ACC Race Tightens as Eagles Focus on VT

ACC Race Tightens as Eagles Focus on VT

When Boston College defeated a nationally-ranked Miami team on Friday night, it reached a number of different checkpoints for the 2018 season. It improved the Eagles to 6-2 on the season, clinching bowl eligibility for the fifth time in the Steve Addazio era. It marked the fastest route to a postseason game since the Eagles opened up perfect in 2007, making 2018 the sixth time since 2000 that BC is 6-2 or better.

It also returned the Eagles to the national rankings for the second time this season as both Associated Press and Amway Coaches Poll slotted the team at No. 24 and No. 25, respectively. It made 2018 the 18th season where BC ranked inside the AP poll for multiple weeks, and it marked a return after the Eagles fell out following the Purdue game.

Conventional thought tells the team and its supporters to celebrate. Friday’s Red Bandana Game provided an electric atmosphere before a nationally-televised audience. A win over Miami keeps pace with Clemson within the ACC. BC is once again nationally ranked, the second time this year after a decade removed. A bowl game means more postseason practices and an opportunity for further development.

Except nobody in the Boston College locker room is talking about it. It’s not that they think it doesn’t matter; they know it does. It’s just that there are bigger concerns, starting this week with Virginia Tech.

“We didn’t address it,” Addazio flatly said of the rankings. “Kind of like how I didn’t address the fact that we were bowl eligible. Just didn’t address it. Not going to.”

BC enters Saturday’s game in position to prove preseason prognosticators correct. Experts predicted the Eagles could challenge the ACC Atlantic Division elite, and they enter this weekend in exact position to do that. The win over Miami coupled with a Syracuse win over NC State to vault them into sole possession of second place in the ACC Atlantic Division, one game behind No. 2 Clemson. 

It’s not as clear-cut as BC-Clemson, though. The Orange are ranked alongside the Eagles after beating NC State, but both have identical 6-2 overall records with three conference wins. Syracuse holds two conference losses, which puts it a half-game behind BC, but its remaining schedule includes games at Wake Forest this week and at home against Louisville next week.

NC State absorbed its second conference loss in as many weeks in Saturday’s 51-41 shootout, which in turn dropped the Wolfpack a full game behind the Eagles, but holds the head-to-head win over BC. 

Then there’s the matter of the teams further back. Wake Forest and Louisville play both NC State and Syracuse, and if BC fails to hold serve in the Atlantic Division, the door to that second place is anything but defined. Even Florida State, which is already 2-4 in the league, still plays NC State and BC, which means the race remains wide open.

“Our entire focus has to be on having the ability to go down (to VT) and get our seventh win,” Addazio said. “We’ve got to go down there in a very tough environment and extract a W from a very good football team, and that’s it. Everything else has got to be cleared out of the chamber. There’s nothing else to think about. There’s nothing else to talk about.”

It makes projections virtually impossible, especially for the postseason. Virginia Tech enters Saturday after a stinging loss to Georgia Tech, and the year’s been up-and-down since the Hokies lost to Old Dominion last month. But the Yellow Jacket win was their first conference loss after wins over both Duke and North Carolina, so they still control the road to the ACC Championship.

But, again, it’s wide open. No. 23 Virginia is 6-2 overall and 4-1 in league play after beating North Carolina but plays Pittsburgh, which is a third Coastal Division team with one loss and has Virginia Tech at the end of the year. Pittsburgh plays the Hokies next week after the Cavaliers this week and closes the season with road games at Wake Forest and Miami.

Virginia already beat Miami, but if the Cavaliers stumble, the Hurricanes are still very much alive. So is Georgia Tech, which plays its last two conference games at home after playing at UNC this week.

That’s a minimum of 10 teams that will, in some capacity, factor into the ACC Championship Game race in the next four weeks.

“As a competitor, you love the challenges of these things,” Addazio said. “But the reality of it all is that the margin for error gets very, very small and to sustain that week-in and week-out are not easy. Some of these conferences just aren’t like that right now. The level of defense isn’t like that. And then some of the sides of these conferences are so much less. It’s cyclical, and it kind of is what it is. I can only speak for us. What I see right now, we’re in those battles.

“So we’ve got quite a road ahead of us right now,” he said. “That’s why you’ve got to really focus in the one thing that we have, the main thing. What we have right now is Virginia Tech, on Saturday down there, and we’ve got to have total focus on that. If you don’t, boom – it’s gone. It gets away from you just like that, and we’ve had two experiences with that on the road already.”

No. 24 Boston College takes on Virginia Tech on Saturday at 3:45 p.m. from Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va. The game will be broadcast by the ACC’s Raycom Sports Network, which can be seen locally on My-38 in Boston. The game can also be heard locally via the BC IMG Sports Network on WEEI 93.7 FM and nationally on TuneIn, Sirius channel 136, XM channel 385 and satellite Internet channel 989.

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