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Head to head: Notre Dame vs. Boston College

| Friday, September 15, 2017

Eagles Passing

The two quarterbacks the Irish have faced so far, Georgia’s Jake Fromm and Temple’s Logan Marchi, remain inexperienced, with only three starts between the pair. So, while the Irish pass defense has looked strong so far this season, it’s hard to tell how strong.

We won’t find out much this week, as Boston College quarterback Anthony Brown again lacks experience and hasn’t exactly shone when he has seen the field. Brown has completed just 52 percent of his passes for 4.4 yards per attempt, three touchdowns and four interceptions. Senior Darius Wade, who had 12 attempts against Wake Forest, may come in if Brown struggles, but his own record, including a completion percentage of just 49.4 percent, does not look any better. It’s hard to see the Eagles’ passing fortunes changing either, given they haven’t completed 60 percent of their passes since 2013 or passed for 200 yards per game since 2012.

Almost any Power-5 school should expect to dominate this Eagles passing “attack.”

Edge: Notre Dame

Eagles Rushing

The Eagles rushing offense is better than their passing attack, but not by much. Senior running back Jon Hilliman and freshman running back A.J. Dillon average only 3.2 and 2.9 yards per attempt, respectively.

Thad Smith — listed at wide receiver but has only touched the ball through rushes this season — is the one wildcard in the Eagles run game, having averaged 9.2 yards per attempt in both Eagles games this season for a team-leading 101 yards on 11 carries.

The Irish defense, meanwhile, held their own against Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel a week after holding Temple to less than three yards per carry. Fears about the Irish ability up front appear to have been alleviated, and even if not, this is not the run game that will prove it.

Edge: Notre Dame

Eagles Offensive Coaching

Boston College head coach Steve Addazio spent his career before becoming a head coach on the offensive side of the ball, including a stint with Urban Meyer in Florida, where he won two national championships.

Yet Addazio’s Boston College has built itself a firm identity as a defensive juggernaut with little to no success on the other side of the ball. The Eagles failed to crack 300 yards of offense per game in each of the last two seasons.

Meanwhile, the Irish came off of a lackluster 2016 on the defensive side of the ball. First year defensive coordinator Mike Elko has exceeded expectations so far in his short tenure. The Irish defense has allowed an average of 18 points per game in 2017, with one of those efforts coming against arguably the nation’s best backfield in Georgia. Elko has not had to face a true dual-threat quarterback like Anthony Brown yet, but the weapons around Brown shouldn’t keep Elko up at night.

Edge: Notre Dame

Eagles Special Teams

Junior Boston College kicker Colton Lichtenberg is a perfect four-of-four on field goal attempts this season, including three makes against Northern Illinois in the Eagles’ first game. This is Lichtenberg’s first year as a starter, though he did see time as a freshman and made a field goal against Notre Dame in the game at Fenway Park.

The Irish return game looked inconsistent at times against the Bulldogs. C.J. Sanders broke off a touchdown run, but he was ruled down after a review. Junior Chris Finke handled the majority of the punt return duties and took a few hits when it appeared he should have called for a fair catch.

Edge: Even

Irish Passing

Last week, Georgia showed future Irish opponents exactly how to shut down the Irish passing attack. Keep attention on junior wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and get pressure on the inexperienced Brandon Wimbush.

The difficult part of that is getting a rush on Wimbush while facing the Irish offensive line, which includes senior preseason All-Americans Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson. The Eagles may not match Georgia’s talent across the entire front seven, but they do have senior defensive end Harold Landry. Landry recorded an NCAA-leading 16.5 sacks last year and may be the toughest individual challenge McGlinchey faces this year. If anyone can keep Wimbush against his toes against this line, it’s Landry.

To make matters worse for the Irish, graduate student Freddy Canteen is out, which makes the slot position thinner. Finke will take his place, with sophomore Chase Claypool moving to the slot as his backup.

The Eagles, and Landry, need to get pressure on Wimbush, for Boston College to have success on defense.

Edge: Notre Dame

Irish Rushing

The Irish run game struggled against Georgia, gaining only 55 yards on 37 attempts. Some of that came down to the Irish appearing overmatched, but the surprising absence of Dexter Williams and the Irish propensity to run to the right instead of behind McGlinchey and Nelson played their part too.

The Eagles run defense has been a force in recent years, and had little trouble shutting down running backs so far in 2017, giving up only 124 yards on 48 attempts through two games, but have been torched twice by mobile quarterbacks for a combined 191 yards on 37 attempts. Luckily for the Irish, Wimbush is a threat as a runner and should be able to step up if junior running back Josh Adams and Williams can’t deliver.

Provided the Irish are willing to run behind their All-Americans and utilize Williams, they should be capable of moving the ball on the ground.

Edge: Notre Dame

Irish offensive coaching

Chip Long and Brian Kelly have a lot to prove and to improve after a lackluster 19-point showing against Georgia last week. After an explosion of 49 points and 422 rushing yard versus Temple in Week One, Notre Dame managed just 55 yards on the ground against the Bulldogs, with Wimbush rushing 16 times for just one yard.

Wimbush looked overwhelmed at times against Georgia, as the Bulldogs’ pass rush hit home too often. The Irish will look to get the big play back in their gameplan against a well-coached Eagles defense.

The Eagles defense has been the staple of the Boston College team in each of the last few seasons. Last year the Eagles only gave up 312 yards on average per game. The Irish may have more talent on offense, but Boston College’s defensive coaching has proven it’s up to snuff.

Edge: Even

Irish Special Teams

After a shaky first week where he missed two field goals, junior kicker Justin Yoon bounced back admirably. Yoon hit four field goals against Georgia, placing the ball through the uprights from 39, 42, 37 and 29 yards.

Though Kelly did not say one way or the other, it is possible that freshman Jonathan Doerer will take over kickoff duties this week.

Last year Boston College managed only one touchdown in the return game last season by Myles Willis, who graduated last spring.

Edge: Notre Dame

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