CLEMSON — When the gates part at Memorial Stadium for the fourth time this season, the atmosphere expects to be relatively tepid.
The calm before the storm, comparatively. It’s hard to keep 80,000-plus football fans to a dull roar, but stacked up against the scene at Death Valley on Aug. 31 — the season-opening bonanza featuring Georgia — and the expected showdown a week from now against Florida State, it’s just not the same.
Boston College is the 26th unranked opponent to try its luck as Clemson’s guest since the third game of Dabo Swinney’s head coaching career, a period spanning nearly five years on the calendar.
The last 25 have been sent on their way without a win. Only two have been so gritty to stick within 10 points by the end of 60 minutes, and they’re not who you’d expect — Wofford (35-27) and Wake Forest (31-28), each blips in the Tigers’ 2011 ACC Championship campaign.
Needless to say, the third-ranked Tigers (5-0, 3-0 ACC) have bigger fish to fry in the long run, looking to complete a perfect first half of their overall and conference slates without losing their rhythm or any key players due to injury Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on ABC regionally and ESPN2 nationally.
The odds are stacked against the Golden Eagles (3-2, 1-1), a plucky bunch with a drill sergeant of a new head coach (Steve Addazio) who have already surpassed their 2012 win collection by defeating Villanova, Wake Forest and Army.
Boston College has lost 11 straight against ranked opponents, last beating No. 20 Florida State 27-17 in Tallahassee on Nov. 15, 2008. The program has only one win over a top-3 opponent in its history, over No. 1-ranked Notre Dame in 1993.
Addazio took over a rebuilding project, but he’s got pieces. His senior quarterback, Chase Rettig, is on the second tier of ACC passers, but he does have 7,000 career yards (fourth in BC history, in range of catching Matt Ryan by season’s end) and lit up Clemson for 341 yards and three touchdowns last year.
And he’s a complementary threat to Clemson’s revived defense. Senior tailback Andre Williams averages 153.6 yards per game, more than any other Division I rusher. Senior Alex Amidon, third in the league with 32 catches, is a former all-ACC receiver.
However, BC’s defense is second-to-worst in the ACC, allowing 411 yards a contest. Clemson’s offense checks in at 518.2 yards a game, which could lead to a big day for quarterback Tajh Boyd and his fellow starters as long as they remain in the game.
The Boston College-Clemson winner retains the O’Rourke-McFadden Trophy, sponsored first in 2008. The Tigers have taken the leather helmet replica home four out of five times.
It was predictable, yet noticeable, that the words “Florida State” never left Swinney’s lips during his three weekly sitdowns with the media.
While the Seminoles toil in silence during their bye week, their coach, Jimbo Fisher, insisted this week would return to fundamentals, and the Clemson game plan could wait for now. Clemson has to hold up its end of the bargain, and plans to accomplish that by zoning in on its only true opponent this week.
Of course, with a move to 6-0, the Florida State attention will descend on the program about 45 seconds after the Tigers leave the field Saturday. ESPN’s College GameDay is expected to make its second trek to Clemson this season and third in its 21-year traveling history, a harbinger of the nation’s attention returning to Clemson after six weeks elsewhere.
But first things first.
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