Notre Dame - Boston College Preview

After grabbing their first win of the 2007 season against UCLA, the Irish face another tough opponent when Boston College comes to Notre Dame Stadium.

Notre Dame vs. #4 Boston College
Fighting Irish   Eagles
Saturday, October 13
Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame Ind.
3:30 ET

Boston College On Offense:

Boston College Offense '07 Rank Per Game ND Defense '07 Rank Per Game
Rushing Offense #70 140.67 Rushing Defense #96 189.83
Pass Offense #11 314.17 Pass Defense #7 145.80
Pass Eff. Offense #29 138.89 Pass Eff. Defense #22 107.76
Total Offense #21 454.83 Total Defense #41 343.50
Scoring Offense #23 35.83 Scoring Defense #73 28.67

Jeff Jagodzinski took over the Boston College program this season and he has the Eagles off to their best start since 1942. Jagodzinski spent two seasons as the Eagles offensive coordinator in 1997 and 1998. Prior to taking the head coaching position for the Eagles he spent the past eight seasons coaching the NFL, with his last stop as the offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers. 

This is a very experienced team and they'd love nothing better to put Notre Dame back into a tailspin. The offense has eight seniors that start or play considerable minutes. Matt Ryan returns under center for the Eagles. Filling out the backfield are two very experienced tailbacks, seniors Andre Callender and L.V. Whitworth

Along with the backfield, the offensive line is the strength of this team.  Last season the Eagles only averaged 114 yards on the ground. This year they've improved enough to push that mark up to 140 yards rushing per game. It still isn't great, but it's respectable. Last season they gave up 29 sacks on the season and this year Ryan has gone down 13 times.

BC has converted a very solid 45.9 percent of their third down opportunities and they are a perfect five for five on fourth down attempts. BC has only committed 35 penalties on the season, compared to Notre Dame's 47. BC has only turned the ball over nine times (five interceptions and four fumbles).

  Matt Ryan, Sr.       160-255-1,857    15/5    62.7
  Chris Crane  Jr. 2-4-28 0/0 - -

Matt Ryan (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) will be starting his 25th game as the Eagles quarterback. He is one of the top quarterbacks in the country and one of the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy. Last season he threw for nearly 3,00 yards and 15 touchdowns. Through the first half of the season, he's well on his to surpassing last season's yardage total and he's already equaled his touchdown production. He isn't flashy, but he's a very gritty competitor and a great leader. Ryan is third on BC's all-time passing yardage list. He's averaging 309.5 passing yards per game and his 139.41 passer efficiency rating ranks him at No. 37 in the nation.

Chris Crane (6-foot-4, 236 pounds) doesn't have much experience, but he is a very capable back-up. 

  RB Hgt/Wgt Rushes-Yards
  Andre Callender, Sr. 5-11, 204 105-537, 6TDs
  L.V. Whitworth, Sr. 5-11, 219 51-214, 3 TDs

Callender and Whitworth are the two-headed monster in the BC backfield. Whitworth has started more game for BC, but they have basically split carries over the past three seasons. Callender is more of your multi-purpose running back. He has some wiggle and some speed, but he isn't a big breakaway threat. Whitworth is going to do most of his work between the tackles. He's a very solid back, and if BC wants to pound the ball,. he'll get the call. This year Callender is getting the most of the rushing attempts, but Whitworth will certainly get some snaps. 

Both players are around the 2,500 - yard mark for their careers. Both players are solid receivers and Ryan will get hem the ball. Callender has 16 receptions for 175 yards (10.9 yards per reception) and two touchdowns. While Whitworth has add seven receptions for 29 yards to his all-purpose yardage total.

  FB Hgt/Wgt Recptions-Yards
  Brad Newman, Fr. 6-2, 250 - - -
  Ryan Thompson, Sr. 6-4, 259 6 rcpt-31 yds/ 0TD

James McCluskey had been the starter, but he's out with an injury. Neither Newman or Thompson have a carry in 2007. Thompson was actually the starting tight end last season. Before that he was a defensive lineman. Surprisingly Ryan has gotten the ball to him. He's a better blocker than a receiver. 

  WR Hgt/Wgt Stats
  Brandon Robinson, Jr. 5-10, 194  29 rcpt-390 yds/ 4TDs
  Kevin Challenger, Sr. 5-8, 180  25 rcpts-291 yds/2 TDs
  Rich Gunnell, So. 5-11, 206  23 rcpts-296 yds/3 TD
  Justin Jarvis, So. 6-5, 195 12  rcpts-203 yds/2 TD

This isn't a dynamic group of receivers, but they have have been with Ryan for a long time and that experience alone makes them difficult to defend. This is a very savvy group of players. Brandon Robinson (13.4 yards per reception) is probably the most dangerous playmaker. He can get deep, but his bread and butter is the intermediate routes. Robinson has really stepped up his game this season.

Kevin Challenger (11.6 yards per reception) is Mr. Steady. He has decent speed, but he doesn't demand double-teams. He works very well in the underneath zones. If BC needs a 1st-down with the game on the line, Ryan will look to Challenger.

Rich Gunnell (12.9 yards per reception) and Justin Jarvis (16.9 yards per reception) have turned into really nice third and fourth options for Ryan. 

  TE Hgt/Wgt Stats
  Ryan Purvis, Jr. 6-4, 258 15 rcpts/178 yds/1 TD
  Jon Loyte, Sr. 6-5, 254 6 rcpts/93 yds/0 TDs

Like the wide receivers, Purvis and Loyte are steady. They aren't exceptional in any one aspect of the game, but they are solid players that get the job done.

  Offensive Line Hgt/Wgt Experience
  LT Gosder Cherilus, Sr. 6-7, 319 43 Starts
  LG Ryan Poles, Sr. 6-4, 290 19 Starts
  C Matt Tennant, So. 6-4, 285 6 Starts
  RG Clif Ramsey, Jr. 6-6, 302 6 starts
  RT Anthony Castonzo, Fr. 6-7, 262 6 starts

This is a strength for the offense. They aren't a tremendously physical unit, but they are very good technicians and they do a lot of the little things that make a difference. Through the first six games this unit was adjusting to their new zone blocking scheme. Cherilus and Poles are both outstanding. Both can get out and move and they will play to the whistle. When BC needs the tough yard, you can be certain that they'll run over these two.

While Tennant only has six starts under his belt, don't underestimate him. He took the starting center position from last year's starter, Kevin Sheridan. Ramsey is probably the most physical of the players up front. Castonzo is a true-freshman, but he has been a pleasant surprise for the Eagles.  

Depth is a problem. With Sheridan backing up at center and guard, BC does have an experienced back-up, but after the first six offensive linemen there is a big drop-off in ability. 

Boston College On Defense:

Boston College Defense '07 Rank Per Game ND Offense '07 Rank Per Game
Rushing Defense #3 49.67 Rushing Offense #119 33.00
Pass Defense #110 290.83 Pass Offense #109 152.67
Pass Eff. Defense #24 109.28 Pass Eff. Offense #108 105.06
Total Defense #39 340.50 Total Offense #119 185.67
Scoring Defense #21 18.33 Scoring Offense #118 11.00

 Like the offense, the defense has a lot of experience. There probably aren't many stars in this group, but they're all tough as nails and they get after it. The defensive line is missing a few players that they were counting on, but who can argue with the results. The front four are solid, and they do their job, which is to allow the BC linebackers to fill holes and make plays. The linebacker group took a hit in the offseason when Brain Toal had shoulder surgery. He has been back at practice, but it is highly unlikely that Notre Dame will see him. 

It seems like almost everyone on defense has an interception. The Eagle defense leads the country in interceptions. This unit has already grabbed 16 interceptions in six games. The secondary has a ton of experience, but they're giving up nearly 300 yards passing per game.  The BC defense has registered 15 sacks and 43 tackles for a loss.

Anticipated Depth Chart. 

  Defensive Line Hgt/Wgt Stats
  DE Alex Albright, So. 6-5, 235 15 tackles, 2 sack
  DT Ron Brace, Jr. 6-3, 325 11 tackles, 2.5 TFLs
  DT Brady Smith, So. 6-2, 284 13 tackles 2.0 TFLs
  DE Nick Larkin, Sr. 6-4, 241 15 tackles, 3.5 sacks

This is a pretty solid unit as evidenced by the paltry rushing totals that they've allowed this season. Despite losing a couple players, these guys are still getting after it. Albright was thrust into the starting line-up because returning starter B.J. Raji was ruled academically ineligible. He's a little light, but he will battle. Larkin has started 29 games at BC, and he's a good one. He's still coming back from an early season injury that forced him to miss several games. If he's completely healthy, he will be a handful coming off the edge. 

Brace has 18 starts and he's a mountain. He doesn't get into the backfield, but he's almost impossible to move of his spot. Smith has 11 starts under his belt, but most of those were at defensive end. He's bulked up, but he's still a little light. He does add athleticism on the inside. 

  Linebackers Hgt/Wgt Stats
  SLB Tyronne Pruitt, Sr 5-11, 226 22 tackles - 1.5 TFLs
  MLB Jolonn Dunbar, Sr. 6-4, 238 47  tackles - 2.5 TFLs
  WLB Mark Herzlich, So. 6-4, 238 36 tackles - 5.0 TFLs

This unit is really, really solid. Pruitt is solid and steady. Jolonn Dunbar, No. 2 on the team in tackles with 47, is a playmaker and a tackling machine. Last season he led BC in tackles and it looks like he could repeat that feat this season. He'll chase the play all over the field. 

Mark Herzlich, No. 3 on the team in tackles with 36, is playing in place of Brian Toal. He's obviously making an impact with five tackles for a loss and an interception. Last season as a true freshman, he played in all 13 games for BC. When he was in, he really impressed the coaches. It's tough to believe there wouldn't be a big drop-off from Toal, but this kid is pretty solid.

  Defensive Backs Hgt/Wgt Stats
  CB DeJuan Tribble, Sr. 5-9, 190 23 tackles, 3 INTs
  CB Taji Morris, Sr. 5-9, 189 19 tackles, 1 INTs
  FS Jamie Silva, Sr. 5-11, 210 49 tackles, 5 INTs
  SS Paul Anderson, Jr. 6-1, 208 24 tackles, 1 INTs

Tribble is the star in the secondary. It's probably a good idea to work the other side of the field. Tribble has a nose for the ball and he breaks on the ball well. Add great quickness and sure tackling ability and you have the makings of an All-American. Morris has earned the starting spot opposite of Tribble. Morris will struggle at times. He doesn't have the ability of Tribble, but he isn't a liability either. 

Silva is a having a great year. He's a big-time player at safety despite not having ideal size for a safety. He does a terrific job in run support, but he still can get back into coverage. Anderson is the more athletic of the two safeties. He doesn't make the plays that Silva does, but he's been steady. Although he doesn't have many starts, he has played a lot of snaps for BC.

Boston College is a very solid team. There aren't a lot of stars in the starting line-up, but the players play within themselves and they don't make a lot of mistakes. ND is coming off their big win in Pasadena, and they will come out of the tunnel at Notre Dame stadium with a lot of energy and attitude. Hopefully Notre Dame can carry the momentum from the UCLA game into this game.

Prior to the start of the season, I thought that this would be a very difficult game for the Irish to win. After seeing the struggles on the field, I'm not sure the Irish will be able to stay with the Eagles. 

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