Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples recently published his post-spring college football Top 25. Four of BC's 2011 opponents crack Staples Top 25. Florida State is listed in the top 10 in the country (9), while Virginia Tech (19), Notre Dame (21) and Maryland (24) round out the rest of the top 25.
Let's take a look at what Staples has to say about these four 2011 opponents.
First up, Florida State:
"Jimbo Fisher is building something special in Tallahassee, but I'm not sure Florida State is back to late-90s, baddest-team-in-the-universe mode. Yet. That day doesn't seem far off, though. Fisher has spent the past few years working FSU's offense back into shape, but the hallmark of those late-90s Seminoles teams was an athletic, almost vicious defense. The coaching staff has spent the past few years stockpiling the same type of players Mickey Andrews used to unleash upon the world, and second-year coordinator Mark Stoops now has a deep(ish), athletic group that should be able to hang with elite offenses."
My take: Finally, a refreshing take on the 2011 Seminoles. I have no doubt that Fisher has the 'Noles back on the upswing, but I'm not about to put FSU in the National Championship Game discussion quite yet. I still think the 'Noles are a year or two away from entering that discussion, if they ever get there. I mean, we HAVE been hearing this for years now ... However, the schedule does break FSU's way this year. Other than a home game against Oklahoma, Florida State has a manageable non-conference schedule and gets Miami and the two worst Coastal teams -- Duke and Virginia -- from the other side of the conference. Ten wins and another ACC Championship Game appearance seem within reach for the 'Noles this year, but I don't think that's good enough to crack anyone's top 5.
Next up is Virginia Tech, who clocks in at #19:
"Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer shook up his offensive staff this offseason, stripping offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring of his play-calling duties and handing them to quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain. The Hokies have owned the Virginia Tech Conference (see, I keep my promises), but this seems to be a move to get Virginia Tech to the next level. Of course, with the upgrade in progress in Tallahassee, the Hokies may have to improve just to maintain their current perch."
Virginia Tech had one of the strangest college football seasons in recent memory. The Hokies both lost to I-AA James Madison and also became the first ACC program to go undefeated in league play in over a decade, despite middling statistics in both total offense and total defense. Tech will have to replace not only Tyrod Taylor, but also Darren Evans and Ryan Williams. I have no doubt that O'Cain calling plays is an upgrade over Stinespring, but can the offense take the next step with a first-year starting QB? Though with a schedule that includes a bunch of non-conference cupcakes and avoids Florida State, N.C. State and Maryland from the Atlantic, it's not hard to imagine the Hokies playing for yet another ACC title in 2011. Until proven otherwise, it's not called the Virginia Tech Conference for nothing.
Annually overrated Notre Dame checks in next at number 21:
"Notre Dame made such great strides at the end of last season that this doesn't feel like a typical throw-the-Irish-in-the-poll-and-maybe-they'll-be-better-for-a-few-weeks pick. Linebacker Manti Te'o is the kind of elite defensive player Notre Dame has lacked for years, and it seems as if the coaching staff has upgraded the talent around him."
Pretty generic recap from Staples here. I almost feel like you could replace "Notre Dame," "Irish," and "Manti Te'o" with "Boston College," "Eagles," and "Luke Kuechly" and repurpose this paragraph to preview BC, not Notre Dame.
I think the Irish will continue to improve, but with questions at QB and the uncertainty surrounding Michael Floyd, I think it will be very small, incremental improvements, such as going from 7-5 to 8-4. I definitely see at least four losses on the Irish' schedule -- say, at Michigan, Michigan State, at Pittsburgh and Stanford -- and toss-up games against USC, Maryland and BC will really make or break Notre Dame's season. I wouldn't necessarily have Notre Dame in my preseason top 25, but Staples' ranking of the Irish at 21 seems a bit more realistic than other's early projections who are talking a BCS bowl for ND.
Finally, in a bit of a surprise, Maryland squeaks into Staples' Top 25 at #24:
"Ralph Friedgen's ouster at Maryland upset so many people because the Terrapins were on the upswing. Now it's up to Randy Edsall, who took Connecticut from I-AA to Big East champion, to continue the progress Friedgen made last season."
This seems like your requisite "I feel like I need to rank a third ACC team and I don't really think it's Miami so I'm going to pick the up-and-coming Terps from the Atlantic" type of pick. Don't get me wrong: there's plenty of reasons for optimism in College Park. Danny O'Brien turned in a very good freshman campaign, and Edsall is riding high after taking UConn to a BCS bowl. But coaching changes are tricky things, and Maryland could just as easily start the season 2-0 as they could 0-2 -- hosting both Miami and West Virginia. Throw in road trips to Tallahassee and Raleigh, and home games against Clemson, BC and Notre Dame, and its not exactly the easiest slate of games for Edsall to break in to his new HC role.
While Maryland appeared to take a step forward last season winning 8 regular season games, there were plenty of close calls. The Terps should have lost to Navy, barely got past Duke at home, barely got past BC on the road and were resigned to play the role of Atlantic Division spoiler, beating N.C. State in the regular season finale (in typical TOB late November meltdown style). If you ask me, the Terps got a bit lucky last season, and this year they trade in a Duke home game for a Georgia Tech road game, and Navy for Notre Dame.
The bad news for BC is that of these four teams, the Eagles have to go on the road to face three of them -- Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Maryland -- and only get Florida State at home. But that game is a nationally televised Thursday night game, so it's not likely that we'll catch the 'Noles looking past BC to Miami the following Saturday.
Finally, Staples also mentions Miami as one of his teams that "just missed the cut," so chalk that up for another difficult road game for the Eagles.