Updated: Jul 30, 2018
As Boston College enters the 2018 season, a few things are pretty clear.
For one, this is as loaded a roster as Steve Addazio has had at The Heights in now his sixth season. Also, coming off his fourth 7-6 year, it's obvious that, even with that talent and experience, the Eagles won't easily top that seven-win plateau. Finally, if the Eagles can find a way to win the games they should, flip some 50-50 games, or pull an upset or two, this could be BC's best season in about a decade.
With that, it's time to take a look at the most difficult games on the schedule for BC, with No. 12 being the easiest and No. 1 being the toughest.
12. Holy Cross, Sept. 8 at Alumni Stadium
This is not a difficult selection, as the Crusaders are the only Football Championship Subdivision team on the schedule. Holy Cross has struggled in recent years, with just three winning records since 2010. Holy Cross hired new coach Bob Chesney to turn things around, and he's had successful runs at both Salve Regina and Assumption, but it would be a bit much to ask an upset of BC.
11. Temple, Sept. 29 at Alumni Stadium
One would think that Temple, which had a 7-6 record in 2017 that included a 29-21 win over UMass, would be ahead of the Minutemen on this list. However, the Owls don't bring back as much and therefore should take a step back. Temple loses its top two rushers in David Hood and Ryquell Armstead, and top two receivers in Adonis Jennings and Keith Kirkwood, as well.
10. UMass, Sept. 1 at Alumni Stadium
The Minutemen are the third-easiest opponent on the schedule, but that doesn't mean the Minutemen will be a pushover. UMass brings back both quarterbacks, Andrew Ford and Ross Comis, a fleet of sure-handed receivers, and a running back in Marquis Young who is on the Doak Walker Award watch list for tops in the nation at his position. This could become a solid rivalry if the Minutemen start to make these games more competitive.
9. Syracuse, Nov. 24 at Alumni Stadium
Dino Babers came to Central New York with much fanfare after successful head coaching stints at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green. But outside of a couple of notable upsets (the Orange beat Virginia Tech in 2016 and Clemson in 2017), Babers' two 4-8 seasons at Syracuse have been forgettable. Still, Eric Dungey will be one of the best quarterbacks the Eagles face, and this is the closest thing the Eagles have to a rival in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
8. Purdue, Sept. 22 at West Lafayette, Ind.
This is the first road game on the list, and one has to give heavy consideration to moving the Boilermakers higher. This is an underrated opponent which made a nice leap under first-year coach Jeff Brohm in 2017, as he led the Boilermakers to a 7-6 record after the program won just nine games the previous four seasons. Keep an eye out for quarterback Elijah Sindelar, who threw for almost 400 yards with a torn ACL in his left knee in Purdue's 38-35 Foster Farms Bowl win over Arizona.
7. Wake Forest, Sept. 13 at Winston-Salem, N.C.
Like Purdue, there is good reason to consider moving the Demon Deacons up on the list. For one, they pasted the Eagles last year, 34-10, as BC turned the ball over four times and generally played poorly from start to finish. Also, this game will be on a Thursday night, and playing on the road in that setting never seems to go well for visitors. Finally, the Eagles will have to deal with one of the best up-and-coming wide receivers in the conference in sophomore Greg Dortch.
6. Louisville, Oct. 13 at Alumni Stadium
Remember when BC's AJ Dillon burst onto the scene last year with a 75-yard touchdown run via bodyslam and sprint to the end zone? Well, that was against Louisville in a 45-42 Eagles win, and one has to assume the Cardinals want nothing more than to pay Dillon and Co. back for that. Although one rightly assumes losing Lamar Jackson will hurt, Louisville's new quarterback, sophomore Jawon Pass, is no slouch, and received rave reviews in the spring.
5. NC State, Oct. 8 at Raleigh, N.C.
It should say something that the Wolfpack project as the Eagles' fifth-toughest opponent, because even with the losses of NFL draft picks like defensive end Bradley Chubb and running back Nyheim Hines, NC State will still be one of the best teams in the ACC. At one point last season, many expected Wolfpack quarterback Ryan Finley to declare for the draft. However, Finley, who completed 65.1 percent of his passes last year, is back and gives his team an efficient triggerman.
4. Florida State, Nov. 17 at Tallahassee, Fla.
Consider not just the strength of this program and the difficulty of beating the Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium, but when this game takes place. The Eagles will play the Seminoles after facing NC State, Louisville, Miami, Virginia Tech, and Clemson. Even though the Eagles clobbered Florida State, 35-3, in 2017, coming off that stretch of games to play in that environment will be brutal. And keep an eye on Seminoles running back Cam Akers, who is due for a breakout sophomore season.
3. Virginia Tech, Nov. 3 at Blacksburg, Va.
This is the sandwich game in between home tilts with Miami and Clemson. Opponents know what they're going to get when they come to Lane Stadium: a raucous crowd, a swarming defense, and an overall tough opponent. While some observers are higher on the Hokies than others, this should be one of the two teams — along with Miami — to be considered the Coastal Division favorite. Expect quarterback Josh Jackson to flourish in his second year as a starter.
2. Miami, Oct. 26 at Alumni Stadium
If one were to complain about the hand the Eagles were dealt, he or she could point to the fact that the Eagles will play the two best programs in the Coastal Division, while superpower Clemson plays neither in the regular season. But that lament will not help the Eagles as they host a consensus preseason top 10 team on a Friday night. BC should be very much up for this game, but Miami boasts one of the best front sevens in the country and, as usual, speed all over the roster.
1. Clemson, Nov. 10 at Alumni Stadium
One can pick and choose which games should or shouldn't be higher or lower on this list, but No. 1 is irrefutable. Clemson is simply loaded this season, as has been the case for a while now, and will be even better this season than it was in 2017, when it made the College Football Playoff for the third consecutive season. The defensive line returns four players who are first- or second-round caliber draft-wise. Improvement at the quarterback position is needed, but don't cry poor for the Tigers.