It was a simple survey. Boston College football coach Frank Spaziani asked his players a question to which he already knew the answer.
“Raise your hand,” he said. “Who has aspirations of playing in the NFL?”
The hands flew up.
He then told them, “Well, Saturday night, you’re getting your chance.”
There’s no disputing the talent of Saturday’s opponent, Florida State. In fact, a mock draft could be made from the host Seminoles’ defensive depth chart.
“Those are NFL guys,” Spaziani said. “They’re good players.”
The Eagles will face their most formidable opponent at a time when their season is most fragile.
Coming off a jarring loss to Army, the Eagles are 1-4 (0-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) and searching for answers. They’ve gone more than a month without a win, and now have an opportunity for a signature one.
“All wins count the same,” Spaziani said. “But certain wins, they’re weighted a little bit different. Certainly going down there and beating a team of their caliber would be a good thing.”
A feeling permeated the Eagles’ locker room almost immediately following the Army loss.
“There’s always a thing where you shouldn’t lose two games,” said linebacker Steele Divitto. “You should be so outraged by the game before that you shouldn’t lose two in a row. Obviously, we’ve lost four games, and right now I’m starving for a win.”
For a team now forced to boil its season down to seven games, a trophy win against Florida State could be much like the one against Clemson two years ago that sparked five straight.
“It’s an absolutely phenomenal opportunity,” said Divitto.“That’s a national team, we’re playing on national TV. It’s very exciting. This could be the game where we get things rolling.”
The Eagles are trying to answer a standing eight count, the Seminoles are trying to get off the mat after being knocked down last week.
Florida State had the BCS national championship game in its crosshairs until North Carolina State pulled off a 17-16 upset. The Seminoles came in No. 3 in the nation, the highest they had been ranked since 2003. The loss sent them tumbling to No. 12, and coach Jimbo Fisher had to reinforce to his team that it still controlled its destiny, even as many erased it from the championship picture.
“You have to just play one game at a time,” said Fisher, whose team dropped to 5-1, 2-1. “It’s a 12-game season, and as I say sometimes, as writers and people and fans and different people understand, you make it a three- or four-game season, and it’s not. It’s a 12-game season. Every game is very important, and I think we learned a valuable lesson. And hopefully, I thought we did.
“We played a great first half, just didn’t finish the game. You know, you can’t worry about that. There’s a lot of ball to be played. You have to go out and you play ball and you have to get better as a team. You have to win the games that are in front of you and take care of your business, and then if those situations fall into place, they fall into place, and that’s not coach talk, that’s not clíché. That’s the way you have to do it because there’s too many distractions and too much clutter, and you have to do it that way.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.