Although there were a lot of major storylines to cover at all levels this weekend, we are going to focus solely on what happened in Chestnut Hill, where second-ranked Clemson handed Boston College a 27-7 loss in front of a sold-out Alumni Stadium crowd of 44,500.
Sure, there was a good portion of that audience clad in orange rooting on the visiting Tigers. And, yes, Clemson flexed its superiority on both sides of the ball.
But what happened, even in defeat, was significant for BC.
Just for athletic director Martin Jarmond and Co. to be able to help sway ESPN's College GameDay to set up shop on campus is a win. Jarmond's goal, and that of the entire football program, is to raise its profile in a pro sports market that is saturated with championship-level teams.
That's not an easy task, and while local talk radio was not exactly buzzing in the week leading up to this game, GameDay coming to town means that the college football universe is focused on you for the weekend. That type of attention comes few and far between for a place like BC, or anywhere in the Northeast, for that matter. You seize those moments when you can, and the Eagles were able to at least get a sense of what that feels like.
More and more, you are beginning to see BC doing everything in its power to make a habit out of this type of spectacle. You can count the completion of the $52.6 million Fish Field House, an indoor practice facility that rivals any in the Atlantic Coast Conference, as part of that equation.
There are even aspects that may not add up to much to the average fan, but are little touches that at least attempt to enhance the gameday experience. For instance, the lights-and-fireworks displays give off that feel.
For a cynical onlooker, it's just histrionics. But college football stadiums all across the country have a leg up on BC when it comes to traditional atmosphere. Heck, a sellout at Alumni is not even half of what you get at some of these major power cathedrals in the South and Midwest. Those are the places the Eagles are competing with.
And it should be noted that the local sports fan can be as disinterested as he or she pleases so long as the big-time local football recruit is impressed. Those are the people that the Eagles need to wow, and then everything else will fall in line.
That's because the fact of the matter remains that even if quarterback Anthony Brown did not get injured and running back AJ Dillon was fully healthy, the Eagles would have had to play a perfect game to beat a team like Clemson. You can say stars and recruiting rankings don't matter all you want, and there is truth in those statements to an extent. But the Tigers have stacked top 5 classes on top of each other year after year, and the result is a roster full of future NFL players, both in the starting lineup and waiting their turn on the bench.
That was plainly obvious once the teams settled in, and not at all a surprise. Heck, Trevor Lawrence, the Tigers' true freshman quarterback who dazzled most of the night, played a game that was featured on ESPN as a high schooler last year.
Those are the types of prospects Clemson pulls in every Signing Day. Tigers coach Dabo Swinney can roll out of bed whenever he wants and, within a 100-mile radius, recruit the type of talent that most programs can only dream of luring onto their campuses.
It's a luxury BC does not have. The Eagles, if they want to beat the Clemsons of the world, need to make sure every big-time player in New England comes to Chestnut Hill, on top of the overlooked gems across the country that slip through the cracks.
And let's not forget, like Clemson, programs like Florida State and Miami are set up in talent-rich areas, and the Eagles beat the latter this year and are favored to defeat the former for the second consecutive season.
That's real progress. That's more than just a visit from College GameDay, or light shows or fireworks.
When Michael Walker returned a first-quarter punt 74 yards for a touchdown to give BC its only lead of the game, the stadium burst into the type of hysteria that the Eagles don't receive nearly enough for their efforts. But it was a genuine rush of excitement, the kind that you'd see at Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium, or the Garden.
It was a big-time ovation for big-time college football. You could see the vision Jarmond, coach Steve Addazio, and everyone connected to the BC football program come to fruition, even if it were only for a brief instant.
For now, that will have to be enough. But this is a program pulling its entire weight in the right direction, and bigger fireworks, literal or otherwise, seem yet to come.