Notre Dame football week 11 preview: Boston College

 

The #4 ranked Notre Dame football team heads to Alumni Stadium today to play the Eagles of Boston College in the 22nd installment of the rivalry known as the Holy War. From what we’ve seen from the Fighting Irish this year at home, maybe playing away isn’t such a bad thing after all.

The five games played at Notre Dame Stadium this year have all been wins. But the matter of winning is vastly different than what has been seen in the four wins played outside ofSouth Bend(two true road games, and two “neutral site” games against Navy and Miami (FL)). Notre Dame’s offensive output on the road has been outstanding (35.3 points per game), and their scoring defense has been equally impressive (averaging 7.3 points per game). At home? They are scoring just over half of their road output (19.8) and are giving up twice as many points (15.2 per game). It’s an interesting dichotomy given the long held belief of the home field advantage.

Maybe this year, there’s just no place like away from home.

Notre Dame is a heavy favorite this week against a struggling 2- 7Boston College team, but if the past is any indication, you can throw out the records. This game has been a historically tough match-up for the Irish, and hold only a 12-9 advantage in the overall series. Last year, the #24 ranked Irish barely squeezed past the Eagles with a 16-14 victory. Of the 22 games in the Holy War, half have been decided by one touchdown or less, and of those, six came down to three points or less. On paper, it looks like BC’s defense is just going to get destroyed, ranking 109th in overall yards allowed, and 85th in points per game. But many of us thought the Pitt game would be a cake walk as well, and see how that turned out. The Irish must use that performance against an inferior opponent as a catalyst to turn out a dominant showing in this game.

With the Irish still in the conversation for a potential BCS National Championship Game berth (though that is looking more unlikely as the weeks progress), they must take full advantage of every opportunity. The defense in particular needs to have a better showing than last week, when they gave up 26 points to Pitt, including 144 yards on the ground and only their second rushing touchdown allowed. But Pitt’s offense was under-appreciated. Boston College? Not so much. They are 90th in total yards and 96th in points per game. They do rank 27th in passing yards, but I think that has more to do with their 118th ranked run game than any real vertical talent. They have to pass it every game, and for them to have a shot against Notre Dame this week, it will be no different.

3 Things to Watch

Everett Golson – If ever there was a match-up that truly favored Golson’s abilities, it has to be against this Boston College defense. I highlighted it above, but let’s go a bit deeper. The Eagles allow 245.2 yards per game passing. That presents a good opportunity for Notre Dame and Golson to improve on their 89th ranked passing offense. And with Golson’s ability to make plays with his legs, he could really be the deciding factor against a rush defense that allows 233.3 yards on the ground, 116th in the nation.

Notre Dame Run Game – Speaking of the 116th ranked run defense, the most excited guys this week should be running backs Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, and George Atkinson III. These guys (along with Golson) have combined to average 200.3 yards per game. Atkinson in particular could have a devastating performance with his burner (for Notre Dame, anyway) speed.

Notre Dame Defense – If they are not pissed, embarrassed, or both by their showing in the Pitt game, then they need to just hang up their cleats and go home. Pitt never should have been allowed to hang 26 on this defense. And this unit, who had held running powerhouses Navy, Michigan, and Michigan State to bad games allowed the Panthers’ Ray Graham to explode for 172 yards (the 144 total is after sacks totaling -30 yards and Rushel Shell’s 1 carry for 2 yards are factored in). Manti Te’o and the Magnificent Seven will not let that happen twice.

My 5 Predictions

Golson – I have been pretty down on Golson all year, even with this being the first year he’s played. He makes a lot of young mistakes, which should be expected, but has shown bug play ability. Against a defense that my alma materBallState (who is 7-3 coming off a victory over #25Toledo, by the way) could probably hang 50 points on, Golson could have the best game of his young collegiate career. I see him throwing for 280 yards, running for another 50, with two touchdowns passing and one rushing. And I think Tommy Rees sits the whole game.

Tyler Eifert – It’s been a long season for the senior tight end. His production has been way down due to the passing game’s inefficiency. But he could potentially have a big game against the Eagles. Give him 5 catches for 75 yards and the recipient of Golson’s two touchdowns.

Atkinson, Riddick, and Wood – I’ve already detailed why these guys should have big games. So here’s what I see happening: Wood and Atkinson each go for 100+ and a touchdown. Riddick will chip in another 80.

Chase Rettig - Notre Dame’s defense is damn good, but they can give up yards from time to time, especially in the pass game. Since there really is no reason the Eagles should have a lot off success running the ball on an angry Irish defense, Rettig could potentially put up some numbers. We’ll give him 230 yards and one interception.

Final Score – Notre Dame wins easily, 41-6.

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