Image courtesy of ESPN
Kickoff: Well, here we are again. BC has a chance to shock the world and beat a Top 5 team in the country when Clemson visits for the Red Bandana Game on Saturday night. The Eagles are currently 19.5-point underdogs, which, is actually surprising given how bad the BC offense was the first two weeks of the season.
First down: In fairness, the offense has been significantly better in two of the last three weeks with Florida State’s debacle being the exception. Offensive coordinator John McNulty moved down to the sidelines after starting the year up in the box. After talking with players and coaches this week, the move is a small one, but legitimately may have helped sparked the offense. The Eagles have no choice but to put up at least 25-30 points if they’re going to win this game.
Second down: That’s not to say that the BC defense can’t hold Clemson in the teens or low 20’s, but the odds of it happening are very slim. Between quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, running back Will Shipley wideout Antonio Williams and other players more than capable of making plays, this Eagles defense is going to need to be locked in and most importantly, have its best tackling performance of the season. BC’s defense has kept it in games, but the tackling has been iffy at times. If you don’t wrap up these athletes, it’s all over.
Third down: Moral victories aren’t a thing for football teams at the Division 1 level, but teachable moments are. In each of the last two meetings with the Tigers – one with Dennis Grosel under center – BC almost went into Death Valley and upset Clemson. Now, back at home, the Eagles can certainly look back on those matchups and gain confidence knowing that they weren’t far away with many of the same talented players still on this roster.
Fourth down: We wrote a story on it, but the role that the Alumni Stadium crowd can play on Saturday night can’t be overstated. BC has seemingly always had these big games on the road, and when teams like Notre Dame or North Carolina visited in 2020 while ranked in the Top 10, there was nothing but cardboard cut outs of dogs in the stands. This is a legitimate opportunity for the fan base and the students in particular to show the country how much of a factor they can be in a huge, nationally televised, prime time game.
Extra point: The Dabo Swinney vs. Jeff Hafley matchup is a sneaky underrated part of this game. Hafley has had his team more than ready to go in Death Valley each of the last two years and if not for a couple late breaks for the Tigers, both of the matchups could have ended very differently. For Hafley, this would be the statement game of all statement games as far as his career goes. There are still plenty of questions both outside of BC and inside the fan base as to whether or not he’s the guy to truly lead the Eagles back to 2007-like prominence. A win over the Tigers to get to 3-3 would surely go a long way in silencing the doubters.
Final drive: Above all else, this game is always about much more than football. Sure, the upset would be huge and the parties on campus late at night and early into the morning would be epic, but the Red Bandana Game is for Welles Crowther, his family, and all of those who end up making the ultimate sacrifice. Those white jerseys the Eagles will be wearing are far more than just a cool fashion statement. Win or lose, the 40+ thousand fans in attendance will be honoring the memory of a true hero.