hill for another contest on Nov. 5. Jackson has been dubbed the next Deshaun Watson by some, as he showed last year that he is very dangerous when out of the pocket. Although he still needs work as a passer, the Cardinals are confident that he is their guy for the future after he torched Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl. Last season, Louisville escaped with a 17-14 win on its home turf to push the all-time series record to 5-3 in favor of the Cardinals.
Jimbo Fisher & Co. remember how BC’s defense nearly led to an upset last year, and the Seminoles won’t forget it when the Eagles make the trek to Tallahassee for a Friday night grudge match on Nov. 11. The game will be televised on ESPN as part of a special Veteran’s Day broadcast. Despite BC’s dismal record last season, don’t expect Florida State to take the Eagles lightly. And with Dalvin Cook returning to the line of scrimmage for the Seminoles in 2016, BC will face an immense challenge in slowing an FSU offense that looks to plow through opposing defenses all year long. Plus, #FSUTwitter likely remembers the scare the Tyler Murphy-led Eagles of 2014 put into them.
BC returns to Alumni Stadium for the final home game of the season against UConn on Nov. 19 in what will be the 13th meeting all-time between the two programs. The Eagles have won nine straight dating back to 1912, and the non-conference duels are set to continue in the near future. BC also has the Huskies scheduled for meetings in 2017, 2022, and 2023. The AAC foe finished 2015 at 6-7, culminating in a loss to Marshall in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
Finally, the Eagles will once again wrap up their regular season schedule on the road, this time at Wake Forest on Nov. 26. The Demon Deacon defense gave BC trouble in their meeting last year, in what was one of the most frustrating losses in recent school history. Wake came away with a 3-0 win as clock management issues caused a painful defeat in the final seconds of the game. Look for BC’s offense to come out in this matchup with a chip on its shoulder.
All three of BC’s wins were at Alumni Stadium—none against conference opponents. But the Eagles should have most of their wins at home again this year. Only two, Clemson and Louisville, pose an overwhelming challenge, while the others (including Georgia Tech) are theoretically winnable games. Addazio’s club will likely only face one nearly-impossible threat on the road, Florida State. Note that he is only one year removed from a highly successful road win streak. 2014’s 7-6 team won all but one of its road games, the one mishap a 20-17 loss to the Jameis Winston-led Seminoles, a team that later won the conference.
Yet, unlike in recent years, BC lacks a premier non-conference opponent. Some of the recent members of the Eagles’ non-ACC slate have included Notre Dame, Southern California (home-and-home), and Northwestern (home-and-home). When you include the Fighting Irish, who play every other one of their qualifying sports in the ACC besides football (independent), this will be the first year the Eagles do not have a Power Five non-conference team on the schedule since 2006.x
But you don’t need marquee matchups to make bowl games, only if you want to push higher in the AP Poll and make a run at the College Football Playoff. And right now, the goal of this rebuilding program is to restore itself to a winning record and play December football. With this schedule, improved coaching, and development from the players, BC has a chance to get there only one year removed from a last-place finish.
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor