One week ago, many of us flew high (#SOARed, if you will) over the Boston College dismantling of UMass. The first game of the season showed us how dominant the Eagles could be when the offensive bus rolled through Foxboro for 511 yards. We all assumed Boston College would come out at home, in their maroon uniforms, and give us more of the same. Maybe BC wouldn't be as good as they were in Week One, but we expected a victory over Pittsburgh, something we felt assured of after a solid first quarter.
That dream first quarter turned quickly into a nightmare, however. James Conner trucked 200 yards over the Eagle defense, and Chad Voytik quarterbacked 30-plus points out of his offense. A defensive adjustment contained the read option offense of Tyler Murphy, and the graduate student transfer from Florida failed to use his arm effectively, missing open receivers and telegraphing passes when he didn't need to. The receivers and backs didn't help themselves in terms of getting open, and despite a last ditch, mad dash effort, Boston College lost its first game of the season.
Prior to the season, many of us foresaw this game as a win, but after the first week of the season, I started to think about Pittsburgh as a wakeup call. I picked this as a loss because I thought UMass didn't provide BC with any type of challenge, and a loss to the Panthers would alert Steve Addazio to evident holes in his team's three phases. Postgame comments seemed to reflect that. Despite feeling like this team would lose every game the rest of the way on Friday night, I woke up on Saturday feeling confident the coaching staff can identify the holes. Fixing them now becomes the priority.
That said, the team coming into BC this weekend is probably not even close to anyone they could've wanted. The USC Trojans are one of the country's media darlings right now, a renaissance story behind head coach Steve Sarkisian. In two short weeks, USC has rocketed to the top 10, and they're looking increasingly like a team with championship swagger. On talent alone, Boston College enters this week in deep, deep trouble.
But perhaps that's the beautiful thing. There's a sizeable, substantial audience who thinks Boston College is going to get nuked on Saturday. They very well might be right. But they still have to play the game, and this week, BC has nothing to lose. As we learned last year against Florida State, that makes them a dangerous portion on the better team's schedule.
In all fairness, the football expert in me sees this game as one BC loses and loses big. But there's a lingering hope that feels this week in practice and the game on Saturday will show us a lot about this team's character. Like the first game against UMass and last week's loss to Pittsburgh, it all needs to be taken with a grain of salt. And if nothing else, it sure is fun to be along for the ride.
This Week's Storylines (U2 Edition)
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. BC fans have no idea about the identity of this team. I've heard people throw this team to the fire and say the season's already over, BC is winning two or three games tops, and a bowl berth is out of the equation. I've heard people say we predicted a 6-6 record, which means there has to be bumps along the road, and this is one of those bumps. Nobody knows what to expect on Saturday. We can speculate and prognosticate, but we really don't know what we're looking for. On top of it all, we're not sure what we're even supposed to be thinking about looking for. USC is an ultra-talented, top 10 team. If BC moves the ball and scores points, is it because of matchups? Is it because of schemes? Is BC really a national contender who had one bad game against the Panthers? If BC gets killed, is that what's supposed to happen? Is it a sign of bad things to come? Are they really a crappy team for getting blown out by a squad heralded as a national powerhouse? Right now, we don't know the answers, but more importantly, we also don't know what the right questions are that we're supposed to be asking.
Desire. One thing about BC can never be doubted - this team has no quit in it. We found that last week as the fourth quarter wound down. BC was within a two point conversion and an onside kick of being able to complete a comeback against Pitt. That came in spite of being horribly overmatched for the majority of the four quarters. BC is clearly going into this game against USC as the team with less talent on their roster, but that doesn't mean they can't will themselves to compete or even to win. If those guys in the locker room believe it, it can happen. I'm interested in seeing how BC's heart can factor into this game since I'm convinced Steve Addazio-coached teams have more of that intangible than any opponent on the schedule.
Pride (In The Name of Love). At Friday's game, there were announcements of single tickets still available for Saturday night. This is a nationally televised game against one of college football's historic elite programs. This is a game where BC can really have a coming out party if there's a raucous crowd, ready to go, cheering on their Eagles. All Superfans, young and old, need to feel a sense of pride in those guys in uniform. This is a time where BC can announce to the country that it's back and ready for the national spotlight. What happens on the field is independent of how fan behavior, but I'm really hoping the television cameras catch an Eagle fan base breathing a fire similar to the one shooting into the sky as the team runs through the tunnel.
Special Bonus Track - Sunday Bloody Sunday. I'm just going to leave this here as a side note to everything I'm saying about getting fired up. When I was in high school, my alma mater played the #1 team in the state. We were probably 2-2 at the time, and we knew we might get absolutely murdered. We got all kinds of fired up, we chanted "We Believe" and we had bagpipes lead our team out of the tunnel. Crazy student body, faces and chests painted, sold out crowd. At halftime, we were losing 42-0. Would I go back and get that fired up? Absolutely. But remember what might happen.
Matchup Fun Facts
School: University of Southern California
All-Time Record: 799-323-54
Claimed National Championships: 11 (1928, 1931, 1932, 1939, 1962, 1967, 1972, 1974, 1978, 2003, 2004)
Bowl Games: 49
Postseason Record: 32-17
Heisman Trophy Winners: 6 (7 winners + 1 vacated trophy)
Consensus All-Americans: 80
Head Coach: Steve Sarkisian
All-Time Record: 37-29
Years at School: First year
Head-to-Head with BC
All-Time Series: USC leads, 4-0-0
Streak: USC, 4
Last BC Win: n/a
Last USC Win: 2013 (35-7 at USC)
First Meeting: 1987
**** USC's 2004 national championship was vacated by the BCS and the FWAA but retained from the Associated Press.
**** Reggie Bush's 2005 Heisman Trophy victory was vacated in 2010.