Boston College Preview: Irish Seek 3rd Straight Holy War over Struggling Eagles

Boston College (+24.5) at Notre Dame

The Holy War.

The Vatican Bowl.

The modern rivalry that many Notre Dame fans and alumni don't want to call a rivalry.

But yet---it has not one, but two rivalry trophies!

Subway Domer must be going crazy this week.

This Saturday the Fighting Irish welcome Boston College to South Bend for the last home game of the season. Yes, it is Senior Day for Notre Dame and fans will be saying goodbye to a class of players that have fought through some tough times and slowly re-built this program.

They will get the chance to end their careers inside Rock's House on a happy note with a matchup against one of the worst Boston College teams in recent memory.

This is the One Foot Down preview of the 21st edition of Notre Dame-Boston College.

How Has Boston College Been Doing This Year?

It was a very rough start to the season for the Eagles, but they have been playing a little better as of late.

Boston College opened the season at home and lost to Northwestern (playing without Dan Persa) despite outgaining the Wildcats by 55 yards.

BC then went on the road and were clobbered by Central Florida, losing 30-3 and being outgained by 281 yards on just 141 total yards by the Eagles.

After leading 19-7 in the third quarter, Boston College let Duke score twice to finish the game, ultimately falling to the Blue Devlis 20-19, while being outgained by 137 yards. They would pick up their first win of the season with a 45-17 victory of UMass the next week.

At 1-3, the Eagles would go on to lose three straight games in conference to Wake Forest 27-19 (-56 total yards), Clemson 36-14 (-242 yards), and Virginia Tech 30-14 (-210 yards).

Since starting 0-4 in ACC play, Boston College has picked up wins over Maryland 28-17 (+28 yards) and NC State 14-10 (-77 yards), but sandwiched those victories between a 38-7 loss to Florida State (-100 yards).

The Eagles come into this game at 3-7---their most losses in a season already since three straight 7-loss seasons from 1996 to 1998.

Notre Dame Defense vs. Boston College Offense

BC has been ravaged by injuries and transfers and is currently fielding an incredibly young and inexperienced team. In total, the Eagles will be starting 10 underclassmen against the Irish---including 4 true freshmen on defense alone.

Up front on the offensive line there is one fifth year starter, a redshirt senior, true junior, redshirt junior and redshirt freshman. There's a decent amount of experience here but nothing overwhelming.

Redshirt senior Chris Pantale returns at tight end after having a pretty good 2010 season, but his numbers have dipped quite a bit this year with the struggles of the Eagle passing game (12 receptions, 106 yards, 1 TD).

Boston College's receivers are pretty solid with sophomore Bobby Swigert (35 receptions, 356 yards, 2 TD) leading the way and Duval Kamara clone in redshirt senior Colin Larmond, Jr. playing well as a deep threat (31 receptions, 500 yards, 3 TD) after missing last year with injury. Smaller sophomore Alex Amidon has chipped in 18 catches, 199 yards, and a touchdown as well.

BC all-time leading rusher Montel Harris went down with another season ending injury about five weeks ago and had already missed most of 2011 anyway. Redshirt junior Rolandan Finch (577 yards, 4.5 average, 3 TD) and sophomore Andre Williams (466 yards, 4.3 average, 4 TD) have picked up the slack with decent production.

After taking the bulk of the snaps last year as a true freshman, Chase Rettig has locked down the quarterback position and comes into Saturday's game with 1,588 yards on 53% completions and 9 touchdowns to 9 interceptions.

OFFENSE RANKINGS Boston College Notre Dame
Scoring 113 28
Rushing 81 42
Passing 104 37
Total 111 33
S&P 102 9
FEI 94 14
F/+ 90 15

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Notre Dame has a major advantage on defense facing this Boston College offense.

The Eagles are more experienced this year at quarterback and receiver, but the line has regressed rather significantly, and the running backs are no better.

I wouldn't expect a rushing performance as bad as last year against the Irish (5 yards on 23 carries), but it will be very difficult to expect Boston College to average much over 3 yards per carry---if they can even get that.

The Eagles are currently ranked 88th nationally with a 3.7 yards per carry average and that is with a 372 yard outburst (27.8% of all rushing yards this season) against Maryland a few weeks ago. Take that anomaly out and BC has averaged 3.22 yards per rush---and in every game except two (Wake Forest & Maryland) the Eagles have averaged under 4.0 YPC.

The passing game has been just as dreadful being currently ranked 105th in completion percentage, 104th in yard per attempt, and 107th in passer rating.

Rettig is someone who could grow into a strong quarterbacks some day, but he is wildly inaccurate at times and usually folds under the pressure when defenders get in his face.

This should be a game where Notre Dame's 1st team defense does not give up more than 10 points.

Notre Dame Offense vs. Boston College Defense

As previously stated, the Eagles are beat-up and very inexperienced on defense.

Redshirt senior Max Holloway (36 tackles, 6 for loss, 2 sacks) and redshirt junior Kasim Edebali (23 tackles) offer some veteran leadership at defensive end, but BC is young in the middle with redshirt freshman Dominic Appiah (6.5 for loss) and true freshman Max Ricci at tackle.

At linebacker everyone knows junior All-American Luke Kuechly, who has already registered an absurd 168 tackles on the season. He's flanked on the outside by sophomore Steele Divitto (58 tackles, 2 sacks) and true freshman Sean Duggan (35 tackles, 3 for loss).

The secondary sees senior Donnie Fletcher (27 tackles, 1 INT) and true freshman Manny Asprilla (17 tackles, 1.5 for loss) at corner, while the safeties are redshirt senior Hampton Hughes (32 tackles) and true freshman Spenser Rositano (33 tackles).

DEFENSE RANKINGS Boston College Notre Dame
Scoring 56 27
Rushing 62 58
Passing 84 33
Total 69 36
S&P 62 15
FEI 55 15
F/+ 59 16

Straight across the board, Boston College has what amounts to a very average defense---but also a defense that might be a little better than the stats show because the Eagle offense hasn't been helping matters this season.

BC is 102nd nationally giving up 63.9% completions to opponents, but they are 63rd giving up 7.1 yards per attempt, and 53rd with a 125.5 passer rating for opponents.

Last year Notre Dame came out firing on all cylinders against Boston College and looked very comfortable on offense, until hitting a dry spell later in the game and going conservative nursing a lead.

This year, the Eagle defense is not as good and that should mean a very productive day for the Irish offense. In 2010, BC gave up 400+ yards only twice all season---but they have done so 5 times already in 2011.

Boston College is also giving up a rather significant 1.15 yards per play more than last year, while Notre Dame is averaging 0.82 more yards per play (6.32 per play) than last year---good for 22nd nationally.

Don't expect offensive fireworks, but a 450+ total-yard output and 40-point day are within reach in this matchup.

Prediction

Last sesaon Notre Dame won this matchup on the road by 18 points and the Fighting Irish have improved this year while Boston College has regressed. This is possibly the most well-rounded and explosive Notre Dame team in quite some time, while the opposite is true for the Eagles.

You see where this is going.

We're talking about a team that gained 3 total yards in the second half last weekend. Okay, to be fair they had a couple kneel downs, so they gained 6 yards---but this was against NC State.

There are numerous bright and eyeball piercing neon signs pointing to a big Notre Dame victory this Saturday, and if the Irish continue utilizing the hyper-speed offense this game could get really ugly.

However, I also like to spread caution and the fact that Boston College's defense might prove just a little bit more difficult than the experts think.

So while this game should never be in doubt, I'd expect many backups to get a shot on the field during Senior Day and the dreaded back door cover to be a distinct possibility.

The starters will play well and a big lead will be in effect into the fourth quarter as the Irish take the third straight game in this series.

Notre Dame 42

Boston College 19

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