Here's the good news for Boston College: Miami and Virginia Tech are not around this season, having bolted to the Atlantic Coast Conference one year ahead of the Eagles. The bad news? Well, if you listen to coach Tom O'Brien, there shouldn't be all that much bad news.
Boston College will be playing in the seven-team Big East, which means six league wins gets you a BCS bid. The Eagles welcome back 34 lettermen and 11 starters from an 8-5 team that capped its season with a 35-21 victory over Colorado State in the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl.
So, can the Eagles play their way into their first-ever BCS bowl?
"We have a chance," O'Brien said. "We have to do some rebuilding in areas in which we haven't had to rebuild. But with the way the league is, we can compete. There is no question about that."
The Eagles must rebuild on the offensive line -- which is dangerous -- and must find a tailback to handle the heavy lifting. But again, the main competition is Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Syracuse, not Miami, Virginia Tech and next year, Florida State. So this is arguably the biggest year in the history of Boston College football from an impact standpoint.
OffenseThe Eagles lost six offensive starters and its line must be reconstructed. The good news, though, is that coach O'Brien has recruited well for the past several years.
O'Brien played the quarterback derby a year ago, starting Quinton Porter at the outset before finally making the switch to Paul Peterson, a junior college transfer. Both are seniors and both are experienced. Peterson, who guided the Eagles to a win at Virginia Tech and in the bowl game, will likely get the nod.
"This is probably as much experience as we have had since my first year at Boston College," O'Brien said. "We have two quarterbacks who played in, and won, big games for us last year."
The problem at receiver will be keeping a talented group of wideouts busy. Both starters -- seniors Grant Adams and Joel Hazard -- are back. Adams led the team with five touchdowns and 720 receiving yards, while Hazard averaged 12.5 yards per catch.
The keys will be the offensive line and at running back, where all-time leading rusher Derrick Knight graduated. Sophomore Jeff Ross is the early frontrunner, but watch out for redshirt freshmen L.V. Whitworth and Andre Callender.
"[The backfield is] an area of concern," O'Brien said. "We don't know who will be the starter yet. I think these kids have potential and they'll fight hard for the job through the spring and summer."
DefenseThe line should be a strength of the defense. End Mathias Kiwanuka will be a member of several preseason All-America teams after leading the Big East last year with 13 sacks.
The Eagles will have new starters at both outside linebacker spots, but Ray Henderson, a 13-game starter in 2003, returns. Highly touted recruit Brian Toal could play his way into the lineup before the end of the season.
The Eagles welcome back an experienced and talented duo of cornerbacks. Junior Will Blackmon, a preseason All-Big East pick, will team with senior Peter Shean. T.J. Stancil emerged at the end of last season and has a firm hold on the free safety spot, but things aren't as settled at strong safety.
SpecialistsPunter Jeff Gomulinski returns after averaging 39.8 yards per kick last season. The Eagles hope Francois Brochu is the man delivering the ball to Gomulinski, but the long snapper was suspended in the spring for a violation of team rules.
"We're going to get Francois back involved," O'Brien said. "Hopefully, he can be out there and give us the lift we need in our kicking game."
Mike Fassel, the son of former Giants coach Jim Fassel, sits atop the depth chart at placekicker, but he will face competition from a group of walk-ons in the fall. Fassel has not attempted a field goal with the Eagles.
Final AnalysisBoston College should continue its postseason run this year with a school-record sixth-straight bowl game. Talent is not the issue. Experience is, however. If the offensive line develops and someone emerges at running back, the Eagles could threaten West Virginia for the title in the watered-down Big East.