COACH: Frank Spaziani (first season).
LAST SEASON: 9-5 overall, 5-3 in ACC (first in ACC Atlantic). Lost to Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game. Lost to Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl.
FINAL 2008 RIVALS.COM RANKING: 29th.
KEEP AN EYE ON: The suspension and resulting transfer of sophomore QB Dominique Davis – who started late last season – means that junior college transfer Codi Boek, redshirt freshman Justin Tuggle or redshirt freshman Alexander Atiyeh will open the season as Boston College's starting quarterback. The Eagles' chances of contending for a third consecutive Atlantic Division title depend in large part on whether one of those candidates can do an adequate job. The Eagles also need LB Mike McLaughlin to recover quickly from an Achilles injury, particularly now that 2008 ACC defensive player of the year Mark Herzlich has been diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a form of cancer found in bone or soft tissue; Herzlich's career appears to be over. McLaughlin's injury caused him to miss all of spring practice and has left his status uncertain for the start of the season.
STAR POWER: T Anthony Castonzo and C Matt Tennant are two of the best offensive linemen in the ACC. Their presence could open up plenty of running room for Montel Harris and Josh Haden, sophomore running backs with loads of potential.
STRENGTHS: BC annually boasts one of the best offensive lines in the ACC, and this season ought to be no exception. The Eagles return four starting linemen who should control the line of scrimmage all season. BC has enough firepower to run the ball effectively, though the lack of a proven quarterback could cause opposing defenses to stack the line to stop the run. BC also returns three starters from a secondary that helped the Eagles tie for the NCAA lead with 26 interceptions last season.
WEAKNESSES: The uncertainty at quarterback overshadows everything else on offense and could haunt BC all season. Will anyone respect BC's passing attack? The health problems of Herzlich and McLaughlin at linebacker turned a potential strength into a major weakness. Boston College also will have trouble replacing first-round draft pick B.J. Raji and second-round selection Ron Brace at defensive tackle.
THE BUZZ: Few college programs in recent memory have endured offseasons as discouraging as what BC has gone through this year. First came the firing of coach Jeff Jagodzinski after he interviewed for an NFL head-coaching job; Jagodzinski led the Eagles to division titles in each of his two seasons on the job. New coach Frank Spaziani was one of the nation's most underrated defensive coordinators, but he's an unknown quantity as a head coach. Then came the heartbreaking news involving Herzlich, who would have opened the season as an All-America candidate. Finally, there was Davis' departure. BC has proved the experts wrong by reaching the ACC championship game each of the past two seasons. If BC makes it again this season, it would represent this program's most stunning accomplishment yet.