Rivalries are great. They ratchet up the emotion, and they're games that are always circled on calendars. There's history, there's hatred, and there's a transcending of sports. A rival is something built into blood, something that crosses the line from a football game to real life. It's something that fuels discussions and influences life.
An example of what a rivalry can do. I know someone who went to Holy Cross (yeah, yeah I know) and never really watched football. She couldn't name five people on the New England Patriots, let alone a college football team. She started dating a man who did his undergraduate study at Auburn. 10 years later, she hates Alabama and makes sure to know every Tiger playing for Aubie's bunch.
For BC, we're often left searching for a rival with a good level of healthy, hateful respect. We're left looking for a team that we want to beat more than any other on the schedule, one where if we had to 1-11, we'd look for a win over that team. Auburn has Alabama, Clemson has South Carolina, Florida State has Florida, and Michigan has Michigan State. Who do we have at Boston College?
There once was Notre Dame, but that rivalry's been interrupted by the scheduling arrangement utilized by the Fighting Irish. It'll renew next year at Fenway Park, but at the same time, students who go to BC won't have the same year-in and year-out anticipation of the countdown to Notre Dame. There's no Beat Notre Dame clock operating in the locker room anymore. And that means the history on which this rivalry was built can't churn forward to develop over years.
There's Clemson. Clemson is a trophy game with the Battle for the O'Rourke-McFadden Trophy and the Leather Helmet awarded to the MVP of the game. As members of the same division, BC plays Clemson every season in conference play, and in the nine years they've been Atlantic comrades, the Tigers hold a slim 5-4 margin, losing the first three years they played. Clemson is clearly an ACC big boy, marking this game as ultra important. But BC hasn't won since 2010 and the Tigers have won five of the last six seasons. Clemson also has that rivalry with South Carolina that completely trumps their game with BC, even if the Gamecocks aren't in the ACC.
Florida State could be a rival in the same sense that everyone in the Ivy League hates Harvard. The resident big dog, there's no reason to ever root for the Noles because they stand in front of everyone in the Atlantic Division. They're the ACC's premier team, which means everyone wants to beat them. And everyone circles that game much in the way everyone circles the New England Patriots, Manchester United, or the Montreal Canadiens. Even in a down year, they're still FSU. Despite two big wins over FSU, especially one when ESPN College Gameday honored Mark Herzlich, they're probably not BC's rival.
The ACC's protected interdivisional rival for the Eagles is Virginia Tech, and there's no lack of history there. Even dating back to the old Big East, the two teams played some great matches. The 2007 games were amazing affairs, with Matt Ryan's comeback on a Thursday night before a national audience at Lane Stadium (a place where primetime dreams go to die) and the Hokies gaining revenge in the ACC Championship Game. And they did it again in 2008, with the Eagles winning in the season and losing in the title game. When Virginia Tech comes to BC, I almost always end up in an argument with some fan who chooses to bash Boston, and there's a clear cultural difference between the capital of Massachusetts and rural Virginia. I hate losing to Virginia Tech, something sparked by some surprise wins on both sides. But the Hokies have a rivalry with Virginia that is in-state and also play the Battle of the Techs with Georgia Tech.
Perhaps the team with the most intense BC rivalry is Syracuse, a former Big East rival now in the same ACC division as BC and a team located relatively close
(New York's College Team). But the Orange have the disadvantage of having had a number of years space between their games with BC. Modern students don't have the full hatred built up of those of us who watched the D------ F---- game when BC had a chance to go to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, and they might not remember Mark Herzlich's interception at the Carrier Dome to beat Syracuse back in 2010. Last year was a great reintroduction between Syracuse's football win and BC's basketball upset, but it's still once again in its infancy.
I'm interested to hear what the BC community thinks from a rivalry perspective - who is the game you circle the most on the schedule? It's something we're likely to weigh in on when he host our first radio show in a couple of weeks, so sound off and let us know!