Who didn’t see this one coming? Correct answer: absolutely no one, almost.
Heading into the 2017 season, defending national champion Clemson and Florida State were the overwhelming picks to win the ACC Atlantic and the conference championship. Not only that, but they were viewed as the league’s only realistic shot at a return to the College Football Playoffs.
With the seventh week of the season almost entirely in the books, and thanks in large part to Clemson spitting the bit Friday night, it’s North Carolina State that’s seated somewhat comfortably in the divisional driver’s seat following an impressive 35-17 win at Pitt.
If the Wolfpack is to win its first-ever divisional its and its first conference championship since 1979, however, they still have a couple of hurdles to clear.
While they’ve already knocked off Florida State and Louisville, they still have to face Clemson. The good news on that front, though, is that the Wolfpack gets the Tigers at home. Their other three conference opponents, Boston College, North Carolina and Wake Forest, are at the moment a combined 2-8 in ACC play.
And the injury hits just keep on coming for the Boston College football team.
BC confirmed Thursday that Connor Strachan will miss the remainder of the 2017 season with an unspecified knee injury. The starting linebacker had played in just two of the four games this season before being shut down by the program.
Last season, Strachan led the Eagles in tackles with 80, while his four fumble recoveries were tied for second nationally. He was named honorable mention All-ACC following his true junior season.
In addition to Strachan, fellow starting linebacker Max Richardson has been sidelined indefinitely with his own unspecified knee injury. Richardson, a true sophomore, is currently fifth on the team in tackles with 23.
BC had previously announced that center Jon Baker, who had started 27 straight games in the middle of the Eagles’ offensive line, would be sidelined with a season-ending knee injury. Additionally, wide receiver Charlie Callinan, with 30 starts under his belt, is out for an extended period of time because of a foot injury.
Boston College will be without wide receiver Charlie Callinan for “an extended period of time,” the program announced just before the Eagles’ date with Clemson on Saturday.
Callinan suffered a foot injury. The nature of the injury was not disclosed.
A senior from Westfield, N.J., Callinan was one of the most experienced players on the roster with 41 career appearances and 31 starts under his belt. He is the third BC player with at least 30 career games to be lost for an extended period of time this season.
Callinan posted the best game of his career in what may go down as the final game of his career, hauling in seven catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns in a 49-20 loss to Notre Dame a week ago.
Without him in the lineup, BC passed for 141 yards on 34 attempts in a 34-7 loss to the second-ranked Tigers.
If Clemson is to defend their national title this season, they will do so without the services of their reliable kicker.
The school confirmed various reports on Thursday evening that redshirt junior Greg Huegel was injured during the Tigers’ practice on Wednesday night — on the final kick, no less — and tore his ACL. He will have surgery and will not play again in 2017.
While he didn’t get the press of Deshuan Watson or others, Huegel was a key part of the Clemson run the past few seasons after taking over as the starter in 2015. The former walk-on was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist last year and had hit two of his four field goals to start off this season, one of which was a career-long 49 yard kick just last week.
Backup kicker Alex Spence is likely to take over for the Tigers in Huegel’s absence. The redshirt junior has never attempted a field goal in a game but has kicked off and made an extra point for Clemson this season.
Reserve tight end Cole Renfrow, the younger brother of title game star Hunter Renfrow, also tore his ACL in practice and is out the rest of the season as well.
Given the thin margins that College Football Playoff teams have nowadays, the loss of Huegel figures to be a big one for Dabo Swinney and company going forward. Clemson hosts Boston College this week but will face a stiff test on the road at Virginia Tech in an ACC title game rematch to end the month.
Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush did plenty of damage with his legs in a 49-20 victory over Boston College. Wimbush made up for a sub-par passing day by rushing for 207 rushing yards and four touchdowns, including a 65-yard run. Not to be outdone, Irish running back Josh Adams rushed for a game-high 229 yards in the road win.
If there was a key point in the second half, it may have come in the third quarter when Boston College failed to pick up a first down on a fourth-and-short at the Irish 30-yard line. The Eagles trailed 14-13 at the time and handed the ball to Jon Hilliman. In most situations, this would be a good decision for the Eagles, but it failed them this time. Notre Dame snuffed out the play and prevented Hilliman from picking up the first down. Notre Dame then orchestrated a nine-play drive to tack on a touchdown to push the lead to 21-13. Brandon Wimbush came through with the key play of the drive with his feet with a 46-yard run down the right side of the field on a 3rd and 10 from the Irish 45-yard line. Tony Jones Jr. later finished the drive with a one-yard score.
Boston College followed that sequence up by ending a drive with an interception, with Shaun Crawford picking off a pass. at the Notre Dame 27-yard line. Adams started the Irish drive with a 36-yard run, and Wimbush followed with a 33-yard pass to Durham Smythe to put the Irish inside the 10-yard line. Wimbush finished the drive by beating the BC defense to the right corner of the field to score a touchdown.
From there, Notre Dame continued to use the ground game to their advantage, scoring seven rushing touchdowns in the game.
Wimbush’s four rushing touchdowns and rushing yardage are school records for a Notre Dame quarterback.
Notre Dame will be on the road once again next week to take on Michigan State. The Spartans had a bye week this week but have gotten off to a bit of a confidence-boosting start to the season with back-to-back double-digit victories against Western Michigan and Bowling Green. Michigan State won last year’s meeting, 36-28, to snap a three-game losing streak against the Irish from 2011 through 2013.
It won’t get any easier for Boston College next week. The Eagles head to Death Valley to face defending national champion Clemson, who will either be coming off a big road win at Louisville or looking to get back on track after a loss. Either way, neither scenario is a good one for the Eagles.