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October 25, 2007

Eagles hope to avoid troublesome trend

MORE: Who has the edge? | Video preview

Be careful on the front porch. There is a trap door.

In three consecutive weeks, the nation's second-ranked team has had the floor fall out from under it, causing a tumble down the national rankings and BCS standings.

USC flopped against Stanford and dropped to 10th in The Associated Press poll. California stumbled against Oregon State, then tumbled to 10th. USF tripped at Rutgers and slipped to 11th.

Now, USF is 10th, USC 12th and California 21st in the BCS standings, which determines the teams that will play for the national championship in January.

Next on the porch is unbeaten Boston College, whose position appears to be more precarious than its predecessors. The Eagles face eighth-ranked Virginia Tech in a nationally televised clash Thursday night at raucous Lane Stadium. The Hokies are 8-1 at home in televised Thursday night games and 13-2 overall. But both those losses have come against Boston College.

"Our guys are just very excited about getting down there and playing a really, really good Virginia Tech team," Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski said. "I think it's going to be a hell of an atmosphere, and it should be a lot of fun for both teams."

A lot of fun? That might be subject for debate, especially for the team that loses. But there's no doubt there's a lot at stake.

A victory would enable Boston College to stay a step ahead in the ACC Atlantic Division race and remain in the national-championship picture. A victory likely would enhance the Heisman Trophy prospects of quarterback Matt Ryan, who has thrown for 2,148 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Virginia Tech also has championship aspirations. The Hokies are game behind Virginia in the ACC Coastal race. At eighth in the BCS standings, they aren't out of the national-championship discussion.

But the Hokies are dealing with more than just a Heisman-contending quarterback and a BC defense that is the nation's best against the run. Virginia Tech also is unsettled at linebacker with Vince Hall sidelined by a broken wrist and Cam Martin questionable as he tries to recover from mononucleosis.

In addition, freshman quarterback Tyrod Taylor has a sprained ankle, and it's unclear whether he or Sean Glennon will start.

"It will be Thursday before we know what his status is going to be," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said of Taylor.

All that uncertainty might seem to set up a BC victory, but Jagodzinski knows there are causes for concern.

The Eagles haven't been dominant, winning just 24-14 over Division I-AA Massachusetts on Sept. 29 and struggling to a 27-14 victory over Notre Dame on Oct. 13.

There is the issue of playing at Lane Stadium, which is one of the nation's greatest home-field advantages. There's the presence on the sideline of Beamer, among college football's most successful coaches. And, of course, there is the upset epidemic that this season has plagued several top-10 teams.

"It's been just a crazy year with all these teams getting upset," Jagodzinski said. "It's been a different year. It looks like, and I told my guys this, you've got to come prepared every week. If you don't, you're eligible for a butt-kicking."

MORE: Who has the edge? | Video preview

Olin Buchanan is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at obuchanan@rivals.com.

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