A conference championship is not at stake. Not even a division title. But make no mistake, the mentality around the football offices at Boston College these days is more postseason than regular season. The Eagles know they have run out of wiggle room in terms of making it back to the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.
Quarterback Chris Crane said it was akin to a playoff atmosphere, which is why this afternoon's game against Clemson at Alumni Stadium will have even more sizzle.
No one at The Heights or in Death Valley is saying that this is like Clemson-South Carolina or Clemson-Georgia in terms of anticipation. But the competitive nature of the BC-Clemson series has increased the intensity.
BC (5-2, 2-2) has won the last four meetings, with the last three all of the high-anxiety variety - one decided in overtime, one in double overtime, and last year in a 3-point nail-biter that put the Eagles into the ACC title game.
This was supposed to be the year Clemson finally broke through - not only against BC, but in the ACC and nationally. The Tigers were the consensus pick in the conference, and ranked No. 9 in the country in the preseason.
A 34-10 loss to Alabama in the opener and an overall stumbling start cost Tigers coach Tommy Bowden his job. Interim coach Dabo Swinney had an extra week to get Clemson (3-4, 1-3) ready after dropping a 21-17 decision to Georgia Tech.
"We're not a broken team," Swinney said. "We're not an old jalopy that we put a new paint job on and some new rims. We got everything on this car. We've got a six-disc CD changer. We've got a moon roof, cruise control, nice paint job. When you see this car, you're going to say, 'Man, I'd like to drive that one.' Somewhere along the way we caught a flat tire. We've gotten low on gas. I'm trying to fill this tank back up, put some air back in the tires because this is a good football team."
So are the Eagles, whose mistakes sealed their fate in a 45-24 loss to North Carolina last Saturday. BC has committed eight turnovers in the last two games, seven by Crane.
"We need to take care of the football," said coach Jeff Jagodzinski. "And don't give up explosive plays. If you do both, you have a great chance of winning. That's the way it has been since the game started."
Jagodzinski said he will see how the game goes with regard to making a move at quarterback. "I won't change for the sake of change to appease people," he said. "I'm going to do what is best for the football team."
Jagodzinski had plenty of praise for Clemson. "Their skill is as good as anybody in the ACC, that's for sure," he said with a smile, knowing he might be making the same statement in two weeks when the Eagles travel to Florida State.
But his point is well taken. BC is not good enough to make mistakes and consistently win. Not when each ACC encounter is almost an elimination game in terms of winning a division title.
And as good as BC's defense is, it cannot be put in the position where it is down by a touchdown before it even appears on the field.
"For us to win, we have to play precise football," said Jagodzinski. "We have to play as a team. We can't turn the ball over."
Mark Blaudschun can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clemson at BC
When: Today, 3:30 p.m.
Where: Alumni Stadium.
TV, radio: ESPNU, WEEI (850)