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Head to Head: Notre Dame vs. Boston College

| Friday, November 20, 2015

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Boston College’s four quarterbacks this year — yes, count them, four — have combined to complete just 97 passes in 10 games. Take away the Eagles’ two games against FCS opposition and it paints a pretty grim picture: When facing FBS foes, Boston College has just two more completed passes (71) than punts (69).

Furthermore, Boston College’s 123.4 yards per game through the air is better than just four other FBS teams — Air Force, Army, Navy and Georgia Southern.

All those teams run the option.

Notre Dame’s secondary hasn’t been spectacular this year, but it’s been fairly solid. Add in the emergence of Romeo Okwara to join Sheldon Day as pass-rush weapons for the Irish defensive line, and against a pitiful Eagles passing game, that should be more than enough.



Unlike its passing game, Boston College’s ground game doesn’t sit near the very bottom of the yardage charts. Granted, ranking 90th in rushing yards at 153.2 per game is far from stellar by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a unit one could see moving the ball against Notre Dame.

Regardless, much like Wake Forest last year, BC’s biggest weapon with its ground game is likely to be the ability to control the clock. The fewer plays the Eagles run, the better their chances of pulling the
upset — and running the ball to keep the clock ticking would do just that.

Notre Dame’s rush defense hasn’t necessarily been its greatest asset this year, but it’s been a solid unit, placing 60th nationally with 164.3 yards allowed per game.

Anticipate Boston College to gain around its average on the ground and Notre Dame to allow the same.



Against FBS opposition, Boston College is averaging fewer than 10 points per game. Some of that is likely due to a dearth of talent available to the Eagles coaching staff, but some of it should come down to the game plan the Eagles have unsuccessfuly used this year. It took Boston College head coach Steve Addazio until the end of October to figure out walk-on freshman John Fadule was the best option available at quarterback.

On the other side of the ball, Notre Dame had an odd day defensively last week against Wake Forest. While the Demon Deacons only put up seven points, they gained the red zone four times and passed twice on field goal attempts from inside the 10-yard line. With a different game situation, it’s likely the Demon Deacons would have scored more.

Notre Dame’s defense has still struggled to put together a 60-minute performance, and with a top-ranked BC defense on the other side, it would be a good week to pull one out.



Much like its quarterbacks, Boston College has seen four different kickers this year attempt an extra point or field goal. Mike Knoll, who’s 2-for-3 on field goal attempts, is the current flavor of the month to start, but he’s only hit one field goal in his career from longer than 29 yards out.

The Eagles punt game has been a different story. Alex Howell has had plenty of practice this year — 76 punts to be exact, second-most in the country — and has solid numbers, averaging 41.9 yards per punt. If he can get off a couple long punts to flip field position, he could have an impact on proceedings.



Last week was, by most measures, the roughest game DeShone Kizer has had yet. Handcuffed by a low number of plays, Kizer threw for just 111 yards on 19 attempts, a number well below his norm — Kizer had averaged 262.7 yards per start prior to the Wake Forest game. The Demon Deacons tried to take away top weapon Will Fuller, something they were largely successful with, holding the junior receiver to just three receptions on the day.

Much like the Demon Deacons, who rank 12th in pass yards allowed, the Eagles come in with a strong unit, ranking fifth in the nation with just 164.8 yards per game allowed.

However, when they faced Clemson — the most comparable opponent on their schedule — the Eagles ceded 420 passing yards to Deshaun Watson, who went off for three touchdowns in the win.

At the end of the day, it’s hard to imagine that Fuller, Kizer and the rest of the Irish weapons will be shut down again this Saturday at Fenway Park.



Early in the season, it looked like Notre Dame would have an edge on the ground in every game it played this year.

Then came the Clemson loss, where the Irish struggled to move the ball, and the perception changed. Solid outings against Navy, USC and Pittsburgh have been overshadowed by struggles against Temple and Wake Forest: Aside from Josh Adams’ 98-yard touchdown run last Saturday, the Irish managed just 2.5 yards per carry against Wake Forest.

Boston College boasts the nation’s top rush defense, allowing just 71.7 yards per game and 2.1 yards per carry, most notably holding Florida State running back Dalvin Cook to just 54 yards in September.

If the Eagles are able to successfully take away the threat of C.J. Prosise and Josh Adams, it will be interesting to see if Brian Kelly turns to DeShone Kizer to run the ball, like the Irish did at Temple.

At the end of the day, the Irish run game has been inconsistent as of late, while the Eagles’ rush defense has been anything but.



The Irish offense never got into a rhythm last week against Wake Forest and really only drove the field twice in Notre Dame’s 28-7 win. Josh Adams broke a big run, while Will Fuller was largely taken out of the game by Wake Forest’s defensive scheme. After a few weeks where the Irish got off to quick starts on offense, Notre Dame didn’t score until the closing minutes of the first quarter Saturday.

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles defense has been solid all year. Clemson’s 34 points is the highest number allowed this year by the Eagles, who have held seven of 10 opponents under 20 points.



He hasn’t been called on for a field-goal attempt since the Temple game, but Justin Yoon seems to have settled down after some early-season hiccups. If the Irish need him Saturday to do something other than kick an extra point, Notre Dame fans should have a level of comfort with the freshman kicker’s ability.

C.J. Sanders hasn’t done much in the return game lately, though part of that may be down to the sheer volume of kicks he’s been able to return: Sanders hasn’t attempted a kick return since the Temple game three weeks ago.

Tyler Newsome continues to move between good and bad performances at punter. When he’s at this best, like he was at Pittsburgh, he’s a huge weapon for the Irish, giving them an opportunity to move field position.


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