When the Boston College Eagles football team ran off the field on Alumni Stadium on Friday, September 6, it may have been after 11 o’clock at night, but the situation looked bright. You could see on the faces of the players how excited they were to have fought their way to two early wins after the last few years they’ve had. There was a genuine joy about it, and when the USC Trojans fell at home to the Washington State Cougars late the following night, optimism was at its highest point in a long time.
Would the Eagles improve and catch a talented USC team at the right time, doing to them what the Cougars did?
No, they did not, and it was probably always going to happen this way, whether or not we wanted to believe it.
Not everybody got caught up in the emotion of winning some football games, regardless of the quality of opponents, but it is entirely justifiable that people did. We’re fans, after all, and we all want to see our teams do well no matter who they play. Boston College accomplished in two games in 2013 what it took them all season to do in 2012. What’s more is that the players are allowed to be proud of that and build some confidence.
Football games are not played on paper, but if they were, then what we would see is that the Trojans are a deeper, more talented team built to win now and every year. The Eagles, on the other hand, are a team in the third game of a multi-year rebuild. The disparity between Boston College and USC is large, and the 2013 Eagles at maximum effort would lose to the 2013 Trojans at maximum effort almost every time.
Still, Washington State appeared to give the Eagles a blueprint on how to beat them, through no fault of their own: it was going to take USC playing another bad game. There is no shame in thinking Boston College could have kept the game close, but there was one certain way that it would not be: if USC sorted out its mess and therefore played football the way they are meant to play it.
Coming into this game, the Trojans looked like a disheveled program, on the cusp of underachieving and the coach getting fired. USC had many doubters, and there was little that happened in the first two games to suggest that they were going to get on a roll. What they had to do was focus, put together a cohesive gameplan, and silence their doubters by beating up a team they were supposed to beat up.
Give USC a lot of credit, because they did it. They were given their wake-up call last weekend, and they responded in a big way. Their backs were against the wall, and they made the talent disparity between the Trojans and Eagles look every bit as big as it actually is. Were the game played on paper, the result we saw on Saturday is probably very close to what that might have been: a dominant football game in which the Eagles were never really competitive.
In defense of ourselves and every person who thought Boston College might have had a shot, we did not precisely know if USC was going to be able to respond to getting socked in the mouth by the Cougars. They did and again, they deserve credit. This game on Saturday was all about USC making a statement and getting themselves back on track. Each team played largely to their potential in Saturday’s game, and the result we saw is both accurate and representative of where each program stands right now. It was going to take the Trojans playing another dreadful game for the Eagles to be in this one, but at the end of the day, they did exactly what they were supposed to do. Of course, there were things Boston College could have done better, but it might not have mattered, because this was a mismatch from the start.
This letdown was probably always coming, and it was not until the past week that it seemed Boston College had any chance. As it turned out, to the ultimate surprise of nobody, the Eagles were reminded that they still have a long, long way to go before they are ready to contend with the USCs of the world again.