As the calendar turns to August, we are now just one month away from the start of the college football season. Boston College football players report on Sunday, with the first day of practice scheduled for Monday, Aug. 9. In this week's top five, we take a look at the toughest opponents on the Eagles' 2010 schedule.
5. N.C. State (October 9, Raleigh, N.C.)
It is probably a testament to the scheduling break that BC gets this year that the Wolfpack crack a top five list of toughest opponents. This season, BC misses Miami, Georgia Tech and North Carolina from the ACC's Coastal Division -- three top 25 teams in the preseason.
N.C. State does return one of the best offenses in the ACC, led by junior quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson, a two-sport athlete that was drafted earlier this summer by the Colorado Rockies, decided to stay in school to complete his junior year on the gridiron. Wilson led the conference last season throwing 31 touchdown passes for over 3,000 yards.
If there's a weakness to this Wolfpack team, however, it's on the defensive side of the ball. State returns just three starters from a defensive unit that ranked in the bottom half of the ACC in scoring defense (11th), passing defense (ninth) and total defense (eighth). The N.C. State linebacking corps will get a boost from the return of Nate Irving, who missed the 2009 season with injuries suffered in a car crash.
N.C. State will be able to put a lot of points on the board, but their success this season will rest on their ability to stop opposing offenses. Last season, in a game at BC's Alumni Stadium, running back Montel Harris had a career day torching the Wolfpack defense, rushing for 264 yards and 5 TDs in a 52-20 romp over N.C. State.
Former Eagles coach Tom O'Brien will be looking for his first win over BC since making the jump to N.C. State (0-3).
For more on N.C. State, be sure to check out SB Nation's Backing The Pack.
4. Clemson (October 30, Chestnut Hill, Ma.)
The Eagles used to have Clemson's number in each of their first three years in the ACC. In 2005, BC traveled to Death Valley and eked out a 16-13 overtime victory over the Tigers. In 2006, it was another overtime game. This time, a blocked extra point in the second OT was the difference as the Eagles escaped with a 34-33 victory. In 2007, with the Atlantic Division title on the line, Matt Ryan engineered a dramatic fourth quarter comeback to win 20-17 and earn the Eagles their first ever Division title.
The tables have turned the last two seasons, though, as new Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is now 2-0 against BC. Last year's early trip to Death Valley was particularly embarrassing for the Eagles, whose offense failed to get the ball past midfield until well into the third quarter. Nearly six hours later, after multiple game stoppages due to lightning, the Eagles fell to Clemson, 25-7.
Boston College will be looking to avenge that loss to when these two teams hook up in Chestnut Hill Oct. 30. Like N.C. State's Russell Wilson, Clemson QB Kyle Parker was also selected by the Colorado Rockies in this year's MLB Entry Draft, and like Wilson, Parker decided to return to football this fall. The Clemson offense should take a step back this season without the stellar play-making abilities of C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford, but don't expect that big of a drop off with running backs Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper.
You can read up on Clemson's upcoming football season over at Shakin The Southland.
3. Notre Dame (October 2, Chestnut Hill)
Notre Dame travels to Chesnut Hill on Oct. 2, holding a slight 10-9 edge in the all-time series between these two Holy War opponents. In 2009, Notre Dame snapped a six-game losing streak to the Eagles that went all the way back to 2000. The Irish intercepted a Dave Shinskie pass with just 1:30 left to seal the 20-16 victory for Notre Dame.
This season, there will be many new faces on the Irish sideline, starting with first year head coach. Kelly, the Everett, Mass. native turned college football program reviver, with successful stops at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan and Cincinnati, will need to prop up an Irish defense that was woeful against the run (89th nationally).
The Irish offense was very effective last season -- averaging 451.8 yards per game (8th best in the country) -- but Kelly will have to replace senior quarterback Jimmy Clausen. He'll likely turn the QB reins over to sophomore Dayne Crist, who has thrown just 20 passes in his young collegiate career.
On paper, this is a game the Eagles should win. But the Holy War series between BC and Notre Dame has produced some strange, last-minute reversals of fortune in past years. You never really know what will happen when the Eagles and Irish square off on the gridiron.
SB Nation's Notre Dame community is Rakes of Mallow.
2. at Florida State (October 16, Tallahassee, Fla.)
If you believe the preseason hype surrounding the Florida State Seminoles, then BC's Oct. 16 trip to Tallahassee is shaping up to be a de facto ACC Atlantic Division Championship game.
First year coach Jimbo Fisher looks to replace legendary coach Bobby Bowden in his first year at the helm. Fisher, along with new defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, is working to rebuild a defense that finished in the very bottom of the ACC last season -- 10th in scoring defense, 11th in passing defense and last in both rushing defense and total defense.
Offense shouldn't be a problem, with Heisman hopeful quarterback Christian Ponder returning for his senior season. Not only is Ponder a reason for optimism in Tallahassee, but the 'Noles also return every starting offensive lineman, every running back and a couple of talented wide receivers.
If Florida State can successfully navigate a brutal first-half schedule that includes trips to Miami and Oklahoma, and a home tilt against BYU, the Seminoles could carry that momentum into a strong second half and their first ACC Atlantic Division title since 2005.
Last season, the Seminoles played the Eagles tough in Chestnut Hill, but Montel Harris' fourth quarter, 42-yard touchdown run was the difference in a 28-21 win (it was the first win by the home team in the series since the Eagles joined the ACC).
Check out Tomahawk Nation for more information on the Seminoles leading up to their season opener on Sept. 4.
1. Virginia Tech (September 25, Chestnut Hill)
The toughest opponent BC will face in 2010 is Virginia Tech. The Hokies enter the year as a top-10 team and a legitimate contender for the BCS National Title.
A year ago, BC was straight up embarrassed by the Hokies in a 48-14 loss where the final score wasn't nearly indicative of the beat down the Eagles received. Virginia Tech took a 34-0 lead into halftime and never looked back, swarming and confusing BC QB Dave Shinskie all day. Despite two fourth quarter touchdown passes from BC backup quarterback Mike Marscovetra, the 34 point loss was still the largest defeat for the Eagles since 2000.
This year, the Hokies return seven starters on an improved offense that ranked second in both scoring and rushing offense in the ACC last season. QB Tyrod Taylor returns for his senior season (and what feels like his eighth season in Blacksburg). The Hokies running game should be bolstered by the return of RB Darren Evans, who missed last season with a torn ACL. Evans will join All-ACC running back Ryan Williams in the backfield, making the Hokies 1-2 rushing attack the most formidable in the ACC and one of the best in the country.
If there's one area where the Hokies will have to improve, it's on the defensive side of the ball. The Hokies return just three starters to a defense that finished top-12 last season. On paper, this Virginia Tech defense seems like the toughest rebuilding task yet for defensive coordinator Bud Foster.
If the Eagles have one thing going for them, it's that they get the Hokies at home this year. In addition, BC will have an extra week to prepare for Virginia Tech as they will be coming off their only bye week of the season after hosting both Weber State and Kent State in the season's first two games.
Hokies fans congregate over at SB Nation's Virginia Tech blog Gobbler Country.