After a long, excruciating wait, the 2012 Boston College football schedule was released on Monday. Overall, I think the ACC did a decent job of putting together this year's schedule. When you only have six home games, there are going to be issues -- like three road games in consecutive weeks to kick off October -- but there are also some positives, like opening with winnable games against Miami and Maine.
Let's break it down:
Sept. 1: Miami Hurricanes
Boston College beat the Hurricanes last season in the regular season finale in what turned out to be the final game of the year for both programs. Despite winning six games and becoming bowl eligible last season, Miami decided to forgo a bowl trip due to the NCAA's probe into the Nevin Shapiro booster scandal. Was BC the better team that Miami last season? Maybe, maybe not. Motivation was clearly a factor in the loss, as the Hurricane players found out the Sunday before that game would be their last game of the year. Spaz also did his best to keep the U in this game. /Bordner'd
That said, Miami loses a ton of talent from last year's 6-6 team including QB Jacory Harris. Like I said leading up to the release of the schedule, if there was one team you wanted to face at the beginning of the year, it's Georgia Tech. But if there was a second team you want to face, it's Miami. Incredibly, Miami loses 25 players to graduation / early NFL entry, including 14 starters. BC, meanwhile, returns 19 starters -- 9 on offense, 9 on defense and one specialist.
Sept. 8: Maine Black Bears (Maine extended rest)
BC then hosts the I-AA Maine Black Bears, who surprisingly played Pittsburgh close on the road last season. The game will be the 1,000th game in program history for Maine, so there is some motivation here to knock off the Eagles for Maine. Depending on the results of the Miami game, BC might also be looking past Maine. The all-time series between BC and Maine is tied at 3-3, though the Black Bears having scored a point on BC since 1915. This will be the season opener for the Black Bears.
Sept. 15: @ Northwestern Wildcats
Boston College next travels to Evanston to take on a Northwestern program that knocked off the Eagles in the season opener. QB Dan Persa graduates and will give way to presumed starter Kain Colter, but that should be a name the Eagles are all too familiar with. In NU's never-ending quest to schedule every top tier academic school in the nation, the 'Cats will be coming off games at Syracuse (9/1) and a sneaky good Vanderbilt team (9/8).
Sept. 22: BYE
The off week comes early for the Eagles, but does give the Eagles an extra week to prepare for the Clemson Tigers in the program's first ACC Atlantic Division contest.
Sept. 29: Clemson Tigers (BC extended rest)
After the off week, BC hosts Clemson in what will presumably be Parents' Weekend 2012. From an attendance standpoint, you hate to see a program like Clemson on a weekend where students try to convince and drag their parents to a BC football game. For one thing, there are weaker opponents that need the attendance boost (Maine, Maryland). For another, BC has barely been competitive with Clemson in two of the last three meetings between the two programs.
While Clemson struggled down the stretch this past season, the Tigers still managed to win the ACC by trouncing Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game. Clemson returns 14 starters and will still be one of the most talented programs in the conference this year. Getting the Tigers early, on extra rest, is good news for BC since Clemson does have some holes to fill with players graduating. Clemson travels to Tallahassee the week before, so there could be a let down factor here for the Tigers. Will be interest to watch.
Oct. 6 @ Army Black Knights (triple option)
Unless Gene knows something we don't and needs an extra home game next season, and BC will only have five home games next season, this is where I would like to have the decision to swap home dates with the Black Knights back. I know most are expected BC to handle the Black Knights easily, but this is a trap game if ever there was one on the schedule. While Army was just 3-9 last season, all three wins came within the friendly confines of Michie Stadium, including a 21-14 Northwestern team who beat BC in the opener. Army returns 16 starters next season, including a total of nine on defense, and figures to be one of the more experienced programs in the nation next season.
There are also plenty of challenges in defending the triple-option in a game sandwiched between two huge Atlantic Division games against Clemson and down in Tallahassee. Army will be coming off a home game against I-AA Stony Brook.
Oct. 13 @ Florida St. Seminoles
BC-FSU was the least competitive result of 2011 for the Eagles. BC went into the half down 31-0, including the embarrassing first half Spaz surrender on 3rd and 23. You can't like BC's prospects here, especially when you consider Florida State will be healthy and returns a ton of talent. The 'Noles figure to return 17 starters by my count, including QB E.J. Manuel. If there's a silver lining, it's that BC could catch Florida State looking ahead to the following week's game at Miami. Though I doubt it.
Oct. 20 @ Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (triple option, GT extended rest)
The Eagles finish off their three-week road trip down in Atlanta against the Yellow Jackets. Much like Florida State, Georgia Tech returns a ton of talent -- 17 total starters, eight on offense, seven on defense and both specialists. There are also plenty of challenges in defending Paul Johnson's triple-option attack, though hopefully BC can capitalize on their experiences in the Army game two weeks earlier.
Georgia Tech has an extra week off to prepare for BC, and will be coming off a road game at cross-divisional rival Clemson.
Oct. 27 Maryland Terrapins
After three weeks on the road, BC returns home to face an awful Maryland team that it ran all over down in College Park in front of 5,000 snow-covered fans. If you haven't been following the meltdown down in CP, Randy Edsall's "dream job" is turning into a disaster, with double-digit defections that will likely completely re-write the depth chart. If there one guaranteed non I-AA win on the schedule next season, arguably this is it. Maryland's trip to Chestnut Hill is bookended by home games against N.C. State and Georgia Tech.
Nov. 3 @ Wake Forest Demon Deacons (Wake extra rest)
BC then travels to Winston-Salem to face a Demon Deacons squad that knocked off BC in Chestnut Hill last season. Wake was not a very good team last season, finishing almost squarely in the middle of the pack nationally. Grobe is going to have to rebuild the Deacons offense as Wake returns just three offensive starters, though they do return QB Tanner Price. Wake will have a few extra days to prepare for BC, as they host Clemson on Thursday night (Oct. 25), followed by a road game at N.C. State. This is a game the Eagles can win, so long as they aren't looking ahead to ...
Nov. 10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Eagles next return to Chestnut Hill to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish as BC tries to get back in the W column against their Catholic rivals. Last year's BC-Notre Dame punt-off was surprisingly close, with the Eagles making a late-game push to knock off the Irish. Notre Dame's trip to Chestnut Hill is sandwiched between home games against future (Pittsburgh) and present (Wake Forest) ACC teams, so there isn't much of a looking ahead factor here for the Irish. Notre Dame returns a total of 15 starters in 2012, including a total of eight on the offensive side of the ball.
Nov. 17 Virginia Tech Hokies (VT extended rest)
The letdown factor for BC's home game against the Hokies should be really high coming off a home date against Notre Dame. Virginia Tech won 11 games last year by playing the most embarrassing non-conference schedule of the year. The Hokies return QB Logan Thomas and virtually their entire defense (a top 10 ranked unit nationally last season), but have to replace some key starters on offense. BC was able to hang with the Hokies for a half -- going into the locker room with a first half lead down in Blacksburg -- before Virginia Tech pulled away in the second half.
There's some opportunity given the timing of this year's Hokies game on the schedule, as VT will be coming off a big Thursday night home game against Florida State. Though VT will get a few extra days to prepare for the Eagles, after their trip to Chestnut Hill, they do host their in-state rival Virginia Cavaliers in the regular season finale.
The thing I don't like about the timing of this game is how late in the year the BC-Virginia Tech game is. The ACC scheduling office must have any hope that these two programs will make the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte two weeks later. But really, I can't blame them. Atlantic vs. Coastal Division matchups late in the year are always awkward for this reason. But if you thought the timing of BC-VT is curious, check out the timing of Maryland-North Carolina, who face one another at season's end.
As a general rule, the ACC should front-load the ACC schedule with intra-divisional matchups in September and early October and back-load with inter-divisional matchups. With so many small, private schools in the conference and bowl trip fatigue on the part of the fans, the ACC Championship Game doesn't need anymore help sucking in the attendance department. A title game that is a late-season re-match would do just that.
Nov. 24 @ N.C. State Wolfpack
The season finale is Tom O'Brien and N.C. State. I thought that they would put N.C. State at Miami here to end the season, but either TOB complained or they decided that Carolina-Duke wasn't a good enough matchup for the regular season finale, since no one would watch. N.C. State did get hit pretty hard by the injury bug in 2011, but still managed to win eight games (only six against I-AA teams). Max Holloway's late-game pass deflection preserved a surprising 14-10 victory for BC on the Heights last season. N.C. State travels to Clemson the week before. Will the mentor (TOB) put the final nail in the coffin of the mentee's (Spaz's) coaching career in Raleigh?
Other thoughts and impressions.
-- Labor Day. I know there are some that are disappointed that BC is playing on Labor Day weekend, but this season opener will still be better attended than year's past. Miami may get blasted back into the Stone Age by NCAA sanctions, but they are still the U, and a good draw. A better draw than Northwestern, Weber State or Northeastern, anyway.
-- Late Season Attendance Boost. Even if the season goes horribly wrong, BC will get a nice attendance boost by facing Notre Dame (guaranteed sellout) and Virginia Tech in consecutive weeks in November. Combined with a strongly attended opener against Miami and a Parents' Weekend game against Clemson, the 2012 BC football attendance won't drop off as much as fans probably think it will in February. That said, I'll be shocked if BC draws more than 30k against either Maine or Maryland.
-- Three-game road trip. For the second time in as many years, BC goes on the road for three straight road games. This season, the Eagles don't even benefit from the bye week getting placed in between road games at Army, Florida State and Georgia Tech. Since 1956, BC is just 12-20-2 (.382) in games where they've played on the road in three straight games. BC went 1-2 on their three-game road trip in 2011 (lone win at Maryland) and also posted a 1-2 record the time before that in 2002, though the lone win was an upset of then-No. 4 Notre Dame in South Bend.
-- Triple (option) trouble. While the three-game road trip seems daunting, the timing is good for BC in that they'll get two games against triple-option offenses in a three week span. So long as BC can handle Army, they should be able to use the preparation for the Black Knights offense for their trip to Atlanta two weeks later. The flip side is this could turn into a disaster, with an upset loss at the hands of Army, a non-competitive loss to FSU in Tallahassee and a third straight road loss to Georgia Tech. 0-3 over this prolonged road trip could very well send this season spiraling out of control, with only BC's home game against Maryland there to break the fall.
-- No home games against warm weather teams post-September. This one is unfortunate. BC will host both Miami and Clemson before the calendar turns to October, while hosting Maryland, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech -- all relevatively cold-weather teams -- in the second half of the season. Seems like a missed opportunity for BC to subject a team like Miami or Clemson to the elements in October and November, though like I said, I do like the fact that Boston College draws the Hurricanes early given the talent drain to graduation / the NFL.