In 2014, Boston College football hosts Pittsburgh, USC, Maine, Colorado State, Clemson, Louisville and Syracuse while traveling to UMass, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and Florida State. Next season's slate is a far more balanced one than it was a season ago, where the Eagles faced a formidable schedule early that eased up considerably late.
The schedule sets up nicely. The backloaded schedule will allow the team to break in key new contributors on offense (QB1, RB1, WR1), defense (DT, LB) and special teams (K). Expectations will be low for the Eagles in 2014 but bowl eligibility should still be in reach.
Some notes on the schedule:
-- With the season opener down the road in Foxborough, the Eagles will play five straight games in Massachusetts to start the season for the first time since 1957.
-- Two bye weeks a week before two crucial Atlantic Division road games at N.C. State (Oct. 11) and Florida State (Nov. 22)
-- No consecutive games against the top teams on the schedule
-- Eight bowl teams on the 2014 slate. UMass (1-11), N.C. State (3-9), Wake Forest (4-8) are the only FBS programs to fail to make a bowl game in 2013.
Saturday, August 30: at UMass Minutemen
Following a 2-22 start to life as a member of the Football Bowl Subdivision, UMass turns to Mark Whipple in hopes that the former coach can return UMass to its winning ways during its time as a member of the Football Championship Subdivision. Whipple takes over for Charley Molnar, who failed spectacularly in turning UMass into the "No. 1 team in New England." Year 2 under Molnar went about as well as year 1 did. The Minutemen notched a 17-10 win over a winless Miami (Ohio) team, but proceeded to lose every other game on the year -- including a 24-14 setback to former CAA rival Maine.
Timing impact: None. Boston College will be breaking in a bunch of new players, but the Eagles shouldn't have much trouble with the hapless Minutemen playing in front of a pro-BC crowd.
Friday, September 5: Pittsburgh Panthers (ESPN/ESPN2)
Boston College welcomes former Big East foes Pitt to campus for the Eagles' Friday night home game in week 2. The Panthers are coming off a 7-6 (3-5 ACC) season in their second year under head coach Paul Chryst. For the second straight season, Pitt will have to replace its starting QB (Tom Savage). The Panthers will also sorely miss defensive POY DT Aaron Donald and WR Devin Street, but return a talented group of underclassmen led by WR Tyler Boyd and RB James Conner. Both Boyd and Conner had huge days in a win over Bowling Green in the Pizza Bowl.
Timing impact: Minimal. Both schools will be coming off season openers against "FCS"-like competition (BC @ UMass and Pitt vs. Delaware). Short Saturday-Friday turnaround for the Eagles, but it's the same for the Panthers and Pitt has to travel to Chestnut Hill.
Saturday, September 13: USC Trojans
USC makes the return trip to Chestnut Hill for a week 3 matchup with the Eagles. Gone is head coach Lane Kiffin, replaced by former Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian. Despite rocking a sanctions-depleted roster and losing several key contributors to the NFL Draft (OLB Dion Bailey, WR Marqise Lee, TE Xavier Grimble, C Marcus Martin and DT George Uko), the Trojans return plenty of talent. One of the biggest question marks heading into the season will be on USC's offensive line. The Trojans will have to replace Martin and three other starters. Three more OL will be coming back from injury.
Timing impact: USC will be coming off a road game against a very physical Stanford team. BC has an extra night to prep for the Trojans. West coast teams traveling east are notoriously slow starters. Hope for a noon game.
Saturday, September 20: Maine Black Bears
Maine replaces Rhode Island as the Eagles' FCS opponent in 2014.
Saturday, September 27: Colorado St. Rams
The Rams put together an 8-6 (5-3 Mountain West) campaign in head coach Jim McIlwain's second season in Fort Collins, including wins in eight of CSU's final 10 games of the year. Colorado State capped off the year by coming all the way back to win a wild New Mexico Bowl over Washington State. McIlwain, the former OC at Alabama under Nick Saban, has made quick work in transforming the Rams offense into a top 25 unit in just two seasons, though it will be interesting to see where CSU's offense is following the departure of RS sophomore RB Kapri Bibbs (1,741 yards rushing on 281 carries). QB Garrett Grayson is coming off a school-record 3,696 yard, 23 TD performance in his junior year, but the Rams will need to replace four senior starters on the offensive line next season.
Timing impact: The 2014 Mountain West schedule isn't out yet, so it's unclear which team CSU will be playing the week before the trip to Chestnut Hill. On September 13, Colorado State hosts FCS opponent UC-Davis in Fort Collins. BC will be coming off its own FCS game against Maine.
Saturday, October 4: Bye
Saturday, October 11: at N.C. State Wolfpack
N.C. State will improve on its 3-9 (0-8 ACC) campaign in 2014, if for no other reason than the 'Pack's mind-numbingly bad non-conference slate that includes three near-FCS opponents (Georgia Southern, Old Dominion and Presbyterian). The 'Pack is also moving in another direction at QB, with transfer quarterback Jacoby Brissett becoming eligible this coming season. Despite the return of Pete Thomas (22-of-33, 207 yards and a TD vs. BC), second year Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren has already named the Florida transfer the starting quarterback for next season. It's very likely that both these teams will be featuring former Gator QBs under center next season.
Timing impact: BC has an extra week to prepare for its first road trip outside the state. N.C. State, however, will likely run its ACC record to 0-10 under Dave Doeren after opening conference play with back-to-back games vs. Florida State and at Clemson. There will be blood. The Eagles couldn't have asked for a better setup heading into the first ACC road game of the season.
Saturday, October 18: Clemson Tigers
Despite losing a ton of talent on the offensive side of the ball, outside of Florida State, Clemson remains the second best team in the conference. Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Roderick McDowell are all gone next season, but offensive mastermind Chad Morris and most of the OL will be back. With Vic Beasley opting to return for his senior season, Clemson returns a very experienced and improved defense.
Timing impact: Clemson's road trip to the Heights is sandwiched by home games against Bobby Petrino's Louisville Cardinals and Syracuse. The BC game is the fourth in a stretch of six straight ACC games in as many weeks for the Tigers -- @ Florida State, North Carolina, N.C. State, Louisville, @ BC, Syracuse. Only Georgia Tech has a longer stretch of consecutive conference games this season (seven straight from October 4-November 15).
Saturday, October 25: at Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Five straight losing seasons prompted long-time head coach Jim Grobe to resign after 13 seasons in Winston-Salem. Despite putting up a fight in games against Miami, Syracuse, Duke and Vanderbilt, the Deacons lost their final five games to finish the year 4-8 (2-6 ACC). The Deacons lose their QB, WR, RB and All-Conference DT to graduation. All signs point to a rebuilding year for the Deacs under first year coach Dave Clawson. This is a game BC has to have if it hopes to return to the postseason in 2014.
Timing impact: Due to a scheduling quirk, Wake Forest doesn't have to leave the state of North Carolina after week 6; finishing the year with six straight games in the Tar Heel State. The BC game is the second in the Deacons two-game home set against Syracuse and BC. The Deacons have their two bye weeks just three weeks apart (Oct. 11 and Nov. 1).
Saturday, November 1: at Virginia Tech Hokies
While arguably not one of the top teams on the schedule, the Hokies are always a tough out in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech's defense should once again be classic Bud Foster. It's the Hokies offense that has been woefully inept several years running now. Plenty of questions at both QB and RB need to be answered if Tech hopes to make a run at the Coastal Division crown in 2014.
Timing impact: Virginia Tech gets a few extra days to prepare to host the Eagles as the Hokies will be coming off back-to-back Thursday night games against Pittsburgh (away) and Miami (home).
Saturday, November 8: Louisville Cardinals
While the Cardinals will have to replace Teddy Bridgewater under center, Louisville still boasts loads of talent on the offensive side of the ball that has the potential to be even better under Bobby Petrino. There are some big question marks on defense, though, and Louisville may only return four starters from last year's 12-1 (7-1 American) team. While playing an ACC schedule will be a definite boost to the Cardinals' SOS, Louisville does benefit from a permanent cross-over game against a bad, bad Virginia team. The road slate -- Virginia, Syracuse (Friday), Clemson and BC -- is pretty manageable too.
Timing impact: It would have been nice for the Eagles to draw Louisville earlier in the year as the Cards try to figure out the offense in a post-Bridgewater, post-Strong world. The Cards will have a few more days to prepare for the trip to Chestnut Hill, though that's because Louisville hosts the defending National Champs on the previous Thursday night. Definitely some hangover potential from UofL giving Florida State it's best, first shot as a member of the ACC.
Saturday, November 15: Bye
Saturday, November 22: at Florida St. Seminoles
The defending Champs lose a bunch of talent on offense to the NFL Draft (WR Kelvin Benjamin, RB Devonta Freeman and RB James Wilder Jr.) but do return the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and several key contributors, including OT Cameron Erving, WR Rashad Greene and TE Nick O'Leary. The Seminoles biggest loss, however, may be of the off-field variety. Florida State have replaced DC Jeremy Pruitt by elevating LB Charles Kelly to the position, after Pruitt left the Noles for Georgia.
Timing impact: If Florida State gets past Clemson in week 4, the Seminoles may have already locked up another Atlantic Division title before even getting to the BC game. Still, there's likely lots to play for with the new college football playoff and a loss to the Eagles could derail FSU's chances of a repeat. While it's doubtful that BC will catch the Noles looking ahead to the season finale against Florida, the game is advantageously placed between FSU games against in-state rivals Miami (Nov. 15) and Florida (Nov. 29).
Saturday, November 29: Syracuse Orange
The Eagles will have revenge on their mind as they host the visiting Syracuse Orange in the regular season finale on the Heights. Syracuse (7-6, 4-4 ACC) has some holes to fill on defense and will lose four starters on both sides of the ball next season. Syracuse is a trendy pick to finish as the best of the NOT FSU / Clemson teams in the Atlantic next season. I'm very interested in seeing if second year coach Scott Shafer can build on the momentum established in 2013 or if he's the next in a long line of failed assistants-turned-head coaches.
Timing impact: Injuries played a big role in the 2013 meeting between these two programs. With an ill-placed bye week in week two after the Villanova game, Syracuse plays in nine straight contests before finishing the year with road trips to Pitt and BC. Injuries could play a role once again in the regular season finale.