The forecast looks perfect for Boston College’s matchup with North Carolina.
And we’re not talking about the weather for kickoff on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN3), with sunny skies and temperatures in the high-50s expected.
For an Eagles team (3-3, 1-2 ACC) that has undergone a bit of a running game renaissance in the first season under Steve Addazio, there may be no better opponent to face than the Tar Heels (1-5, 0-3 ACC).
BC boasts the ACC’s leading rusher and UNC carries the ACC’s worst run defense entering the weekend. Andre Williams is tops in rushes (157), rushes per game (26.17), yards (838) and yards per game (139.67), and must be itching to face a Tar Heels defense allowing 203.17 yards a game on the ground.
“I think we can run the ball on anybody if we execute,” senior co-captain Ian White said after practice Wednesday. “With the bye week we’ve had a couple extra days to see their looks and watch them play last Thursday and stuff like that. We have a pretty good understanding of their defense.”
White, BC’s right tackle, said the Tar Heels move around a lot, so the Eagles will need to keep their eyes and ears open to adjust.
With Williams putting up big numbers, topping 100 yards four times and topping 200 yards twice, and freshman Myles Willis coming on strong lately, defenses have begun to compensate in their game plans.
“There are games that they’ll put nine guys in the box, 10 guys in the box depending on our formation,” White said. “And we’re just gonna have to throw the ball. And if [Williams] doesn’t have the 200-yard rushing games that we’re aiming for every week it doesn’t make him not a good back. Yards are great but as long as we’re scoring points and winning …”
With 162 yards on Saturday, Williams would reach the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career. It’s an important milestone for the senior back, but he’s keeping it in perspective.
“I’ve just gotta keep my priorities straight,” he said. “It’s the team before me. If we can win, every other goal is gonna come afterwards.”
The Eagles watched the Heels’ last-second loss to No. 10 Miami in Week 8 and came away impressed, despite the subpar record.
“They’ve played some good teams and we’ve played some good teams,” Addazio said. “So they’re not coming at this like they’ve lost to poor football teams, those are quality outfits.”
“They were flying around and they showed some stuff,” White said. “Thier record doesn’t show how good that defense is.”
Addazio has been hammering home that message all week, stressing that the Eagles need to play like they’re 0-0 to start the second half of the season.
“We have six games and we’ve gotta start with being 1-0,” the coach said. “We have to establish and pick up where we left off with a high energy, high emotion, high octane, physically rough, tough football team and we’ve gotta take that to Chapel Hill this weekend. That's our edge and we have to live that and be that. We can’t be something else."
The Eagles are 0-8 on the road since the end of the 2011 season, so they’re not taking anything for granted. They practiced with piped-in crowd noise all week, to try to simulate the hostile atmosphere they’ll have to play in on Saturday.
“Well we understand that we have the talent to compete with anyone,” Willis said. “But at the end of the day, no matter what we did against Florida State and Clemson, when we play North Carolina, they have just as much talent and we have to go out there and just execute the way we know how to execute.
“As we’ve seen, this is a better conference than it’s been in years past so any team can play to that caliber any week.”
Like true natives of the Northeast, the Eagles know even a perfect forecast can change at a moment’s notice.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.