Finishing an 8-4 regular season and a trip to the Emerald Bowl, last season was viewed as a success by many on the Heights.
But, just because they are the same faces on the field come Saturday afternoon doesn’t mean we shouldn’t raise the bar a little bit.
The Eagles have 15 starters coming back from last year’s team, as well as the addition of former ACC defensive player of the year, Mark Herzlich.
The team is stacked with talent and experience, something that should be a big indicator for success as the 2010 campaign kicks off this weekend.
However, even with the high hopes for this year’s team, we all need to use a little bit of caution when considering success this season.
If we are going to be honest for a moment her, Boston College has never been a national powerhouse when it comes to football. Sure, hockey has brought home a few national titles but the football team has never even won a BCS bowl game. As a matter of fact, not counting a 2004 four-way share of the title, the Eagles haven’t won a single conference championship, Big East or ACC, in their history.
Now, it’s not that BC hasn’t played their hearts out or even deserved to get to a BSC game in the past, but if you take a good hard look back in history the team just doesn’t step up in big games.
In 2007, Matt Ryan’s mid-season heroic were overshadowed by a fourth-quarter let down against Virginia Tech in the Championship game. The 2008 season followed suit, ending in another championship let down against the Hokies. Last year, everything was looking good until a halfhearted performance against North Carolina shut the door on a return trip to Tampa.
This season could be more of the same from an underrated Eagles team. With Montel Harris running the show on offense and sophomore stud, Luke Keuchly anchoring the defensive unit, BC has a legitimate shot at making the trip to Charlotte.
But, let’s back up a few steps here before we get ahead of ourselves. A lot needs to fall into place before any of this can happen.
First and foremost we need to take care of our work in the ACC. Out of conference schedule is a joke this year, even Notre Dame should be a piece of cake as long as we don’t overlook them. So, the real focus should be on taking care of the Clemson, Maryland and Florida state trio that could get in the way come early December.
That focus starts with the players. Who is mentally tough enough to get through the grind of the season and make the big plays? Who needs to step up their game if the Eagles have any chance at the ACC title?
Well, as the eve of the season is nearly upon, here’s a list of player’s to keep an eye on throughout the 2010 season.
Dave Shinskie – You guessed it. Shinskie is the key to the Eagles offense this season. I’ve said it so many times but even as we cringe at the though, Shinskie will ultimately make or break this team.
The former pitcher turned quarterback was consistently inconsistent last year and proved to be more of a liability than a contributor throughout much of the season. Everyone remembers the Notre Dame debacle and his four-pick performance against the Tar Heels.
But, even with all of the negatives that swirled around Uncle Dave as the season drew along, he did show flashes of brilliance at times. He managed a great game against Florida State (2 TD’s, 0 turnovers) and made some big plays to get the Eagles past the Terrapins in the season finale (14-23, 228 yards).
His arm strength is definitely an asset for a mainly run-first offense, as he will be able to stretch the field and open up lanes in the defense for Harris to run through. But can he find some form of consistency.
The season will likely come down to a few plays for BC and much of the pressure might fall squarely on the shoulders of Big Dave.
So, now the question becomes can will he step up and make the big play, a la Matt Ryan, or will he choke like just about every Eagles quarterback the last 10 years?
Damik Scaife – Scaife was a force to be reckoned with on the defensive front last year…when he was healthy. The big nose tackle has a definite ability to clog up running lanes and force double teams on just about every down, but can he stay healthy for an entire season?
The defense is certainly the Eagles strong suit this season and with Scaife in the mix, BC could be top-10 nationally on that side of the ball. Without him, the Eagles will struggle to stop the run and the pass rush could suffer severely.
Scaife is an integral piece to the defensive success that the Eagles find this season and could end up being the difference between fourth down and first.
Mark Herzlich – The senior leader is returning from his most brutal battle yet. The good news? He won. After overcoming cancer and working hard to regain his 2008 form, it looks like Herzlich is back and ready to improve an already strong defensive core.
Herzlich’s emotional presence both in the locker room and on the field should give BC a huge boost in critical parts of the game. As much as there is excitement about his return there are still some questions lingering about his health.
Herzlich suffered a broken foot in practice, just over a month ago, and was only cleared to fully participate just yesterday. He is expected to be out on the field come Saturday and should remain in the starting lineup but if this injury isn’t fully healed it could creep back up on him later in the season and force BC to face a few games without the 2008 Butkis award semi-finalist.
If he returns to his 2008 form, Herzlich should play a vital role in the Eagles success this season and could prove his worth to scouts once again.
Tomorrow: Season Prediction