With its position at the bottom rung of the Atlantic Coast Conference standings cemented following Saturday's 28-14 loss at Wake Forest, the challenge for the Boston College football team now will be to keep the process of playing its final three games from feeling like walking the green mile.
At 2-7, the Eagles will miss out on a bowl for the second straight season, and coach Frank Spaziani has watched the team's record dive in each of his four seasons.
With Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina State left on the schedule — one team with BCS title hopes and two still fighting to reach bowls — Spaziani said the Eagles have to remember they still have something to play for as well.
"There's a lot of motivation," Spaziani said. "We play for a lot more reasons than just the obvious ones to everybody. There's a lot of motivation with the rest of the season and there's a lot of motivation you get out of it."
On the hot seat all season, Spaziani's personal challenge will be thinking about what needs to change while finishing out the season. Managing an inexperienced team, hobbled by injuries before the season started, Spaziani maintained throughout the season that the Eagles' issues are solvable. But the most pressing matter now, he said, is Saturday night's prime-time game against Notre Dame at Alumni Stadium.
"You always have long-range plans," Spaziani said. "The man that doesn't plan for his future has no future, right? But the immediate thing is the next game. That's the most important thing about the future and that's the beauty of football. That's what we're trying to do, take care of the next week.
"Winning takes care of everything, you know?"
But the Eagles are at the point at which there are no longer enough wins left on the schedule to salvage the season. Their best option at this point is spoiling other teams' seasons.
After surviving a triple-overtime thriller with Pittsburgh Saturday, the Irish improved to 9-0, holding steady at No. 4 in the Associated Press Top 25. The last two times the Eagles faced an undefeated Fighting Irish team, in 1993 and 2002, they dealt them losses.
Spaziani said he watched Notre Dame beat Pitt.
"What I see is a big task ahead and a big-league football team that's certainly a national title contender," he said. "They're well-coached and they have very good players. I think we're more concerned with ourselves and how we have to prepare for the game and mentally approach it."
The thoughts will still creep in, though — what's gone wrong in a wretched season and what needs to change to make sure the next one doesn't hold the same struggles.
Quarterback Chase Rettig said the team will have to tune those thoughts out.
"I don't think we can look at it that way," he said. "I think we just have to look at the next week. A much as it plagues your mind a little bit, you have to go and you have to play the next week. We've just got to go play, play for each other, and keep working hard."
. . .
Running back Andre Williams was evaluated Sunday after leaving Saturday's loss with an abdominal injury. If Williams can't play against Notre Dame, the depth chart gets dicey. When Spaziani listed his options after Williams, the order was David Dudeck, converted defensive back James McCaffrey, then Rolandan Finch. "Next man in line," he said. "We'll just go down the batting order and take the running backs that we have." . . . Senior wideout Colin Larmond Jr. returned to the team Sunday after serving a three-week suspension for violating team policy . . . Offensive guard Ian White was also evaluated after walking off the field Saturday on crutches, but his status is uncertain.
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.