July 22 MVP: MassVarsity Pre-and-Post

It was a fair question, but one which Boston College defensive lineman Tanner Karafa correctly answered in a bit of a sidestep at ACC Media Days last week.

Karafa was asked, "You guys are in a division with Clemson. Overwhelming favorites. How do you approach that, deal with that, knowing there is such a powerhouse in the conference?"

Again, that is certainly the type of thing that's worth asking any player who exists in the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference. After all, Clemson is the big, bad bully of college football right now, along with Alabama. The Tigers set the standard for everyone else after blasting 'Bama in the national championship game last season. Why not get other teams' opinions on how to slay the giant?

Well, Karafa's answer was much closer to what the Eagles need to concentrate on, even if it may not have been the sexiest response.

"Yeah, I would say our focus right now is just on the starter," Karafa said. "We have a tough starter in Virginia Tech. Keeping that in the back of our mind, we played them tough last year, Clemson. I think we'll have the same mindset this year.

"But it's just a game-by-game basis for us. We have a lot of tough games for us this year."

That's exactly what Karafa should say, and really, no one on the Eagles should say anything all that different.

It is well-documented at this point, to the degree that the players and coaches for BC are probably sick of it. But the Eagles, while making a bowl five out of six years in coach Steve Addazio's tenure, have only topped out at seven wins each time they've made the postseason.

They seemed well on their way to eight to last year before weather wiped out their bowl game with Boise State, so that glass ceiling remained sitting above the Eagles' heads.

Now, looking forward to a season with a third-year starting quarterback in Anthony Brown and a Doak Walker candidate and dark horse Heisman hopeful in running back AJ Dillon, BC can legitimately aim to clear that hurdle.

But the Eagles have to crawl before they can walk with this. And that starts with the opener against Virginia Tech at Alumni Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 4 p.m.

Even though BC defeated the Hokies, 31-21, last year in Blacksburg, most books have Virginia Tech as a 2-to-2.5-point road favorite. In addition, the ACC preseason media poll has the Eagles projected to be the fifth-best team in the Atlantic Division, behind Clemson (of course), Syracuse, Florida State, and NC State.

In other words, if the Eagles are to hit that eight-win mark, or even jump over it, they will do so by exceeding everyone's expectations.

If you look at the schedule, the non-conference portion has one really tough game and three that should be wins in Notre Dame, Richmond, Kansas, and Rutgers. In addition to the Atlantic Division tilts, the ACC crossovers are against the Hokies and Pittsburgh.

You add that up, given what you expect those other teams to have and how strong they are, you're looking at a lot of 50-50 games that could decide whether this team hits eight wins — including a possible bowl game — or not.

Addazio knows this as well as anyone. As he said in those Media Days, "The difference between a six-win season and a nine-win season really isn't that great."

The 2018 campaign was a great example of that. The Eagles lost to NC State by one score and to Florida State on a late touchdown to fall by one point. Turn those two games around and BC goes 9-3 in the regular season, heads to a better bowl with a chance at 10 wins and maybe ends the season ranked in the top 25.

What that would have done for the program can't be overstated, so the Eagles just have to win those games that are on the table to be won.

So for as much as beating Clemson is the goal, right now, the more realistic one is getting to the point where eight wins can be achieved.

Therefore, you look away from Clemson and see games like Virginia Tech, NC State, Syracuse, Florida State, and Pittsburgh as really the ones that will define the season.

Would beating Clemson in a major upset be a boost? Of course. But when the Eagles look at the schedule, then see that next step they're trying to take in the wins department, they need to cast their eyes at the games like their opener to find their groove. Luckily, players like Karafa know that.

Emergency scheduling

According to a tweet put out this week by the BC High football account, the Eagles still have open dates on Sept. 13, Oct. 4, and Oct. 11.

This is a serious bind for the Eagles. Currently, they do not have enough games to qualify for the Division 1 South playoffs.

There are a couple major issues with this. The obvious one is we are only a few days from August, so basically everyone has their schedule filled up already. Both in-state and out-of-state, it's hard to find anyone who needs a game right now. That reality makes this all basically a nightmare scenario for the Eagles.

On top of that, the MIAA requires the opponent to be a part of its state association for the game to count toward the playoffs. That rules out NEPSAC schools, and other programs that would normally be a good fit for that date.

We don't know how BC High fell into this situation, but you never want to see it happen with anyone. Hopefully, someone steps forward to play the Eagles. There really should be no excuse for a team that can potentially make a run in the playoffs to not be eligible because of a regular season scheduling issue.

Edit: As we published this piece, we got word that Bishop Fenwick will play BC High on Oct. 11. The game will be played at Fenwick in Peabody. The Crusaders are stepping up big-time as a Division 6 school to play a Division 1 team, but Fenwick will be one of the best teams in its class this season.

Big moves for the Big Green

Dartmouth picked up one local commitment and two other Massachusetts players reported offers from the Ivy League school this past week.

Marcus Romboli, an offensive lineman who previously played at Malden Catholic and is now at Deerfield Academy, made a verbal pledge to the Big Green.

Carter Rice, a class of 2021 wide receiver/defensive back from BC High, and Sean Sullivan, a class of 2021 offensive tackle from St. John's of Shrewsbury, both tweeted out that they had been offered by Dartmouth.

These are all smart moves by Dartmouth. Romboli will be part of a loaded offensive line for Deerfield this season, while Rice is also a standout lacrosse player. Sullivan's recruitment is just starting to pick up steam on a Pioneers team that seems to have scholarship talent all over the roster.

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