NEWTON, Mass. -- Explosive.
That may be the first word that comes to mind when discussing the Eagles’ opponent Saturday, the No. 17 Clemson Tigers.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd certainly is explosive, able to beat you with his arm, his legs, or both. And the weapons Clemson coach Dabo Swinney surrounds him with are equally dangerous.
“They have a lot of weapons, a lot of ways to attack,” linebacker Steele Divitto said. “Their skill players are very good. So this week of practice is all about executing and exaggerating techniques and exaggerating your technique in the open field, especially for me because I know I’ll be in the open field a lot.
“We’re excited for the opportunity. We’re ready for the challenge. They’re obviously a top team,” he added.
Last year in Death Valley, when the Tigers used big days from Boyd and running back Andre Ellington to cruise to a 36-14 win, the Eagles saw firsthand how effective the Tigers can be.
Clemson, which is coming off a 49-37 loss at No. 4 Florida State, is the third hurry-up offense the Eagles will face this season after Miami and Northwestern. The Eagles say the experience of having played two similar offenses already will help, even though both games ended in losses.
They won’t have to rewrite the playbook to deal with Clemson’s speed and tempo.
“I’ve said in the past that all of our defenses are sound,” Nick Clancy said. “They’re designed to stop anybody. It doesn’t really matter if you’re fast or not. There’re guys that are able to split defenses because of their talent, because of their ability, but you don’t really prepare for a guy to be fast. You just kind of expect it.”
The Tigers are averaging 39 points and almost 500 yards (198.5 rushing, 296 passing) of offense a game. But they’ve also been giving up 25.5 points and almost 450 yards (206.5 rushing, 236 passing) a game.
So one way that BC can help lighten the load on its defense is to sustain offense.
“That’s true of any game, but especially against an offense as explosive as theirs,” left tackle Emmett Cleary said. “If we can hold onto the ball that’s almost the best defense.”
Chase Rettig & Co. have averaged 317 passing yards a game in the first three weeks of the season, best in the ACC. And the passing attack should only get stronger this week, with the return of last season’s leading receiver, Bobby Swigert, from a knee injury.
For his part, Swigert is jumping at the challenge this game presents.
“They definitely are very talented on defense, obviously they have a bunch of big recruits and highly touted guys all over the place,” he said. “But we feel like we have a good strategy going in this week and hopefully we can execute really well and exploit some of their weaknesses a little bit.”
Clemson plays mostly man-to-man on defense, challenging opposing wideouts to win one-on-one battles and stacking the box to stop the run if they can’t.
“They’re very talented and they do what they can do,” BC coach Frank Spaziani said. “And that’s one of the things they can do, they can lock you down. They’ve always been able to put pressure on you, rush you and cover you, so I don’t see any difference this Saturday.”
The focus on their nationally ranked opponents is leaving the Eagles feeling, well, a little overlooked this week.
Asked if he thought his team had gotten noticed yet, Rettig quickly said “No.”
“But I think we will be at some point,” he said. “We gotta win. At the end of the day, no one cares if you’re the leading ACC passing team. If you’re not winning, it doesn’t matter.
“But one thing I’ve learned my whole life is being under the radar is probably the best thing you can be. Even if we were 3-0 we’d probably still be under the radar.”
“I feel like that dynamic always comes into play,” running back Andre Williams said, “no matter who we’re playing, there’s certain aspects to our offense or our defense that gets overlooked because of who we are. I guess the only way to change the perception is to change the facts and put some wins on the board.”
They’ve had two weeks to prepare for this challenge, and they sound confident that they’ll be ready.
“Any team that comes at you with that type of talent,” Clancy said, “it kind of forces you to sit down, get locked in and say, ‘OK, now we need to step it up a little bit.’ ”
The Eagles say they’re not daunted by the explosive talents they’ll be facing.
“It’s always a fun challenge to go against the best competition in the country,” defensive co-captain Jim Noel said, “because then you get to show off your skill set and show what you can do against them.”
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.