The opening game of the college football season always carries with it some form of excitement. It’s the first time the snaps truly matter, and it’s the first time players from different teams can crack helmets with a team with something truly on the line.
This year, Boston College opens the season with something much different on the line. Since 2012, every season’s begun with a guarantee-type game. There were two wins over FCS-level teams (Villanova and Maine) and a win over an FBS team less than three years removed from transitioning (UMass). In ‘16, like the ‘12 season when they played Miami, that’s not the case, with the Eagles opening up with a conference opponent in Georgia Tech.
Unlike most years, where a team can ease into the season, BC and GT hit the ground running against each other. For both teams, it’s a huge game; they’re both coming off of disappointing finishes, both having finished 3-9 last year and both having finished in last place in their respective divisions.
Added into the mix, however, is the location. The Eagles and Yellow Jackets will head east to start the season, crossing the Atlantic Ocean to play the game in Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland. It adds a dramatic flair to the season’s opening game, which begins with a start time before 8 AM back home in the United States.
“I think we’ve got 80 guys out of the 110 or so that will travel that have never been out of the country,” said Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson during the ACC Media Kickoff. “It’s going to be an experience for them to do that. But the bottom line is, it’s a conference game, conference opener. We’re going over there with a mindset to try to win the football game. That’s number one.”
“We open up in Ireland against Georgia Tech, which will be a great challenge for us,” said Steve Addazio during the event, “but a great experience for our football team to travel to Ireland and have some cultural opportunities to see a different country, as well as our fans and alumni.
“It’s an ACC game,” he said, “which I think is great for our conference and great for TV. It will be a great challenge for us. We’re looking forward to it.”
The march to Ireland has been over a year in the making since the game was announced over a year ago. The ride hasn’t exactly been smooth; there was a time when the game’s fixture was in doubt thanks to weakening economics. But it will now kick off a brand new era for the Irish island, which is hoping the game to deliver a projection of 45 million Euros.
It’s a rarity for a season to start off with a big time matchup, and it comes with a risk for both teams. As they travel east, they’ll have to deal with the time change, then play a physical, tough game game against one another to open up the season. It means they hit the ground running, playing what could be a crucial game, in a setting that’s impossible to project or prepare for.
“I think we’ve kind of gone both ways where we’ve opened up with an FCS opponent,” said Johnson. “You would probably rather not have a conference game right out of the chute. I think it’s good to play an opponent, a tough opponent. Just the logistics of traveling outside the country for a first game, a conference opener, makes you a little nervous.”
This puts an increased emphasis on practice and preseason preparations. It also places even more attention on consistency and mindset. “Boston College philosophy never changes,” said Myles Willis at the Kickoff. “We’re hard-nosed, a tough team. Regardless of who the coach is, historically Boston College has been a hard-nosed, tough team. Hard working. The new offensive coordinator (Scot Loeffler), he’s bringing his own things. But at the end of the day, Boston College football will always be Boston College football.”
The trip to Ireland stands just about a month away. There are just five Saturdays separating the Eagles and Yellow Jackets with a trip to the Emerald Isle. The clock - is already ticking.