Folks, it seems like just yesterday that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were ripping fans’ hearts out again, losing in the final minutes to the Georgia Bulldogs in South Bend last Saturday.
Fortunately (or, maybe unfortunately), the Irish get to play football again this weekend, traveling to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts to take on the Boston College Eagles.
The Eagles come into this game with a 1-1 record and very little to hang their collective hats on, having narrowly beaten Northern Illinois in their season opener before getting absolutely pancaked by the Wake Forest Demon Deacons last weekend, 34-10.
Needless to say, the Fighting Irish SHOULD be able to dispose of BC with ease and move their record above .500 once again. But “should” is the operative word there, so let’s dive into the details and look at whether or not ND will indeed defeat Boston College tomorrow.
Boston College Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense
For as bad as the Notre Dame offense looked last weekend against Georgia, Boston College’s offense has looked much worse this season. BC had 4 turnovers against Wake Forest last weekend, including three interceptions thrown by freshman QB Anthony Brown.
The offense Brown has commanded in the first two games has simply not gotten the job done, as they currently rank as the 109th team in the country in total offense (102nd in passing, 83rd in rushing) and 118th in scoring (16.5 ppg).
Despite his struggles (52.1% completion rate, just 4.37 yards per attempt, a 3-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio), Brown will start against ND tomorrow. However, if he continues to turn the ball over, do not be surprised to see BC head coach Steve Addazio bring in senior QB Darius Wade, who was adequate in relief of Brown in the final garbage time moments against Wake Forest.
Brown and possibly Wade will be tossing the ball to a slew of receivers, led by the trio of Kobay White (10 rec, 118 yards), Jeff Smith (8 rec, 74 yards), and speedy big-play threat Michael Walker (10 rec, 62 yards, 1 TD).
TE Tommy Sweeney could be an important target on Saturday as well, but so far this season he’s only managed one reception for 14 yards.
As stated earlier, the Boston College running game has been about as prolific as Brown’s passing game, as the team has not yet scored a rushing touchdown this season. WR Thadd Smith actually leads the team in rushing yards, as he’s collected 101 yards on just 11 carries. He’s joined by RBs Jon Hilliman (81 yards, 2.5 ypc) and AJ Dillon (63 yards, 3.2 ypc, grandson of former ND WR Thom Gatewood), who have not been able to add too much more in terms of rushing production.
Needless to say, the Mike Elko ND defense that was able to more or less contain a Georgia offense featuring Nick Chubb and Sony Michel last week should not have too many problems on Saturday. Currently ranked 48th in the country in total defense and 41st in scoring defense, expect guys like LBs Nyles Morgan (15 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack this season), Te’von Coney (12 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 sack), and Greer Martini (12 tackles, 1 FF) to be flying around the field, making plenty of tackles for loss or little gain.
Similarly, DL Jay Hayes (12 tackles, 1 QBH), Jerry “Terry Jillery” Tillery (9 tackles, 2 QBH), Daelin Hayes (5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 PBU), and Jonathan Bonner (8 tackles, 1 sack) should be able to get a good push against a not-great BC offensive line, wreaking havoc in the backfield and tallying at least a couple sacks of Anthony Brown on the day. Considering this game shouldn’t be nearly as close, it will also be a game where freshmen Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Kurt Hinish will see even more playing time than they already have, so we may just see a clearer glimpse into the future of the defensive line.
Meanwhile, that pressure will likely entice Brown into at least a few less-than-ideal passes, and so guys like Drue Tranquill (9 tackles, 1 INT), Julian Love (10 tackles, 1 PBU), Nick Coleman (who was fantastic against Georgia last weekend, by the way), and Shaun Crawford will probably find themselves with plenty of opportunities to pick it off and take it the other way, assuming they put themselves in the right position to do so.
Overall, I don’t see the BC offense scoring more than 20 points on this Irish defense, and there’s a good chance, if they come to play, that BC’s final tally will be much less than that.
Notre Dame Offense vs. Boston College Defense
Although it isn’t nearly what it’s been in recent years, when it reigned as one of the best in the country, the Boston College Eagles defense is certainly the strong suit on this year’s team. BC is ranked 54th in total defense (47th in pass defense, 86th in rush defense) and 77th in scoring defense (27 ppg allowed), meaning the Irish can certainly take a deep breath after playing Georgia’s fantastic defense last week, but still must come to play in order to put up points.
It will start and end with the offensive line’s play, as they were bullied by Georgia’s defensive front last weekend and unable to get things going for RB Josh Adams. If they can create some running lanes this weekend against a much less dangerous BC defense, Adams should have a field day, as the junior already has 214 yards (5.6 ypc) and 2 TD on the season.
Furthermore, fellow junior Dexter Williams, who received 0 carries against Georgia despite his 20.7 yards-per-carry average, will certainly receive his share of the carries this week (well, I hope) after Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Chip Long heard it from the media and Irish fans about the explosive back not getting a single touch in a game in which the Irish offense desperately needed a playmaker.
Wimbush will likely continue to have his number called as well, as he’s run for 107 yards and 2 TD on the season. However, he might get a lighter workload this week after the massive amount of bone-crunching hits he endured at the hands of the Bulldogs defense.
Despite the poor running day against Georgia, ND’s running clinic put on against Temple has them ranked 28th in the country in rushing offense, and I expect the Irish to ride that relative offensive strength to a victory. The BC defensive front has some talented guys who will try to stop Adams and Williams and QB Brandon Wimbush, including DL Zach Allen (17 tackles, 2 TFL this season), LB Ty Schwab (14 tackles), DL Ray Smith (12 tackles, 0.5 sacks), DL Harold Landry (11 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 2 PBU), and LBs Connor Strachan and Max Richardson (9 tackles each), but if the ND offensive line comes out pissed off after their poor performance against the Bulldogs, the Eagles likely will get pushed around all day.
Meanwhile, the Irish offense has seriously struggled to establish a passing game, as Wimbush has completed just 52.2% of his passes for 395 yards (a meager 5.73 per attempt), 2 TD, and 1 INT. Part of the onus for the team’s 94th-ranked passing offense certainly falls on him, but he hasn’t had much help, either. Junior WR Equanimeous St. Brown is as consistent and talented as they come, and his 6 catches for 96 yards and a touchdown this season reflect that.
But the rest of the receiving corps has been downright nonexistent out there. The second-leading receiver on the team through the first two games is RB Josh Adams, who’s snared 6 receptions for 60 yards out of the backfield. TE Alize Mack has 4 catches for 58 yards on the year, but has been disappointing in dropping multiple passes and not being nearly the weapon he was expected to be. Hopefully, he’s just been shaking off the rust and will emerge in the coming weeks.
Graduate transfer Cameron Smith has been solid with 6 catches for 55 yards, and Chris Finke played well in the slot last weekend with 3 catches and 36 yards, but neither are creating the separation or making the big plays that this offense desperately needs. The rest of the receivers have contributed even less, as graduate transfer Freddy Canteen was recently benched in favor of Finke, and guys like Miles Boykin and Chase Claypool (huge, athletic targets) have struggled to even see the field, let alone make any plays.
Thus, if there’s one place the Eagles defense can potentially do some damage, it’s in the passing game. DBs Will Harris (19 tackles, 3 TFL), Kamrin Moore (11 tackles, 2 PBU), Isaac Yiadom (10 tackles), and Lukas Denis (10 tackles, 2 PBU, 1 FF, 1 INT) will all have a chance to make some plays and force ND to rely heavily on the run, which would potentially allow for Landry, Allen, Schwab, and the rest of the front seven to stack the box and potentially contain Adams, Williams, etc.
Also, look out for guys like Landry (who has great hair, by the way) putting pressure on Wimbush, as he’s a relentless defensive lineman and could potentially force a turnover or two by getting that pressure on the still-green Irish QB.
Per usual, I have basically nothing to say here. BC’s kicker Colton Lichtenberg is perfect on the season (4/4 on FG, 3/3 on XP), so he will try to keep that streak going. I, for one, hope he does not.
This year’s Notre Dame team is nothing to write home about, especially on offense. With that being said, their Eagles opponent tomorrow could be aptly described as incompetent so far this season, and I do not think even a Brian Kelly team will manage to lose this game.
I think ND establishes the run early and often with both Adams and Williams, and the Irish defense gets plenty of stops en route to a 37-20 victory.