Notre Dame will play its first road game of the season on Saturday as they travel to Chestnut Hill to take on the Boston College Eagles. The Irish are looking to get back on track following a razor thin home loss to the Georgia Bulldogs. As the only two Catholic universities playing FBS football, BC and Notre Dame have built up a rivalry over the years. Most famously, Boston College dashed national title hopes for the Irish with a last second field goal in 1993. The last time these two teams played was at Fenway Park in 2015 for Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series game. The Eagles defense forced 5 Irish turnovers in what was a surprisingly close 19-16 win for Notre Dame. In my opinion, that close margin against a 3-7 BC team is what truly dealt the biggest blow to Notre Dame’s playoff hopes that season. Yes, Notre Dame would lose to Stanford the next week, but the close win against Boston College drained their confidence and dropped them from the top 4. Needless to say, no matter what their record is, Boston College will always make Irish fans nervous.
With that being said, this game should not be a nail biter. Boston College is coming off a 34-10 loss at home against Wake Forest. They no longer have Don Brown as the defensive coordinator, and to put it bluntly their offense is just… well it’s just really bad. This game presents a good opportunity for Notre Dame to regain confidence following a devastating loss. Let’s take a look at the match ups this week.
Notre Dame Offense vs. Boston College Defense
As everyone knows by now, last week was a struggle for the Notre Dame offense. The Irish were only able to get into the end zone one time and ran for a mere 55 yards. Brandon Wimbush was just 19-39 for 211 yards and fumbled twice. However, Boston College is not Georgia. It won’t be as easy as Temple, but the offensive line for Notre Dame should create holes against this Eagles defense. After he did not get a carry last week, I expect Dexter Williams to get his opportunities this week. Josh Adams has been on the field quite a bit so far through two games, and could certainly use a few breathers. The Irish won’t run for the nearly 10 yards per carry they had against Temple, but I expect at least 5 yards per carry and somewhere in the neighborhood of 180-220 total rushing yards. Brandon Wimbush should also be able to get going in the running game as the Eagles have allowed over 90 QB rushing yards in each of their first two games.
In the passing game, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for Notre Dame to get a second receiver going. Yes, Equanimeous St. Brown was shut down last week, but much of that had to do with the fact he was double teamed for most of the game. Chris Finke started to show up near the end of the Georgia game, but another receiver has to get going. Will it be Chase Claypool? Miles Boykin? Cam Smith? The guy who swipes cards at the dining hall? Who knows. But if the Irish want to have a good season, they’ll need more than one reliable receiver. The light at the end of the tunnel is that Kevin Stepherson should be back after the Michigan State game, and he proved himself as a viable target last season.
The key player on defense for the Eagles is defensive end Harold Landry. A number of pundits have the senior projected as a first round pick. The Eagles will probably try to line him up against Notre Dame’s platoon of young right tackles in Robert Hainsey and Tommy Kraemer. Ray Smith is also strong at defensive tackle as he racked up 9 tackles and half a sack last week against Wake Forest. The Eagles also have a solid linebacking corps led by seniors Ty Schwab and Connor Strachan. In the secondary, the Eagles remain disciplined with juniors and seniors starting at all four positions. As always under Steve Addazio, Boston College has a good defense. However, after facing the size and speed of Georgia last week, the Irish won’t be intimidated.
Edge: Notre Dame
Boston College Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense
As well as their defense has played, Boston College has had massive struggles on offense. Freshman quarterback Anthony Brown had four turnovers last week, which was the main reason Wake Forest put up 34 points against the Eagles. Brown is still getting the start, but senior Darius Wade could also play, and both are dual threats. However, with the way both of them have played this season “dual threat” is a bit of a misnomer. The two QBs have combined for just 25 rushing yards through 2 games. Brandon Wimbush’s high school teammate Jon Hilliman is a solid running back for the Eagles, but he won’t have many holes to run through. Four of Boston College’s top six lineman have been injured, including their starting center. At that spot, the Eagles start a true freshman in Ben Petrula. The Eagles currently rank 108th in the nation in total offense, and they may drop in that category after this game.
New defensive coordinator Mike Elko continues to look like a great pickup for Notre Dame. The defense appears miles better than last season. They play disciplined, they stop the run, and most importantly they avoid giving up big plays. Against a freshman center, Jerry Tillery and Jonathan Bonner should have a field day in the BC backfield. The Irish should also be able to get pressure on Brown or Wade with defensive ends Daelin Hayes, Jay Hayes, Andrew Trumbetti, and Julian Okwara. The secondary, especially free safety Nick Coleman, played well against Georgia and should do the same against the Eagles. Boston College is one of the three worst offenses Notre Dame will play this season, and the defense should have a field day.
Edge: Notre Dame
After a tough week in the opener, Justin Yoon rebounded with a 4-for-4 performance against Georgia. Punter Tyler Newsome also turned in a great performance against the Bulldogs. Look for the kicking duo to continue their strong play on Saturday. C.J. Sanders and Chris Finke have yet to break one as the kick and punt return men respectively, but you get the feeling Sanders will take at least one kick to the house this season.
For Boston College, kicker Colton Lichtenberg is 4-for-4 on field goals this season, and the Eagles will need him to play well when their offense stalls out in the red zone. Punter Mike Knoll was formerly the place kicker for the Eagles, and so far has averaged just over 40 yards per punt. Junior wide receiver Michael Walker is dangerous in the return game as he had a 55 yard kick return last week against Wake Forest. Walker could present a challenge to a Notre Dame kick coverage unit that struggled last week.
Edge: Notre Dame
Boston College always saves their best game of the season for Notre Dame. However, coming off a loss against Georgia, the Irish will play with a lot of fire and intensity. BC still has a good enough defense to force Notre Dame’s offense off the field a few times. On the other hand, the Eagles offense is downright anemic and won’t be helped by facing a confident Irish defense. The game will never be in doubt, but the final score won’t impress anyone.
Notre Dame 24 Boston College 9
Tailgate Song of the Week
Well, what else did you expect?