October 30, 2006

Win and in

Matt Ryan said it best after Saturday's scrimmage against Buffalo.

"This is the stretch run," the quarterback said after sitting out the 41-0 win over the Bulls. "This is where we wanted to put ourselves in position to be at the beginning of the season, we've gotten ourselves to that position and it's all about finishing.

"We've got four conference games and those games are going to determine what our future is this year."

It couldn't have been put any better. It's right there - thanks to Virginia Tech's win over Clemson last Thursday.

Simply put, and I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, BC beats Wake Forest, Duke and Maryland and the game at Miami doesn't matter all that much - the Eagles are in the ACC title game. It can't get any clearer than that, now, can it?

The Eagles go into Wake Forest tied with Wake and Maryland for the top spot in the Atlantic. Life will be difficult for BC if it loses this Saturday - not impossible, just difficult. As we said, though it's never been any clearer than "Just win."

Saturday, the rains and winds came. But nothing was going to spoil the days for the locals with the worst team in the country in town (yes, I would take Temple to win a re-match now after the Owls beat Bowling Green Saturday). The worst team was already here, the team which now has the nation's longest losing streak (Duke, 16 straight) is still on the schedule.

On one hand, this schedule looked a bit more difficult than it turned out to be when it came out. BC had the two games in Florida and the home game against Virginia Tech. I'm just not quite sure we all expected Clemson, Wake and Maryland to be more difficult than the three perennial powers. In a way, it's upside down, but, as we've said before, it has helped a BC team that's been allowed to be young and growing while also being able to go for a conference title.

Wouldn't that be something? A league championship - or at least playing in the title game - in the second year in the ACC? Think about it - all it does is show that it's about more than BC just belonging in the new league; it's about the future, the recruiting, the image. There were no lumps taken in the transition, just transition.

In short, BC went in there in football and basketball and SHOCKED all the detractors. No bumps, no bruises, just winning.

Give this team credit for what it did Saturday - the voters did as BC moved up to No. 16 in the AP poll (c'mon, doesn't it look funny having Rutgers at No. 15?). There was work to be done and these kids, playing without their leaders on both offense and defense, went out there and got soaked and got it done. With the exception of that NC State loss (which wouldn't have happened without the botched snap), the Eagles have gotten it done whenever they had to all season.

Could it all be falling into place for a special finish? Sure, it could - this could be about more than just making it to Jacksonville. This could be about the BCS, the Orange Bowl, a second straight game and third of the year in Florida.

Remember one thing about the bowl picture though - everyone loves to talk about playing on Jan. 1, but the biggest non-BCS payout for a bowl is the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, Dec. 30 in Atlanta, the old Peach. BC could finish second and wind up there.

Matt Ryan's overall stats won't benefit from not playing Saturday as he stays in the hunt for ACC Player of the Year honors - but the rest, in those conditions, can only be a plus with the four games in less than four weeks coming up. As far as Player of the Year, are there any candidates besides Ryan, Clemson's Gaines Adams or Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson? If I had to vote right now, Ryan's the guy.

Hey, I look forward to seeing some of you next week at the annual writers' get-together over at The Heights. It's always a fine time, filled with great discussion (the food's not bad, either). This year, I think it takes on a bit more meaning with the success this football team is having. Hope to see you there!

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