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SPORTS LIBRARY, Clemson, football

Today we look at the No. 2 Clemson Tigers’ 10th game as they travel to Chestnut Hill, Mass., for a battle with the Boston College Eagles — who enter the game with a 7-2 overall record and 4-1 in the ACC.

Head coach Steve Addazio entered his sixth season at Boston College with a mixed bag of results — having gone 7-6 four times and winning only three games in 2015.

Nonetheless, the fan base and the administration appear to be pleased with the way the program has been run. However, there has been some frustration by some wanting the team to pick an identity and stick to it.

The Eagles began last season with a 2-4 record and needed to win four of their last six games to become bowl-eligible. They proceeded to knock off the Louisville Cardinals and Virginia Cavaliers before routing the Seminoles of Florida State 35-3 and closing out the season with wins over Connecticut and Syracuse.

The 2018 team appears primed to compete with the Tigers as they have reached No. 17 in the College Football Playoff rankings and have their sights set on unseating the Tigers as the top team in the league and heading to the ACC Championship game.

But as always, Addazio understands the challenge that his Eagles face this week.

“We are facing and unbelievable challenge playing the No. 2 team in the country in Clemson,” Addazio said. “I will honestly and candidly tell you that this may be the best team I've seen in my career. It's certainly the best time I've seen since I've been at Boston College. They are in the top 5 in almost every statistical category. They are sensational on both sides of the ball. They are explosive. They have got first-rounders all over the field. They're a legitimate, legitimate big-time team. Alabama 1, they're 2, and that's the elite of college football right now by a long shot.

“So it will certainly be a huge challenge for us, but we are looking forward to it and looking forward to the fact that we can play this game right here at home at Chestnut Hill.”

Eagles on offense

The 2017 season took a turn for the positive when the normally unchanging Addazio changed up his offense, using more up-tempo play calling and giving the ball to running back A.J. Dillon.

Dillon quickly became one of the nation’s top running backs — drawing Heisman Trophy talk among some of the national media — as he amassed 1,589 yards and 14 touchdowns, including rushing for more than 140 yards in all but one of the Eagles’ final seven games.

With the return of Dillon to the backfield for the Eagles, the goal of quarterback Anthony Brown — who suffered a knee inury in mid-November — will be to simply not screw anything up for Addazio. A bevy of serviceable receivers in tight end Tommy Sweeney, Kobay White and Jeff Smith, who amassed 95 receptions for 1,231 yards and six touchdowns, should be able to keep defenses honest and provide Dillon some help on offense.

Behind the mastery of offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler, the Eagles have put together an offense that prides itself on running the ball while utilizing three, and sometimes four, tight ends at a time in a variety of creative ways.

But for Addazio, facing a defense like Clemson means they are going to have to play a near-perfect game.

“I'd say that I think Brent Venables is one of the finest defensive coordinators in the country on top of it all,” Addazio said. “They not only have good players, but he is outstanding and goes a great job of putting together their package of pressures of things that really alter and affect you.”

Eagles on defense

The Eagle defense is where there could be issues, as BC lost its leading tackler, Ty Schwab, and seniors Isaac Yiadom, Kamrin Moore, Noa Merritt and Harold Landry.

The Eagles return defensive end Zach Allen, who finished the 2017 season with 100 tackles, 15.5 for loss and six sacks; linebacker Connor Strachan, who missed the 2017 season after leading the Eagles in tackles in 2016, and senior safety Lukas Denis, who intercepted seven passes last season.

While the Eagles have struggled this season on defense — ranking 47th in scoring defense, 55th in rush defense, 56th in pass defense and 49th in total defense — Addazio believes his Eagles will be up for the challenge of facing one of the hottest offenses in America.

“Obviously we are going to have to play great defense,” Addazio said. “Their offense is extremely explosive. I mean, they are the most explosive they have been. Quarterback is a great thrower. Really confident guy. The running back might be one of the very finest in the country, like ours. They have got a really good offensive line. They have got elite receivers. So they are very, very explosive. They are averaging something is like 48 points a game or something right around that number. That's a real number. I think they average something like giving up 13 points a game. That's a pretty big swing right there.

“I just think that our kids have the mentality that we are going to play our level and our brand of football, which is going to be physical and tough, and we are going to go after them that way. That's not going to change. Just let it hang out and see where we are.”

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Zach Lentz is a Clemson University alumnus who got his start working with the Tigers basketball team from 1999-2004. Now a resident of Orangeburg County, he reports on Clemson sports as a correspondent for The Times and Democrat. He also serves as a co-host of Solid Orange, seen at 11 p.m. Wednesdays on WACH FOX 57 in Columbia.


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