It’s hard to imagine that Clemson has won seven of the last eight meetings against Boston College. Not that a program like Clemson’s shouldn’t dominate a Boston College program that does not have the same advantages, it just that the games have been more competitive than what the actual record books show.
Of course we all know how the series with the Eagles began. Banks McFadden led the Tigers to a 6-3 victory over Boston College in the 1940 Cotton Bowl, Clemson’s first ever bowl game. The two programs played 11 more times over the next 20 years as the Tigers won six of those games.
The two met again in 1982 and 1983 as a little guy by the name of Doug Flutie tied the defending national champion Tigers in the 1982 game, and then led his team to 28-unanswered points in the last 25 minutes in the ’83 game to defeat Clemson, 31-16, in Chestnut Hill.
It was another 22 years before the two teams hooked up again on the football field, and again the Eagles got the best of the Tigers. Now as a member of the ACC, and an Atlantic Division rival, BC stunned the Tigers with an overtime win in 2005. A guy by the name of Matt Ryan, who threw for 500 plus yards in last week’s win for Atlanta over the Carolina Panthers, quarterbacked the Eagles that day.
In fact, Ryan was a perfect 3-0 against the Tigers as he led BC to a double overtime win in Chestnut Hill in 2006, and then returned to Death Valley and broke Clemson’s heart with a last-minute touchdown pass for another thrilling victory.
Clemson finally broke through and earned a 27-21 victory over the Eagles in 2008. It was the Tigers’ first win over a BC team since 1958, and the first time they won in the Boston area since 1952. It also happened to be Dabo Swinney’s first win as a head coach and the dawning of a new era in the rivalry.
Prior to 2008, Clemson was 0-5-1 against the Eagles dating back to 1960.
“I have a picture in my house of that first win. It is pretty special,” Swinney said. “I will never forget that group of guys. Sometimes I will look at that picture. I’m in the locker room and all of the guys around me. I’ll look and I just start looking at those faces … Mike Hamlin, Jock McKissic, Tyler Grisham, Jacoby Ford, CJ Spiller, Ricky Sapp, James Davis. Just looking at them and it is like, ‘Wow! We have come a long way since that very first win.’
“Those are kind of the forefathers of where we are now as a program. They got us going, they really did.”
Since then, Clemson has become one of the premiere programs in the country, the Tigers head into Friday night’s game at Boston College with a 19-game regular-season winning streak and have won 11 straight ACC games overall, including last year’s ACC Championship Game.
Boston College on the other hand as slipped since then. After playing for the ACC Championship in 2007 and 2008, the Eagles have had three losing seasons in the last five years and enter this week’s game with a 10-game losing streak in the ACC.
But none of that guarantees Clemson a victory on Friday night. Though I believe the Tigers will win the game, history tells me they will have a dog fight on their hands.
Since BC joined the ACC in 2005, Clemson has a 3-2 advantage in games played at Chestnut Hill, and though the Tigers have won the last two meetings there, it has not been easy.
In 2012, Tajh Boyd and DeAndre Hopkins had to outscore a 2-10 Boston College team, 45-31. Then two years ago, former quarterback Cole Stoudt engineered a fourth-quarter comeback and then the defense held on for a 17-13 victory.
The final margin of victory in the five games played at Chestnut Hill is just 6.2 points per game.
“We are excited about going to Boston and it is another big challenge for us,” Swinney said. “They always play us tough and every time we go up there it is always a battle. In fact, two or three times up there we have been fortunate to come away with the win.”
See, sometimes the record books don’t always tell the whole story.