No easing into it for Boston College this season
BOSTON (AP) — There's no chance to ease into it for Boston College this season.
No tuneup against Maine or Howard turning into such a blowout that they let the clock run to shorten the second half. No non-Power 5 UMass or Northern Illinois allowing the Eagles to notch a win before embarking on the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule.
This time it's Virginia Tech, and BC coach Steve Addazio knows the Eagles will have to be ready.
"You're ruining my Thursday now. I mean, really," he said this week when a reporter asked about opening with a conference rival for just the second time in his tenure in Chestnut Hill. "What happens is the anxiety starts to mount on you. It's real. But it's fun. It's exciting.
"Sometimes when you play an opener that you're a heavy favorite to win in, it can get equally frustrating and get sloppy. This has your full attention. There is an energy level that comes with this."
BC (7-5 last year, 4-4 ACC) has tended to dip its toe in the waters under Addazio, opening outside the Power 5 in five of his first six seasons. In two of those years the Eagles had two games against non-major conference schools (2015, Maine and Howard; 2018, UMass and Holy Cross) before facing their first ACC opponent. (That first ACC foe in three of those years: Wake Forest.)
Virginia Tech (6-7, 4-4) is coming off its first losing season since 1992, including a 31-21 loss to BC in Blacksburg. That snapped a three-game winning streak against the Eagles, and it was just the Hokies' third loss to BC since 2008.
Addazio doesn't expect them to be down for long.
"We're excited to have an opportunity to play an elite team opening day. That's had our attention of our team throughout the winter, spring, and certainly preseason camp," Addazio said. "Opening day, sometimes you don't know who you're going to exactly get. No matter what you do, you're never going to manufacture the bright lights and pressure of the day. It's amazing to me what happens."
Virginia Tech starts against an ACC rival for the second year in a row and would love to have the same outcome as last year, when the 19th-ranked Hokies won 24-3 at 20th-ranked Florida State.
"Boston College would be a tremendous challenge if they were Week 1 or Week 6 or 9 or 12," Hokies coach Justin Fuente said. "They happen to be Week 1."
Here are some other things to look for in Saturday's game:
The best hope for Boston College to break out of its seven-win rut is to see improvement at quarterback, where junior Anthony Brown is back for his third season as starter. He was injured as a freshman and missed the final three games; last year he was transported to the hospital during the Clemson game when 315-pound defensive tackle Christian Wilkins landed on him.
"He's been through it, whether it be through injury and up and downs in different games," Addazio said. "So we're at the point we're looking for big things out of him this year. ... We've got some other things we need to get done, but he's in position and we're excited about him."
SIGNAL CALLER II
Incumbent Ryan Willis won a camp-long battle to retain his job as the Hokies' starting quarterback, but the length of the competition could mean that Hendon Hooker is poised to be called upon if Willis struggles. Willis was solid last season after replacing the injured Josh Jackson, throwing for 24 touchdowns with nine interceptions.
STOPPING THE RUN
The Eagles ran for 219 yards and three touchdowns in their victory last season, and Fuente has made slowing down A.J. Dillon a goal.
"Actually doing it is the challenge," Fuente said. "They can get the quarterback involved in the run game as well, which poses a whole other set of issues."
Dillon ran for 1,108 yards last season after rushing for 1,589 as a freshman.
ADJUSTING THE LINE
Virginia Tech was hoping the NCAA would reverse its decision denying transfer offensive lineman Brock Hoffman the right to play right away, but the body ruled against him on Tuesday.
Hoffman transferred after two years at Coastal Carolina, in part, to be closer to his family in Statesville, North Carolina; his mother is battling a non-cancerous brain tumor. Hoffman has been working in the line rotation as the Hokies hoped he would win his appeal.