For as long as I've been an Eagles fan, the Boston College football program has dominated non-conference play. Since 2000, BC has gone 47-10 (.825) in non-conference games -- including bowl games -- and hadn't lost more than one non-conference game a season from 2000-2008. In fact, in four of those years, BC went undefeated in non-conf play -- in 2002 (6-0), and 14 straight games during the 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons.
Haters will point to a perceived weak strength of schedule as the cause of BC's dominance, but it's not like the Eagles were exclusively playing body bags and creampuffs over the time period. There was, of course, a steady diet of games against UConn, UMass, MAC-rificial lambs and teams from college football's lower division, but the Eagles also faced Notre Dame, Stanford, BYU, Georgia, Michigan State, Boise State -- beating the Broncos on the blue turf, you'll remember -- and North Carolina and consistently came away a winner. So it feels a little strange to have dropped the first game of the season to Northwestern (BC hadn't lost an opener since 2004), particularly against a non-conference opponent.
After the jump are the results from Boston College's non-conference games of each season going back to 2000 - my first year at BC:
Loss vs. Northwestern 17-24
Here are a few observations:
1) After going an impressive 41-5 in non-conference play from 2000-2007 (.891), the Eagles have won just 6 out of the last 11 non-conference games, including two losses to Notre Dame and three straight bowl losses to Vanderbilt, USC and Nevada. Subtract the I-AA opponents and BC is sub .500 against I-A non-conference opponents. Unlike the previous nine seasons, where BC had signature non-conference wins over Notre Dame (numerous), Georgia, Boise State, Michigan State, Penn State and BYU, you can't point to a signature non-conf win in the last 2+ seasons. At Syracuse last year? Central Michigan at home in 2009? Not exactly the types of statement non-conference victories that we've come to expect from BC.
2) From 2000-2007, the Eagles went 11-2 in non-conference games decided by seven points or less, with the two losses both coming against Wake Forest in wild games in 2003 and 2004. It appears that the college football universe is making its karmic course correction for BC, as the Eagles have now dropped four straight non-conference games decided by seven or less -- a 16-14 loss to Vanderbilt in the 2008 Music City Bowl, a 20-16 loss at Notre Dame in 2009, a 20-13 loss to Nevada in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and now, a 24-17 setback against Northwestern in the 2011 opener.
3) We haven't lost back-to-back non-conference games in the same season since the 1998 season, where BC lost to Navy and Notre Dame and limped to a 4-7 finish in Tom O'Brien's second year. BC's back-to-back, season over season losses to Nevada and Northwestern are also the first since 1998. We are also now 8-1 in non-conference games following a loss since 2000.
With BC a Vegas underdog in this week's matchup with Central Florida, it's very possible that the Eagles' new-found non-conference struggles will continue this Saturday. Let's hope the Eagles can make some adjustments this week, get healthy and get back into the right side of the win-loss column this week. Otherwise, it might be a long, long time before the Eagles notch another signature win in non-conference play, with games at Notre Dame (2011), at Northwestern (2012), Notre Dame (2012), Syracuse (2013), at USC (2013), USC (2014) and at Syracuse (2014) on the future schedules.