Boston College has given Notre Dame trouble for many years in the past. They've had success because they consistently do the four things you need to do to win football games.
They stop the run—they're currently ranked No. 3 in the country allowing less than 50 yards rushing per game.
They protect their quarterback—they allow an average of just one sack per game.
They can run the football—currently average 140 yards rushing per game.
They don't turn the ball over—ranked No. 7 with +1.69 turnovers per game.
When a team does those four things well, they don't need a roster for of four and five-star athletes to win a lot of football games. Boston College rarely beats themselves.
The Boston College defense has done an outstanding job defending the run this year. They haven't played the best rushing teams—teams they have faced are currently ranked No. 71, 105, 23, 115, 57 and 110th in the nation. But, surrendering less than 50 yards rushing per game against anyone is quite good, and the Eagles have allowed just four rushing touchdowns all year.
Where the Eagles have struggled is against the pass. They have allowed some yards (290 yards per game) through the air, but most teams were throwing because they were behind. Still, this is a dangerous Boston College pass defense with 16 interceptions on the season.
It becomes a "pick your poison" type of game. Notre Dame hasn't been able to run the football well all year. Charlie Weis has been reluctant to throw the ball up with an inexperienced offense. What will Weis choose to do?
It's simple. Boston College, like everyone else, will try to make Notre Dame one-dimensional. They'll sell out to stop the run and make Jimmy Clausen and the Irish offense beat them through the air.
I believe Notre Dame's best chance is through the air because Boston College won't allow Notre Dame to beat them on the ground, and Weis is going to have to trust his young quarterback playing in his seventh game of his career to have any chance to win this game. This team is No. 4 in the country. They're confident. They always come in prepared to play Notre Dame. I believe the Irish are going to have to throw caution out the window to have any chance at beating Boston College on Saturday, and that's going to mean throwing the ball down field and in the middle of the field. If Weis waits until halftime to open up the offense, it will likely be too late.
The Irish will need another performance like their second half against Purdue and UCLA to have a chance to win. Notre Dame will have to play very well in the secondary, and play very solid against the run for a victory.
The Eagles have a very experienced and good senior quarterback in Matt Ryan. The good news is the Eagles receivers are solid players, but none would rank among the nation's best. They are effective, however, and do make plays. This passing unit is ranked No. 11 in the country, so they do move the ball—albeit against suspect competition.
The Eagle rushing attack is just average at this point despite running the ball for 140 yards per game. They have faced some pretty good rushing defenses as their competition is ranked No. 27, 114, 6, 78, 12 and 94 against the run nationally. The Eagles rushed for 54 yards against Wake Forrest (No. 27), 63 yards against Georgia Tech (No. 6) and 119 yards against UMass (No. 12). As I mentioned, this is an average rushing team, but Notre Dame has made average rushing teams look above average this season. They'll need to do a good job up front and try to put Boston College in third-and-long situations.
The questions is: Do you rush Matt Ryan and try to force him into mistakes, or do you play coverage and try to make them drive the field and kick field goals? The Irish haven't been a great pass rushing team, and Boston College doesn't give up sacks. I think you have to play coverage because I don't think you'll get to Ryan often enough to disrupt their passing game.
If you play coverage, you'll need a great day from the Irish secondary and linebackers.
Unfortunately, the Eagles are ranked No. 19 in third down efficiency converting 46 percent of their third down plays. Notre Dame, well they're No. 118 converting just under 25 percent.
Once again, Boston College is a well coached team in special teams. They're ranked No. 31 on kickoff returns, No. 29 in net punting, No. 33 in punt return defense, No. 14 in kickoff return defense. They're also 7-of-8 on field goals.
Most important, they always show up for this game—something I can't say for the Irish. Notre Dame rarely shows up to play in this game. Notre Dame won't, and never will, beat Boston College until they match the intensity that the Eagles bring into this game. That's the simple truth. Boston College usually wants this game more and is rewarded with a win because of it.
Will Notre Dame show up to play?
Mike Frank Prediction: I wish I had a better feeling. I really wish I did. It hurts to type these words…..
I do think you'll see a fired up Notre Dame team, but I just don't think they know how to play for four quarters, and they'll need to play for four quarters to beat Boston College.
I'd feel better if Boston College had a weakness, but they don't. They play sound, fundamental football, and they don't beat themselves. That means Notre Dame has to take this win away from Boston College—currently a better team.
The Irish will show up to fight, but they just don't know how to win one of these types of games yet, but they will make a game of it.
Boston College: 27 Notre Dame: 17