Boston College has its highest ranking of the season and became bowl eligible last week, but coach Tom O’Brien won’t allow his team to overlook any opponent.
The 18th-ranked Eagles try to avoid a letdown in their final non-conference game of the regular season Saturday when they host struggling Buffalo.
If Boston College (6-1) wins its remaining five games, it will clinch the ACC’s Atlantic Division and earn a berth in the conference championship game in Jacksonville, Fla. The Eagles are one of four teams in the division with one conference loss, but have already defeated No. 10 Clemson and have games remaining against the other two schools—No. 24 Wake Forest and Maryland.
“The only thing we’ve earned is a trip to Boise right now,” O’Brien said in a reference to last season, when BC finished 8-3 but wound up in Idaho for the MPC Computers Bowl. “Now let’s see if we can win this one against Buffalo and we’ll start working on a trip to Jacksonville.”
The Eagles clinched bowl eligibility for a school-record eighth straight year with a 24-19 victory at Florida State last Saturday. Boston College scored two touchdowns in the final minute of the first half—a six-yard run by L.V. Whitworth and a 36-yard interception return by DeJuan Tribble—to take the lead for good.
Junior quarterback Matt Ryan did not have a touchdown pass in the game, but went 16-for-26 for 262 yards despite left ankle and foot injuries which caused him to walk with an immobilizing boot earlier in the week.
The Bulls (1-6), the last-place team in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference, would seem to present an easy matchup for the Eagles, but O’Brien said he would not rest his quarterback against Buffalo.
“We can’t let up on anything. We’re not going to be anybody’s upset special of the week,” O’Brien said.
Ryan has frequently been held out of practice after he originally injured the ankle in a season-opening 31-24 victory over Central Michigan. He has stayed on the field for each game, though, and leads the ACC with 1,661 passing yards.
The junior has also completed more than 50 percent of his pass attempts in all seven games this season.
“Matt’s a very valuable player to our offense,” O’Brien said. “He’s obviously one very tough individual who can play through the things he played through.”
The Boston College offense could have a big day against a Buffalo defensive unit allowing 36.4 points per game—third-most in the nation. After a 9-3 victory over Temple to open the season, the Bulls have allowed 31 points or more in each of their six consecutive losses.
Buffalo allowed a touchdown on the opponent’s opening drive for the fifth time in seven games last Saturday at Ohio, and fell behind 28-0 by halftime en route to a 42-7 defeat.
“We just have to learn from our mistakes,” coach Turner Gill said. “Everyone is disappointed, if you’re not disappointed and a little bit ticked off than there is something wrong with you. I don’t want any of our players or coaches to get used to losing.
“When you start to get used to that, you’ve got problems. We’ll come back and we’ll fight hard. We’ll try to get things corrected and come back and play with more effort and desire.”
The Bulls scored their only points of last Saturday’s game on a four-yard touchdown run by redshirt freshman James Starks. Starks managed only 12 yards on 11 carries, though, one week after gaining a career-high 113 yards on 19 attempts in a 38-31 loss to Miami of Ohio.
This is the first meeting between these schools since a 65-12 BC victory on Nov. 7, 1970. The Eagles have won five of seven meetings in the series, with all the games held at Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Boston College is 12-3 against schools from the MAC, including the Aug. 31 win at Central Michigan.