BOSTON — Undefeated and No. 2 Clemson can check off another box when the Tigers visit No. 17 Boston College on Saturday night.
“We’ve got a great challenge and great opportunity this week in Boston College,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott told Tigernet.com on Monday as the Tigers (9-0) began to prepare for the Eagles (7-2). “Obviously, it’s an opportunity for us to accomplish our second goal, which is to win the (Atlantic) division.
“The way our goals are set up — the first goal is to win the opener and then it’s taken us 10 weeks now to get an opportunity to reach our second goal, which is winning the division.”
The Tigers, coming off a 77-point explosion against Louisville, are 6-0 in the ACC. BC, winners of three straight, is 4-1 and would stay in contention for the spot in the league title game (first since back-to-back appearances in 2007-08) with a win Saturday.
Clemson, winners of seven straight over BC in the series, comes into this game as a 20-point favorite — and faces a bit of the unknown in the Eagles.
BC star AJ Dillon, the ACC’s Preseason Player of the Year, took to Twitter last Saturday after his team rallied in the second half to win at Virginia Tech.
“Still remember people laughing saying ‘why BC’ when I’m committed,” he tweeted. “Trust in the process, we aren’t done yet!”
But here’s the thing — there’s no guarantee Dillon will be there for this important prime time nationally televised game.
Dillon, who missed 2 1/2 games with an ankle injury, returned with 149 yards and a touchdown in a win over Miami two weeks ago. He clearly wasn’t 100 percent and had 96 yards against Virginia Tech when he left after a hard hit on the sideline. He did not return as his replacement, Travis Levy, scored the first two rushing touchdowns of his college career in the victory.
“I saw him yesterday and he was bouncing around, a good smile on his face,” BC coach Steve Addazio said Monday. “I mean he’s dinged up. It is what it is. That’s not going to significantly change one way or the other. The question just becomes how well he can handle that. But I would assume with these kind of injuries you’re not going to feel exactly the way you should feel until you get to a bowl game and have a few weeks.
“I think this is ongoing and certainly a fair question will be is will it feel good enough by game time to play on it? We’ll have to see each day with that … God willing, he will be healthy and we can get 30 carries out of him.”
Clemson will be prepared either way for a BC rushing attack.
“I think they’ve got a number of quality backs,” Tigers defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “(Dillon has) missed a few games and yet they are still playing for a division championship on the line this week. That speaks to the depth that they have and their ability to use guys in different ways.
“(Levy), they’ve used him through the early part of the year in a variety of ways whether it’s the shotgun, zone-read stuff or a lot of screens and getting him out in space. He gets in there this past week, and he had done it prior to that in their heavy stuff and he would run hard, tough, and physical between the tackles, too. More explosive.
“He’s kind of like our No. 9 (Travis Etienne), maybe a little bit heavier but got kind of a shiftiness and change of gear. He runs with power, speed, and runs through trash as well.”
The Tigers beat the Eagles 34-7 last year in Death Valley.
BC has not beaten a Top 5 team since defeating No. 2 Notre Dame on Nov. 2, 2002. The Eagles are 2-29 all-time against the Top 5, 0-12 at home and are 31-106-1 all-time against ranked opponents.
They come in with their highest ranking in 11 years and are headed for their fifth bowl game in six seasons under Addazio. It was only three seasons ago that BC was winless in conference play and finished 3-9.
“I expect the atmosphere here will be sensational,” Addazio said. “We are expecting a full stadium and a crowd that will be in their seats early, and creating a great home-field advantage, which I’m sure it will be.”