There’s not much room for sentimentality in big-time sports.
In a vacuum, it’s hard not to root for Wake Forest to win the ACC. They’re a plucky underdog program from a great school with really nice fans that we’ve always enjoyed interacting with both in-person and online. Dave Clawson seems like a good dude, and seeing a program like Wake Forest break the long stranglehold powerhouses like Florida State and Clemson have had over the ACC Atlantic would give hope to a lot of programs, including BC.
Of course, given Wake’s history, they probably have a similar feeling that we as BC fans would have right now going in to a game against Wake with a chance to lock up the division: that this is the type of winnable situation in which we bottle it.
And that’s now the great hope for BC and Eagles fans this weekend: to play spoiler, to break Wake’s hearts, to open the door for big bad Clemson to somehow emerge from crisis to still win the division, or for NC State to get in should they beat UNC.
Every football game is high-stakes in its own way because there are so few of them. But in terms of major outcomes for BC, the stakes are fairly low. Yes, at 6-6, the Eagles could theoretically be shuffled out of the ACC’s regular bowl tie-ins, but honestly, that could even potentially lead to them going to a more interesting game than they otherwise would. CBS has BC in the Fenway Bowl; ESPN’ two writers are split between the Fenway and the Pinstripe. The stakes associated with the end of BC’s season I think have more to do with perception - is the program moving in the right direction? are we showing we can challenge top teams in the ACC? - than what the bowl destination ends up being.
But the really high stakes in this instance are on Wake’s side, and BC now has the opportunity to play spoiler. We’ve seen that energize plenty of teams through the years and now hopefully playing that role gives BC a boost, too.
Here are a few things I want to see from the Eagles this week:
1. Better pass protection from the word go
Phil Jurkovec is obviously still not 100%, and any lingering issues he has are worsened when the pass rush is right in his face, putting him under relentless pressure and also reducing the potential effectiveness of play-action plays.
BC was much better on this front in the second half against FSU, and they’ll need to give Jurkovec some more time from the beginning to be able to pull the upset this weekend.
2. A faster start
Again, kind of a hot take here, but burying yourself in a 14-20 point first half hole is not sustainable. In this instance, too, given the stakes for Wake, it’ll be important to plant the seed of doubt in their mind early.
3. Take advantage of the ability to rack up rushing yards
Unlike FSU, which was keyed in on stopping the run and really eliminated BC’s ability to set the tempo on the ground, the hope here is that BC can take advantage of a Wake defense that has given up an average of 188 yards per game on the ground.
The Eagles will need to get some of the pressure off of Jurkovec, control some clock, and prevent the game from snowballing like it did early against both GT and FSU. The “Bend but don’t break” defense has worked a lot for BC this year, but it becomes less tolerable when the offense isn’t staying on the field because it increases fatigue for the defense.
While Wake is rightly favored in this matchup (by 6, in the opening line), this is definitely a winnable game - the gap from the top to the bottom of the ACC Atlantic is pretty small, as we’ve seen with some of the divisional results — such as Clemson throttling Wake last week.
Finishing the season with a win over a ranked team and a 7-5 regular season record would give us a good taste in our mouths to end the year, especially if paired with a bowl win.
If BC can improve on what got them behind early this past Saturday, they’ve got a shot.