The 2016 Boston College football schedule is official, with the drive back to a bowl game beginning on September 3rd in Dublin, Ireland against Georgia Tech. While that serves as the first ACC game of the year, BC plays its first road game the following week against UMass before traveling for its first official conference road contest at Virginia Tech on September 17th.
The Eagles don't play a true home game until September 24th when they host FCS Wagner, not playing an FBS home game until the following week against Buffalo. FINALLY—they'll get into home ACC play on a Friday night when they host Clemson. BC won't play a traditional Saturday home game against an FBS power school opponent until they host Syracuse on October 22nd.
As is the case in most seasons, there's multiple conversations at play, including excitement around opponents. Taking into consideration the when, the where, and the who, let's take a look at how the games line up in terms of excitement after the release. It'll be interesting to see how much this changes leading up to the season and how much it alters over the course of the season.
The rankings are from least exciting to exciting:
#12 - Wagner (At BC, Sept. 24)
Other than the fact that it's the home opener, there's not a whole lot to get jazzed up about with this game. It's the annual FCS paycheck game, and the Seahawks provide no real local interest. They went 1-10 last season in the Northeast Conference with their lone win coming over Central Connecticut. Of note, they lost to both Rice and Brigham Young last year, but they also lost, 26-3, to Columbia. Columbia hasn't finished .500 since 2006 and haven't had a full-fledged winning season since they went 8-2 in 1996.
#11 - Buffalo (At BC, Oct. 1)
Things get a little bit better when BC plays SUNY-Buffalo on October 1st. The Bulls went 5-7 last year and hung tough with Penn State, but there's something of a lack of pizzazz to this matchup. It feels a little bit like a poor man's bowl game where a middle-tier power conference team draws a high-end G5 school. If BC loses, it's a disaster. If Buffalo loses, it's meh. I have a feeling "meh" will be thrown around a lot during that week.
On the bright side, it's October football, which means we got that going, which is nice.
#10 - Wake Forest (At Winston-Salem, Nov. 26)
Even though it's #TheRivalry, which means we should be all geared up for it, there's a chance this game doesn't mean a lot for anybody. After last year's 3-0 pillow fight, this may be a better than advertised game, but it also runs the risk of having two teams going absolutely nowhere. After BC was eliminated from bowl contention, the NC State game (and subsequent Syracuse game) felt like a sleepwalk for the fans. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I have a feeling ratings for this game could be down.
#9 - NC State (at Raleigh, Oct. 29)
Sandwiched after Clemson and Syracuse but before Louisville, this game could be one of those recuperation games where BC fans are trying to regather themselves after the emotion of the Friday night national television game before a home game against a team quickly established as ahead of them in the Atlantic Division.
One thing about NC State is that they're constantly a paper team built up by playing crappy non-conference opponents. When they hit the bulk of their schedule, they start losing more and more frequently. Without Jacoby Brissett, the sails of this game are taken out a little bit.
At the same time, there's a chance BC could be looking at this game as a crucial one for bowl eligibility and placement. But all of that will need to be flushed out over the course of the season. For the time being, I see this as being interesting to football extremists and not much more.
#8 - Massachusetts (at Foxboro, Sept. 10)
The general feeling I have about this game is that it's still UMass, but it doesn't feel remotely close to when the Eagles played them back in 2014. In '14, it was a tribal war in the days leading up to the game. UMass fans openly talked about how great it would feel to beat the Eagles, while BC fans openly shut down Minutemen fans. Anyone who says that game wasn't important or didn't have a feel to it needs to go back over some of the comments sections of that week. It was very much an important game, especially to UMass, and being beaten down by BC was a satisfying feeling, especially to me.
Two years later, things are different. There's more important things to focus on for both teams. UMass begins life as an independent, while BC enters this game with people unsure of what how they're going to play. Both teams' fan bases are, for the most part, introspective.
For BC fans, the excitement will be that it's the first time to locally see Patrick Towles and what we hope will be a new-look Eagle offense. That it's in Massachusetts adds a home game feel to it, but this will pale in comparison to the UConn game.
#7 - Virginia Tech (at Blacksburg, Sept. 17)
I HATE playing Virginia Tech this early in the season because the Hokies haven't typically fallen apart yet.
That said, there are a lot of good storylines to this game. It's really the first test for the Eagles on American soil after playing Georgia Tech in Dublin. Virginia Tech will be coming off a game against Tennessee at Bristol Motor Speedway. New offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler faces his old team, head coached by the flavor of the month FBS G5 hire in Justin Fuente (who may be the next great coach after Beamer retired).
Plus there's always good rivalry-type games with the Hokies. It's on the road, which will take some excitement away for BC fans, but this currently has a good anticipation around it.
#6 - Louisville (at BC, Nov. 5)
The Cardinals spent their first two seasons in the ACC beating BC, but there's a feeling Louisville won't be as good this year as they have in the past. It could be a game where both teams are looking for bowl eligibility; BC could very well be entering this game with five victories, meaning a win would put them in postseason play.
This could easily switch places with number of different games, but given that it falls in November, against a team most feel will be beatable, at home, with Florida State on the horizon? There's a lot to look forward to in it. Plus BC fans will rebound for this after the emotion of the Clemson and Syracuse games by playing NC State in between.
#5 - Syracuse (at BC, Oct. 22)
Everyone wants to talk about how moving the game against Syracuse from the weekend after Thanksgiving is fantastic. I'm actually torn. That last weekend game against Syracuse actually feels like it's supposed to be there, regardless of the fact that Thanksgiving kills attendance. I'm for consistency, and ending the season against a team heralded as a rival is something that feels like it should happen.
At the same time, this could be a game where BC is really picking up traction, and a game against Syracuse is always something that feels right. I think this game in the middle of the season could be a trial run for a potential venue change (maybe to Fenway Park?), and it feels like something that is right there for marketing potential.
I doubt either team will be vying for bowl eligibility at this point, but at this point, this is still your biggest rivalry game on the schedule. The trick for this game is to keep emotions running high after that Clemson game.
#4 - Connecticut (at BC, Nov. 19)
Remember what I said when BC opened the 2014 season with UMass? I feel a similar way about ending the home schedule with the Huskies. As much as UMass threw down the gauntlet about beating up the Eagles leading up to that matchup at Gillette, this is a game the Huskies have been waiting over 10 years to play in.
UConn enters this season as a noted candidate for conference realignment and expansion. The Big XII talked about adding them, and there's been discussion if the Big Ten would come calling. With BC really struggling through 2015, there's the same whispers as a few years back that the Huskies could overtake the Eagles as the top college football program in New England—if it continues on the current trend.
On Senior Day, it's without question that UConn fans will be as geared up for BC as UMass fans were last year. At the same time, though, it stands to reason that, before the season, UConn could conceivably be an even match for the Eagles on paper (potentially) when this game rolls around.
Make no mistake about it. This game will have big game written all over it for reasons not written on paper. For that reason, it's a huge game, and it could be the start of a real rivalry.
#3 - Florida State (at Tallahassee, Nov. 11)
Florida State is no longer the same Florida State as they've been the last three seasons. When they came to BC last year, they were still the biggest and baddest team in the ACC, the two-time defending conference champions. They still had the mark of Jameis Winston all over the program, even though he was gone. There were seeds still planted from the national championship.
FSU isn't the biggest and baddest wolf in the hen house anymore. They're a clear second place in the Atlantic Division to Clemson, and we stand to reason that this game could be a very good chance for the Eagles to knock off the Seminoles. Remember that last year, it was really a 7-0 game until Hilliman fumbled, and BC was really in that game until Darius Wade broke his ankle.
Reasoning that the offense will be different, I can't see a reason why we can't really all be up for this game as we were in 2014. This may be the chance BC fans have been waiting for to knock off the Seminoles.
#2 - Georgia Tech (Dublin, Ireland, Sept. 3)
The first game of the season is always a special event. Playing it against a team that's had a good run (up until last year), now looking for the same turnaround as Boston College? This is going to be an intriguing matchup. Place this game at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland? And it's all of a sudden taking on a whole other dynamic.
There's a special kinship between the Irish people and the city of Boston. Sending the Eagles to Ireland is a no-brainer, just as it was to play Notre Dame at Fenway Park.
At BC games, the old codger crowd still talks about the game played at Croke Park all those years ago (I think it was Croke Park at least?). For my generation, this is the type of game that comes around once in a lifetime, the kind that we'll be talking about when people are calling us old codgers at Alumni Stadium in 2046.
#1 - Clemson (At BC, Oct. 7)
Clemson is the team favored already to win the national championship. They have a quarterback who will be in the running for the Heisman Trophy. They have the best coach (arguably) in college football. They replaced Florida State as the big, bad wolf of the ACC, of the Atlantic Division.
They have rabid fans. Lots and lots of rabid fans.
This game will be on national television. Friday night or no Friday night, this is the type of game you dream about playing in and taking part in. Those who want to complain about the Friday night will complain regardless. Those who want to get up for a game against a national powerhouse will be up for a game against a national powerhouse.
All I can hope is that this reinvigorates the Boston College fan base in ways lost last season. It pained me, angered me even, to watch BC fans not show up or leave early. This is the type of game where BC could grab them back and hopefully put some school spirit back in the football program. After games against UMass, Wagner, and Buffalo, this is the first real GAME on the BC "home" slate in Massachusetts.
Nothing beats a night game.