Following a convincing Parents' Weekend victory against Buffalo last Saturday, the Boston College Eagles (3-2, 0-2 ACC) host No. 3 ranked Clemson tonight at Alumni Stadium. Clemson (5-0, 2-0 ACC) comes to the Heights after a dramatic 42-36 victory over Louisville and their star quarterback, Lamar Jackson. This is more than a highly anticipated game against a highly ranked team. This matchup marks the third annual Red Bandanna game, commemorating legendary BC alum and 9/11 hero Welles Crowther. Accordingly, the Eagles will sport cleats, gloves, and other gear featuring a red bandanna print. Actual bandannas will also be distributed to the students prior to the game. BC’s last victory over a ranked opponent came in the first installment of this memorial game in 2014, when the Eagles beat then-No. 9 USC, in a 37-31 thriller. Two years later, one can only hope the Eagles put on a similarly magical show to pull off a much-needed victory.
Led by junior quarterback and Heisman Trophy hopeful Deshaun Watson, Clemson will surely employ a strong aerial attack. Other playmakers include starting running back Wayne Galliman and top receiver Mike Williams. Despite Watson’s strong statistics through four games (1,302 yards and 14 touchdowns), he is also tied for sixth in the NCAA with seven interceptions. The Eagles’ front seven, led by senior captain Truman Gutapfel, Harold Landry, and Ray Smith, must swarm Watson and allow the secondary to lock up the receivers.
In last season’s matchup against the Tigers, the Eagles stayed competitive through two quarters, down 17-10 at halftime. Inability to capitalize on offensive opportunities and an impressive performance from Watson sealed the victory for the Tigers. There’s no mystery about the Eagles' chances of success this year: they must contain Watson and if possible eliminate his options downfield. On the other side of the ball, Steve Addazio and co. must manage the play clock and estaablish the running game early on. Five games into the season, quarterback Patrick Towles has become more acclimated to the offense and his teammates. As Addazio experiments with a more pass-heavy approach, the burden will be placed on Towles. There will be no room for costly turnovers and mental mistakes.
The Eagles can count on the support of a raucous crowd under the lights at Alumni Stadium. Over the past two weeks, the offense has gained confidence against two lesser opponents in Wagner and Buffalo. With a raucous crowd on their side, the BC will need to pressure Watson early and make the most of every offensive possession. This is a tall order for the Eagles, but there’s no doubt that they’re more than capable of defying expectations. Last year’s tightly contested defeat to Notre Dame at Fenway Park comes to mind. Despite wildly inconsistent performances from Coach Addazio and the Eagles (e.g. the bloodbath against Virginia Tech), one thing is abundantly clear: this team is capable of rising to the occasion. Come 7:30 PM tonight, the most highly anticipated moment of the season will arrive at Alumni Stadium.