Cupcakes Are Full of Empty Calories

Bill RatkusContributor ISeptember 7, 2009

CHESTNUT HILL, MA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Dave Shinskie #15 of the Boston College Eagles rolls back in the first half against the Northeastern Huskies on September 5, 2009 at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

I have bad news to report to Eagle fans everywhere:  BC only has an 11-game schedule this season.

You may have seen recent typos in the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, or New England newspaper of choice that on Sept. 5, Boston College defeated cross-town opponent Northeastern by a score of 54-0.  It even might have mentioned that 33,000 or so fans were at this game on a beautiful day at the start of the college football season.

I don't believe it.  I'm sure the news outlets were trying to write that BC defeated Northeastern 5-4 in a hockey game.

Because, no offense to Northeastern, what occurred on Saturday was nothing that resembled a football game.

Now, I know that in the first few weeks of a season, teams schedule "cupcake" games.  Heck, college football is not the only guilty party.  Can anyone remember the last time the University of Connecticut's basketball team did not have a de-facto Nutmeg State Championship Tournament held in Storrs during the months of November and December?

Many teams across the country were guilty of doing it, but not all cupcakes are created the same.

For starters, the Colonial Athletic Association went 2-1 against the ACC opening weekend.  William & Mary defeated UVA, and defending FCS Champion Richmond defeated Duke.

The relative weakness of the bottom of the ACC is a topic I shall indulge in at another time, but to be sure the "top" of the FCS can compete with the bottom to middling levels of the BCS Conferences.  Northern Iowa for a long time has been a good team at the FCS level, and despite prolonged time in a pink locker room they almost took down the Iowa Hawkeyes in Kinnick Stadium. 

Appalachian State (whom need no introduction) took Eastern Carolina down to the wire (the same ECU who gave fits to ACC teams last season).  Rarely does one see Montana or Delaware take on a "big boy" in the season anymore.

Just like how not all FBS teams are created equal, neither are FCS teams.  Which brings me to my point:  Northeastern was so bad, so unequivocally untalented that this game was little more than an excuse to tailgate in the wonderful Labor Day weather.

Iowa, ECU, Duke, and Virginia had varying successes against FCS opponents, but they all received something in common—lessons.  A practical education of the strengths and weaknesses of their respective teams.

BC is predicted to finish last in the ACC Atlantic Division.  The Eagles entered week one surrounded by the most questions of just about any ACC team.  The questions were a result of an offseason filled with controversial news (ex-coach and ex-Buccaneer Offensive Coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski), tragic news (Mark Herzlich's battle with cancer), and just plain bad news (Dominique Davis' academic suspension and subsequent transfer from the program).

The game that was played out on Alumni Stadium was a farce.  I do not mean to disparage Northeastern fans.  I have all the respect in the world for our friends down Huntington, and I am a firm believer that the co-op education and programs down there do not get the credit it deserves on the national scale—but the Husky football team is bad.

Not just FBS vs FCS bad, but FCS bottom-dweller bad.

The Eagles received better competition during intra-squad scrimmages, as the two- and possibly three-deep units have more talent than Northeastern's top guns.  In a post-game interview, Eagle quarterback Dave Shinskie said "I thought it was almost a little slower than in practice." 

A quote from a 25-year old freshman who two months ago was playing baseball in New Hampshire, and has not seen the field since he was playing high school ball years ago.

So Northeastern's bad.  What of it?

It's simple.  What Eagle fans saw were the following:

1) BC has a good offensive line

2) BC has a talented 1-2 (literally, with Montel Harris' number change this year) punch at running back.

3) Rich Gunnell is the most proven wideout in the ACC this year, and can return punts

4) BC's secondary is one of the best in the country.


All that is marvelous.  There is just one problem:  Eagle fans knew those facts going into the game.  Nothing new was learned, and worse because Northeastern was just so bad they could not pressure any possible weaknesses if they saw any, thus BC will be unable to make adjustments or address possible problems.

Even worse, the most pressing question: "who is the quarterback?" still was not answered.  Not significantly.  And in this writer's opinion, the decision to even put in freshman Mike Marscovetra was a travesty in itself.  Instead of leaving the option to redshirt the true freshman, by virtue of his seeing playing time, now he has burned a year of eligibility. 

If Marscovetra "is" the man, the redshirt could have been burned later with no problems.  Now if he is "not" the man, it is a wasted year.  With Tuggle, Shinskie, and Boek fighting it out to be signal-caller, the use of Marscovetra was borderline criminal. 

Instead of sitting him and preserving a possible redshirt, the BC "quarterback competition" is between two true freshmen (one of them being 25), one redshirt freshman, and a senior converted from fullback.

I lack the necessary vocabulary to express the sound my head just made when it hit my desk while thinking about that fully.  Onomatopoeia was never one of my strengths.

Before though, BC fans contemplate tossing me down a well for bringing down doom and gloom after a 54-0 rout, cupcakes do usually have one redeeming quality: frosting.  The frosting on the cupcake from this weekend came in the form of Luke Kuechly.

The first test of a BC football fan is to ask someone to pronounce that name, and see if they can get it correct before turning to the media guide for help.  Secondly, while he is a true freshman being trusted to start right away, he clearly has the motor to step in and be effective. 

He will not make Eagle fans forget Mark Herzlich—not until he uses the proper amount of eye black—but his performance on the field and how he hovered around the ball will remind BC fans of a pre-injury Brian Toal, or even of a freshman version of Herzlich himself.  Linebacking strategy will come to the young man, but he has something that few people can be taught—relentless pursuit and an instinct to always be around the ball.

Other bright spots included the play of DTs Damik Scafe and Austin Giles.  Nobody is asking them to be B.J. Raji and Ron Brace, but if they can plug the middle effectively then the graduation of those two first-day NFL picks will be lessened.

The Eagles did indeed take care of business during the first week of football.  But a story is much more interesting with controversy.  Every protagonist needs an antagonist, every plot a climax before a meaningful denouement. 

The quality of competition will improve, but the point of having a Northeastern before Clemson is to shake off some rust, and to find weak links in the armor.

The win against the Huskies was too easy.  Too easy means uninteresting to the fans, and inadequate to the players.  Just like a single cupcake it was eaten and gone, with no satisfaction and the very real chance that those calories could cause problems further down the road.