It’s gut-check time in the ACC. We’re going to take a look at each team’s schedule and break down where the pitfalls might be. We'll start today in alphabetical order:
Nonconference opponents (with 2011 records)
at Northwestern (6-7)
at Army (3-9)
Notre Dame (8-5)
ACC home games
ACC road games
at Florida State
at Georgia Tech
at Wake Forest
at NC State
Gut-check time: Back-to-back October road trips to Florida State and Georgia Tech will tell us what this team is made of. The Noles should be favored to win their division, and the Jackets are a contender in the Coastal Division race. If BC is going to return to relevance in the conference race, it has to be able to beat the strongest teams in both divisions.
Trap game: Don’t forget BC only won four games last year, so no team should be taken lightly. The Oct. 6 road trip to Army could be a pitfall for the Eagles. In his preseason magazine, Phil Steele predicted the Black Knights will get their second bowl bid in three years and be one of the country’s most improved teams.
Snoozer: Maine. Zzzz. Boston College shouldn’t have trouble with an FCS team from the CAA.
Defining stretch: Oct. 6-Nov. 3 (at Army, at Florida State, at Georgia Tech, Maryland, at Wake Forest). You’ll notice that four of these five games are on the road, and three of them are against Atlantic Division opponents. If Boston College is going to return to the postseason in any form, it must find a way to beat Army, Maryland and Wake Forest. If the Eagles can surprise either FSU or Georgia Tech, they should be able to reach the six-win mark. Bowl eligibility appears to be a more realistic goal right now than winning the division title.
Final analysis: The most important game will be the first, as BC’s result against Miami in the season opener will set the tone for the rest of the season. The Eagles are trying to rebound from their first losing season since 1998, and now that coach Frank Spaziani is entering his fourth season, they should be expected to at least go 2-2 in their nonconference schedule (you’d think they could beat Maine and Army). Last year the Eagles beat Miami, but lost at home to Northwestern and the Wildcats’ backup quarterback. They also lost to Notre Dame 16-14.
BC gets defending ACC champ Clemson at home this year, but has to travel to FSU and NC State, two more teams that will keep the Eagles out of the division race. This schedule is going to make it tough for BC to get to a bowl game. A fast start is imperative, and so is a good strength and conditioning program. With the bye week on Sept. 22 (the earliest in the conference), the Eagles have got to be strong enough to play for nine straight weeks.