When you’re the defending National Champions, everyone is going to give you his or her best shot. The champion sneaks up on nobody. From the instant the schedule comes out, your name is circled in red ink inside 12 different locker rooms.
Through 10 games, the Florida State Seminoles have managed to escape that target fixated on their back. Through 10 games, they’re still undefeated, though it’s taken them some luck and some Houdini-esque escapes at the ends of games. Now, as the Boston College Eagles come to town, they’re setting their sights directly on the Seminoles and their 10-0 record.
BC is no stranger to being a major underdog against FSU—last year, despite being on the bad side of a 22-point spread at home, the Eagles stood their ground. BC scored the most points against the vaunted Seminoles defense by anybody not participating in the National Championship Game.
As BC prepares to head south, it does so well-rested, coming off its second bye of the season, one that came at the perfect time for the Eagles. Their last game, a home night skewering against the Louisville Cardinals, was memorable only for how poorly the Eagles played in all three phases of the game, and it doesn’t get any easier down in Tallahassee.
Jameis Winston is the main reason for the challenge facing BC. Last year, Winston threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns against BC, rushing for an additional 67 yards on 14 carries. BC was able to contain him early before crumbling late. Linebacker Josh Keyes, one of a number of returning defensive players to have faced Winston last year, is focused on playing a complete game to avoid another collapse. “They are a very strong team, you know, we need to play 60 minutes, and hopefully if we can do that, we’ll come out on top,” Keyes said.
FSU won’t be intimidated by an early hole, however—it’s faced a number of those this year before roaring back to win its games, so it will be paramount for BC’s rushing offense to control the clock and not give Winston too many chances on the field—as the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense, and BC will need to rely on that this weekend.
Quarterback Tyler Murphy, who is quite familiar with Florida football, is well aware of FSU and the issues it poses for opposing teams. “You know, how often do you get to go on the road and play the best team in the country?” Murphy said. “So we’re ready for the challenge, and we just have to show up and play our best football, leave it all on the field.” The Seminoles’ defense may not be nearly as feared as it was last year, when it ranked seventh in total defense, but they are still a talented team. This year, the ’Noles are 55th in total defense, and 35th in rushing, and pose a tough test for a BC team that has lived and died by its running game.
Perhaps as big a worry for BC, however, is the environment itself. The Eagles have been pumping in crowd noise all week now, simulating the Tomahawk Chop during drills and practice. So far this year, BC has acquitted itself well on the road—the team is 4-0 away from the confines of Alumni Stadium, including an impressive win down in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech. “It’s tough to say why we’ve been so good on the road,” Murphy said. “Maybe we just come closer together because when we go on the road, it’s just us.”
Before the season started, head coach Steve Addazio said one of his goals for this team was to make it to the ACC Championship game. The Eagles failed to accomplish that goal, and, realistically, nobody ever expected them to do so. This is an opportunity for BC to hit that target on the back of Florida State, though, and to let the Seminoles and the rest of the nation know that BC is on its way back to relevance. In a few years, the Eagles hope to be the ones with that target squarely between their shoulders. For now, though, Florida State is in BC’s sights, and the Eagles are bearing down quickly.
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor