Game Forecast: Boston College Week

Irish Eyes takes a look at Notre Dame's (5-3) away game this weekend at Boston College (5-3).

 Notre Dame vs. Boston College
Fighting Irish   Eagles
 
Saturday, November 8th
Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill , Pa.
8:00 EST
ABC/ESPN


 
 

  On Offense:

 Offense '08 Rank Per Game ND Defense '08 Rank Per Game
Rushing Offense # 59 149.88 Rushing Defense #50 127.75
Pass Offense # 91 184.75 Pass Defense #64 206.75
Pass Eff. # 106 104.05 Pass Eff. #17 104.76
Total Offense # 82 334.63 Total Defense #41 334.50
Scoring Offense # 46 28.00 Scoring Defense #38 20.88

Threat(s):Graduation has depleted an offense that is still trying to find its rhythm. Though the Eagles have struggled running and throwing the football, the Irish defense will have to be aware of receivers Brandon Robinson, Robert Gunnell, and Justin Jarvis. Freshman running back Montel Harris has had a couple 100-yard plus games.

Before the season started, second-year Boston College head coach Jeff Jagodzinski could point to the second half of the Eagles schedule as the toughest portion.

So far, Jagodzinki's team hasn't handled it well.

After beginning the season 5-1 and cracking the national top-25, Boston College heads into this weekend's contest against the Irish having lost two games in a row to North Carolina and Clemson.

Boston College's 5-1 start may have been kind of surprising to some, after the graduation of players such as quarterback Matt Ryan, leading rusher and pass catcher Andre Callender, safety Jamie Silva, and the whole left side of the offensive line from last season's team that reached as high as No. 2 in the nation, but the Eagles looked to have persevered early. The only loss in the first half was a 19-16 home defeat to a very good Georgia Tech team.

The Eagles headed into the second half the schedule riding high off a 28-23 win over Virginia Tech, but couldn't carry the momentum past the Tar Heels. North Carolina hammered Boston College, 45-24, and then Clemson beat the Eagles for the first time since they joined the ACC, 27-21, ending pretty much all thoughts of advancing to the ACC Title game.

A win that could flip the script and certainly make this season memorable for the Boston College players, is another win this Saturday night against the Irish. Last season, the Eagles defeated Notre Dame in South Bend, 27-14.

Though the strength of this Boston College team is on the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles will have to get some plays out of fifth-year quarterback Chris Crane and his pass receivers.

Crane has struggled to replace Ryan, but when he's been able to get the ball in the hands of guys like Robinson, Gunnell and Jarvis, good things have happened. Robinson leads the team in receiving with 27 catches for 444 yards and two touchdowns. Gunnell's numbers are down from a season ago where he had a team-high 931 yards and seven touchdowns, but he has still been good for 26 catches for 236 yards and a score. He could have a big game at anytime, and the Irish secondary doesn't want to be the one that allows it. Gunnell has also been a threat as a punt returner, and scored on a 65-yard return already this fall. The 6-foot-5 Jarvis will be a touch match-up for the Irish secondary. He has 12 catches for 146 yards and two scores.

The Boston College offensive line has been decent. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo (6-7, 287) and guard Clif Ramsey (6-6, 311) made the move from the right side before the start of the season. Teamed up with center Matt Tenant (6-4, 294), guard Thomas Claiborne (6-3, 323) and tackle Rich Lapham (6-8, 322), they've done a good job of protecting Crane. They rank 27th nationally in sacks allowed per game.

The run game has struggled without Callender, but the freshman Harris has outperformed his much more touted classmate Josh Haden. Haden was listed as the starter last week, but Harris has had two games of over 100 yards rushing, going for 143 yards and three touchdowns against Rhode Island, and 112 yards against Central Florida. Haden played his best game of the season last week, rushing for 71 yards and his first-career score against Clemson.

Achilles Heal(s): Mistakes by Crane, and turnovers. The run game listed above.

The 6-foot-4, 236-pound Crane waited four years on the bench for his turn, and Jagodzinski jokingly called him a fifth-year freshman earlier in the season.

While he has showed glimpses of great play, most of Crane's season has looked like he is a true freshman.

So far, Crane has completed 143 of his 255 passes (56.1 percent), for 1,427 yards and eight touchdowns. However, he's thrown 12 interceptions, and has also fumbled the football away a few times.

The Notre Dame defense is more likely to see this Crane, but North Carolina State saw a completely different version. Against the Wolfpack, Crane threw for 428 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for three more scores, and does run fairly well. His 470 combined total yards were the third-most in school history behind two different Doug Flutie performances.

Boston College has lost eight-of-15 fumbles this season, and the Irish hope to capitalize on a few more.

Miscellaneous: Boston College is 44-of-116 (38 percent) on third down this season. They're narrowly winning the time-of-possession battle, 30:18 to 29:41. The Eagles have been good in the red zone, scoring on 28-of-32 opportunities, including 21 touchdowns. Kicker Steve Aponavicius has really struggled this season, making just 7-of-12 attempts, and Jagodzinski will not bring him out there for a boot of 40 yards or more. Receiver Clarence Megwa was carted off the field with a serious leg injury against Clemson. Receiver Ifeanyi Momah has 10 catches for 138 yards and a team-high three scores. Backup-up quarterback Dominique Davis is a run threat that is developing as a passer.

 On Defense:

 Defense '08 Rank Per Game ND Offense '08 Rank Per Game
Rushing Defense # 19 106.25 Rushing Offense #91 121.75
Pass Defense # 14 168.50 Pass Offense #18 263.63
Pass Eff. # 12 101.16 Pass Eff. #41 134.61
Total Defense # 10 274.75 Total Offense #45 385.38
Scoring Defense #27 19.00 Scoring Offense #51 27.38


Threat(s):Despite graduation and injury, this unit has still remained one of the best in the country against both the rush and the pass

Boston College lost seven starters from last year's defense that ranked No. 2 against the run and No. 19th overall nationally. Making matters worst, standout linebacker Brian Toal was lost for the season with an ankle injury in the win over Virginia Tech.

But it doesn't seem to matter who is on the field, the Eagles are tough to make plays against.

Led by 6-foot-4, 238-pound strong side linebacker Mark Herzlich, the Boston College defense will be a tough match-up for Notre Dame. Herzlich comes into the game leading the team with 68 tackles and seven stops for loss, and is tied for the team lead with three interceptions.

Big 6-foot, 252-pound middle linebacker Mike McLaughlin has 44 tackles, with six of those coming behind the line of scrimmage including two sacks.

The defensive line is anchored by 323-pound B.J. Raji, who has a team-high four sacks among his 25 tackles. Teaming up with fellow 324-pound tackle Ron Brace, the two give the Eagles defense a huge interior presence.

Safety Paul Anderson has 31 tackles and three interceptions to lead a secondary that has been very sound against the pass. Kevin Akins is a 6-foot-2, 224-pound cornerback that gives Boston College a physical defensive back to match-up with Irish receivers Michael Floyd and Golden Tate.

Achilles Heal(s):Explosives have hurt the at some times, inconsistent Boston College defense.

Whether it's C.J. Spiller going for 106 yards receiving or Hakeem Nicks scoring three receiving touchdowns, the Eagles defense has given up big plays at times this fall.

North Carolina quarterback Cam Sexton and Clemson signal-caller Cullen Harper each threw for over 200 yards against Boston College, and Jimmy Clausen is looking to be the next in line.

Miscellaneous: Teams are only 42-of-121 (35 percent) on third down against the Eagles. Opponents are 13-of-19 (68 percent) in the red zone against Boston College, including only eight touchdowns. The Eagles come into the game with 21 sacks as a team.

Game Notes: This is the 18th-ever meeting between Notre Dame and Boston College. The Irish lead the series with a 9-8 record. The Vegas line has Boston College opening as 3-point favorites. Alumni Stadium holds 44,500 fans. Charlie Weis' record against Boston College is 0-1. Jeff Jagodzinksi's record against Notre Dame is 1-0.

Prediction: Notre Dame 21, Boston College 20: The Irish bounce back from a tough defeat at home to Pittsburgh, to hand the Eagles their third-straight loss. Notre Dame will struggle to run the ball, but Michael Floyd continues to emerge as one of the best receivers in the nation with another 100-yard receiving day with a score. Duval Kamara and Kyle Rudolph also haul in touchdown passes from Clausen, who overcomes an early interception to settle into another solid outing.


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