With ESPN's College GameDay about to descend on Chestnut Hill for the game between second-ranked Clemson and Boston College, which finds itself at No. 17 in the latest College Football Playoff list, there has not been a game of this magnitude for the Eagles in over a decade.
The visiting Tigers enter with a perfect, 9-0 record, and are starting to play their best football of the season. One could say the same for BC, which at 7-2 has raised its level since its bye week last month.
With major playoff and Atlantic Coast Conference title implications in play, here are four things to keep an eye on for what could sway the result in one direction or the other.
— Even if AJ Dillon is healthy, the Eagles would be smart to use Travis Levy the way they did against Virginia Tech. Dillon, BC's star running back, looked to re-aggravate an ankle injury he suffered against Temple at the end of September when he was knocked out of bounds during the Virginia Tech win. However, when the backup Levy entered the game, he made an immediate impact. Levy usually offers a change of pace from Dillon, both in the running and passing game, and played his best game of his career against the Hokies. The sophomore rushed for 75 yards and his first two career touchdowns on 11 carries, and added 28 yards on three receptions. For as healthy as Dillon may be for this game, BC would be wise to involve Levy as much as possible in order to give Clemson a more diverse range of weapons to defend.
— The Eagles need to use the jet sweep to their advantage. Under offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, the play has become a staple of the BC attack. Generally, the Eagles use it with wide receiver Jeff Smith, who has both the speed to get wide and downfield quickly, and the power to overrun second- and third-level defenders once he gets in the open field. But this has less to do with Smith than it does with players like Dillon and Levy. BC simply can't run power over and over again against a Clemson defensive line that is stocked with future NFL first- and second-round picks. The Eagles have to offer something in the way of a perimeter rushing attack, or their offense will not have much success. Their jet series can help loosen up the box for Dillon and other facets of the offense.
— For as well as Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence has played, he is still a freshman, and that means the BC defense needs to do everything it can to rattle him. It's pretty safe to say that the Tigers have been a different team since Lawrence won the starting job this season. The offense has taken off and shown true balance, whereas under Kelly Bryant, who has since transferred, the passing game never really had any rhythm. That said, this is the biggest start in Lawrence's young career, and BC has the type of defense that can give him problems. If the Eagles can create pressure from ends Wyatt Ray and Zach Allen, then they have a shot of knocking Lawrence off his game. It will also take creative blitz packages and looks in the secondary, but the presence of Ray and Allen in the backfield is BC's best chance of success against Lawrence.
— Boston College needs to relish the role of the underdog. Sure, this is potentially Steve Addazio's best team at The Heights, but that does not mean the Eagles have anyone really predicting them to win this game. Well, whoever comes on GameDay that morning as the guest picker for BC will, but outside of that, as Lee Corso famously puts it, "Not so fast, my friend." That's something the Eagles can use. Like we mentioned last week, there have been a steady flow of motivational tools for BC over the past month. This week, it will be an "Us against the world" vibe. How could it not be? It's as time tested as any reason to get an emotional advantage, and the Eagles no doubt are using the expert opinions of a Clemson victory to fuel their way through Saturday.