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The Tigers open at home next season against Florida Atlantic. It will be Hall of Fame Day. It was also be exciting because it is the season opener and home opener. We will get to see Will Proctor leading the offense really for the first time. It will be our first real look at C.J. Spiller, Ricky Sapp, and the rest of the highly thought of recruiting class. In all, it should be a great day, and is one that I look forward to. With that being said let me tell you what I am really looking forward to and that is the trip to Chestnut Hill the following week.
Clemson last played at Boston College during the Flutie era so many Tiger fans have never made the trip to the Jesuit campus. Fenway Park is on the agenda. So are lobsters. But I wanted to look at the real reason for the trip and try to take a look at what kind of team Clemson will face on that Saturday.
For the most part BC is the same program almost every year in recent years.They are very consistent. They are a big and powerful football team. They do not beat themselves. However, they are not FSU, Miami or Virginia Tech. I thought the Clemson staff gave BC way too much credit and respect last season. Despite this game being on the road, the Tigers should not repeat the same mistake in 2006.
The Eagles return Matt Ryan at quarterback despite David Dunham's attempt to behead him. Ryan is a big, strong pocket passer who completed 121 of 195 passes last season for 1,514 yards with eight touchdowns and five interceptions. He can escape the pocket and hurt you with his feet a little. Last year he rushed for 94 yards and five touchdowns. Ryan is not the league's top quarterback, but he will do little to hurt his team's chances.
BC is noted for having one of the top offensive lines each year and this year is no different. Three returning starters anchor the line and all three are seniors who have started at least 24 college games in their careers. Guards James Marten and Josh Beekman, and tackle Gosder Cherilus, help make up one of the best offensive lines in the country.
Another strength of this offense is the return of two tailbacks that combined for over 1,500 yards rushing last season. L.V. Whitworth rushed for 807 yards and five touchdowns, while a back that Clemson recruited, Andre
Calender, added 708 yards on the ground. The duo also combined for 45 catches a year ago.
The weakness on offense is players at receiver. However, BC did lead the league last season in total offense and Ryan did spread the ball around last year. It should also be noted that Ryan was 5-0 as the starter for the Eagles last season.
Defensively, the Eagles will miss Mathias Kiwinuka, but All-American candidates Brian Toal and B.J. Raji are among the six returning starters on defense. Last season it was difficult to run the ball versus the Eagles, as they were fifth in the country stopping the run.
Both the punter and kicker return and head coach Tom O'Brien expects his special teams to be solid once again.
Solid is perhaps the best way to describe the Eagles. BC is a solid program. The play solid offense and solid defense. There is little flash in their program. O'Brien worked at Virginia for George Welsh for years and his teams mirror Welsh's. O'Brien's teams feature a couple of very talented NFL prospects and a bunch of steady guys. They are huge. They are not the most athletic or fastest, but they are fundamentally sound. Like those Virginia teams under Welsh, you should expect to beat BC if you play well, but lose if you do not.
Clemson was coming off an emotional triple overtime loss to Miami when they faced BC last season. They were a flat football team and it was a hot day, but BC handed it to Clemson last season. The Eagles dominated Clemson upfront and took the fight to the Tigers. BC outplayed Clemson in almost every facet of the game last season and the Tigers were lucky to put the game into overtime. I very seldom blame coaches for losses, but last year Clemson was too conservative against BC. They did not try exploiting the difference in speed at the skill positions. Instead Clemson played right into BC's hands.
Lets not forget that the Eagles do lose 3-4 games every year to teams that are more talented than they are. They were defeated badly in the Big East many times when the Virginia Tech, Miami and Pittsburgh had more talent than the Eagles.
In the first half of the FSU game last year, BC dominated the Seminoles, but FSU came out in a four wide out set and let their athletes make plays in a 28-17 win in Chestnut Hill. Virginia Tech knew not to give them too much respect and pounded BC 30-10. The Hokies know BC's personnel and knew they were better. VPI racked up 492 yards of total offense against BC last season. Heck UNC beat the Eagles last year.
Clemson has more talent than BC. The question that will be answered on September 9 in Chestnut Hill is will they play well and win? I do not know the answer to that question, but I can tell you that the Clemson coaches and players will not give BC too much respect like they did last season.
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