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Boston College Knows It Has a Ways to Go, But Plenty to Play For

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The Eagles know they aren't near the conference elite right now, but are focused on becoming bowl eligible over the season's final three games.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

After last Saturday's 52-7 beat down at the hands of College Football Playoff hopeful Louisville, led by Heisman Trophy favorite Lamar Jackson, one thing was made abundantly clear: The Eagles are a long way from competing with the ACC's elite.

Still, Boston College (4-5, 1-5 ACC) knows it enters Friday night's game at ACC blue blood Florida State (6-3, 3-3 ACC) still alive in the hunt for a bowl game, and with the chance to earn back some of the respect it has lost against ranked foes in conference play.

While the Eagles are all aware of their long-term goal of becoming a national player, the focus now is simply on winning two of their three remaining games to achieve bowl eligibility.

"Where Louisville is at right now is what we're working towards, and Clemson (is) the same way," Boston College quarterback Patrick Towles said of measuring the Eagles against the best teams in the ACC. "But we can't get in the habit of looking too far ahead. It's good for that to be a goal, and that is where we want to be, but we've got to worry about us right now. We play Florida State on Friday, and we're as good as we're gonna be. We're gonna improve as much as we can from now until Friday."

Things won't be easy Friday night in Tallahassee, as the Eagles will deal with a Florida State defense that is long on speed, and capable of making game-changing plays rushing the passer and in the secondary. FSU senior defensive end Demarcus Walker leads the nation with 10 sacks (one ahead of BC's Harold Landry), while sophomore corner Tarvarus McFadden currently leads the nation with seven interceptions, and has blossomed into one of college football's premier cover guys.

That said, this Seminole defense is young, and has been prone to mental lapses. Florida State has surrendered over 30 points in five different games this year, with the Seminoles' worst day being a 63-20 loss at the hands of Louisville.

"We're gonna have to get some stuff done," Towles said of the BC offense. "(Florida State) is really good up front, and we're gonna have to be able to throw the football to win. It's gonna be tough. They're a really athletic bunch, they're extremely well-coached, they play hard. It's gonna be a really big challenge for us, but we're ready for it."

On the other side of the ball, Florida State will present a variety of problems for an Eagle defense that is suddenly reeling. As Heights Sports Editor Michael Sullivan recently pointed out, Boston College has surrendered 15 different scoring plays of 20 yards or more this season, three times as many as the Eagles gave up in 2015.

Head coach Steve Addazio has credited the improved offenses in the ACC for the increase in big plays, but Eagle defenders know they have to be better, and aren't feeling good about recent performances.

"It's very difficult, ever time I line up for a (PAT) it hits me that we got scored on," safety John Johnson said of Boston College's proud defense giving up touchdowns. "We've just got to try to scratch and claw as hard as we can to limit the points on the board, but it's definitely a feeling I don't like."

While the Seminoles do bring another talented quarterback to the table in redshirt freshman Deondre Francois, the Florida State offense revolves around All-American running back Dalvin Cook. Cook already has over 1,100 yards rushing this season, on an absurd 5.8 yards per carry, and has proven to be a threat out of the backfield as well, averaging 15.5 yards per catch on 25 receptions this season.

When the Noles look to pass, Boston College will have plenty to worry about, as FSU has as balanced a passing attack as you'll find in the conference. Florida State features six different players with 200 yards receiving or more, and Francois has thrown touchdowns to seven different receivers.

Another problem the Eagles could face is, while Francois isn't the running threat that Lamar Jackson is, he has been able to avoid pressure and extend plays, something that has hurt the Eagles in games against Virginia Tech, Syracuse and Clemson.

"I think the back end, the DBs, we have to cover a little bit tighter," Johnson said. "We have to cover a little tighter, and that will put pressure on the quarterback, and force him to bring the ball down from his first read."

"I think we've just got to get over that hump," Johnson continued. "We thought we got over it at NC State, and then we played a tough team in Louisville. But I think once we get over that hump. Like, a win at Florida State, I think that will set the sail for the next two games and next season. So we've just gotta get over that hump."

The Eagles will kickoff at Florida State's Doak Campbell Stadium Friday night at 8:30 pm. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.