A big thank you to Dan Rubin for reaching out and offering to share about a fellow ACC program. We're officially in football starvation mode and he is helping us survive! Now, onto my questions!
The road trip I am most excited for this season is the long trek up to Boston College. I've never been to Massachusetts. To start, can you tell those of us making the trip up what to expect from Alumni stadiums, BC fans, and the campus?
There's a few things you'll learn as soon as you get to New England. For starters, it's the perfect time of year in the fall. The leaves will just start changing colors, and we'll be at the time of year where it's still warm-ish during the day and cool at night. So you can walk around during the day and take in the sunshine, then throw on a hoodie and head to the game. If we hit the time of year named "Indian summer," then it'll get wicked warm, but other than that, it's just that crisp air that lets you know it's football season in Boston.
For Clemson fans, the trip north is always interesting. The campus is beautiful, and the Jesuit identity is obvious from the gothic style of buildings. But the stadium itself is smaller than anything you're likely to see (it only seats 44,000 fans), and while BC has its hardcore group of fans, there will be substantial amounts of orange. At the same time, the fans are much more tepid here than they are elsewhere, and it might be a little bit shocking. But you have to bear in mind that BC is in an area where they compete with four ultra-successful pro sports teams, and are within four miles of a half dozen schools that form academic rivalries with them. It makes it ultra competitive for attention. It's a very different culture, one that will feel more niche and smaller than what people are used to in Death Valley.
That said, I've never heard someone say that they didn't like the trip north to Boston. There's tons to do, plenty of history dating back to the 1700s, and more than enough character. I've always found Clemson fans to be gracious, so hopefully the BC fans turn out and create a great atmosphere for a Friday night.
Could you give us one place to go before the game on Friday and a more relaxing and maybe tourist-y place to check out on Saturday?
Well - make it somewhere close. Traffic on a Friday in and around Boston is a nightmare, so getting to the stadium will be a logistical nightmare. Each of the past couple of years, the Friday night game has been the absolute worst one to drive to or get around the city since the majority of people are on the roads or trolleys during rush hour, which feels like it lasts from 530 AM until about 8 PM depending on where you live.
There isn't much out by BC because of its general location, so you will have to travel a little bit to get out to the stadium from your nighttime plans. I've found it's easiest just to direct people to more cliche places over by Fenway, places like Boston Beer Works or the Yard House over by Kenmore Square. There's also the Landsdowne Pub and the Cask N Flagon over that way. It's a little bit of a haul from Fenway to BC, so if you want to go closer, you can stop over by the pubs and bars on Comm Ave. by Boston University.
The MBTA's Green Line trolley runs out to Boston College with the B line, which ends at BC, but it takes a while to get from Kenmore down to the stadium. It's also about a 10 minute walk from the train into campus to get to Alumni. You can also take the D line out to Chestnut Hill or Reservoir (the D line is the Riverside line), then walk, which will be nice during October, but I personally find it easier to direct people from out of town to the B line.
In terms of your Saturday, there's plenty to do in town. Faneuil Hall is a place you really need to see once in your life, and the Boston Common is also pretty awesome. Most bars and nightlife spots are in that general area, with other areas littered throughout the city. Faneuil Hall is also a short-ish walk to the TD Garden area, where there's some awesome sports bars like The Fours and Hurricane O'Reilly's.
The Garden area is also close enough to get over to the North End, which is Italian food at its best and our answer to Little Italy. The USS Constitution is over that way too, over in the Charlestown Navy Yard, which is the same Charlestown featured in The Town. When you're in the North End, the places on Hanover Street are awesome for food, and there's an eternal battle between which pastry place is better - Mike's or Modern. I usually just tell people to go to Cafe Vittoria, sit down, order a pastry and a cappuccino, then go to the Stanza del Cigare for a cigar after.
If you're more into tours, there's a couple of different options. You can hit the Freedom Trail, which is a 2.5-mile walkway that hits more than a dozen spots important to American history. Or you can grab a trolley tour, but the big one is the Duck Tour, which shows you around town, then drops you into the Charles River for a cruise on the water.
Entirely long winded there, but I was born and raised here and I could talk about it for hours.
On to football, it seems like BC's offense had everything imaginable go wrong for them last season. They have a new QB coming in via graduate transfer from Kentucky and Scott Loeffler taking over as OC after stints at Auburn and most recently VT. His past few offenses have been mediocre at best, and while the changes as a whole around BC's offense should help this year, how do you feel about this hire long term? What type of offense will we see from the Eagles?
I don't hate the Loeffler hire for a number of reasons. For starters, it's a change to a guy who worked with Steve Addazio in the past. After how bad the offense was last year, it's a good switch and a necessary switch. From what Addazio's said, he's done a good job bringing along the players who really struggled with development last year.
Last year's offensive was built around a young, inexperienced quarterback with young, inexperienced receivers and a young, inexperienced offensive line. They had no depth, and they dealt with injuries. Then the play calling and coaching became suspect. Bringing in guys like Loeffler and quarterback Patrick Towles give the team a chance to reboot and rebuild.
It's definitely not a long-term fix because Towles is only here for one year, and you have to assume that your coordinators are prone to turning over at some point (Ryan Day left after two years, then last year was Todd Fitch's only year). But it's okay as long as the mentality stays the same. We're not mortgaging the future, but we're not selling out the present in order to build for four years at this point either.
Short-term, what do you expect from BC this year? Can their defense do it again?
You look at the defense and the majority of it is back. They have returnees on the line, a couple of really great returning linebackers, and a returning secondary. They're going to keep the terminology, the scheme, and everything the same despite having a new defensive coordinator (Jim Reid) after their old one (Don Brown) went to Michigan. So it's okay to expect the defense to be elite.
But can they be as good as they were a year ago? That's a tough sell. Last year's defense remained a #1-ranked defense despite having one of the worst offenses in college football history. I don't know that anyone can reach that level. Even if they take a couple of steps back, they can remain one of the best as opposed to THE best.
If they take one or two steps back, they still remain one of the 20 best defenses in the nation, which anyone would take - as long as the offense gets better. Some kind of balance would be better than the extremes we had last year.
Long-Term, what are your expectations for this program? Would a string of 7 and 8 win seasons warm your soul or do you expect more after all the success with Matt Ryan?
Everyone wants to be a 10-win team with the chance to compete for a division championships, and having been that, it's something BC should strive to be. But at the same time, I don't like living in the past. Matt Ryan's magical seasons were 10 years ago, and the desire to return to what that team was is an endless quest.
I want BC to become something more than that. I get very tired very fast when talking about the way things used to be, and I instead ask about what it takes to become something more moving forward. I think Steve Addazio can be the guy to get BC to compete, but he needs the infrastructure. BC lags behind everyone in facilities, so I look for the program to get a much more solid footing. They announced a new Indoor Practice Facility, but I'm not content with just being a team that competes incredibly for two years than falls off.
So I think the expectation has to be what BC can do to become like those teams who are in front of them. You have to find your way and create your edge. You're never going to be Florida State or Clemson, but with the right combination, you can compete. And I think BC, with the right commitment, can get back to what they were - which was a team capable of competing.