Three things worry me about this game. It's a road game. It's a night game. Boston College is coming off two losses. Motivation has never been a problem for the Eagles in the game. I can't say that for Notre Dame. But this is a new team. This is a new season. This is a different bunch of players who will likely want to take their anger of a disappointing loss to Pittsburgh last week out on the Eagles.
How healthy is Jimmy Clausen? He's certainly a tough kid, and he'll definitely play, but will he be 100 percent? Will he be mobile enough to avoid the rush?
This week, more than any other recently, the play of the ND offensive line will determine the outcome of this game. The surest way to protect and ailing quarterback is to run the football. The Irish haven't been a great rushing team, and the Boston College defense only allows 106 yards rushing per game. It will be difficult for ND to run on BC, but the Irish need to be able to at least have some success doing it to keep the heat off Clausen.
What the Irish have to avoid in this game is becoming one dimensional and relying solely on the pass to move the football. I fully expect Boston College to be very aggressive in this game early and to try to force the Irish into that type of game so they can tee off on Clausen. That will mean the Irish will have the opportunity to make some big plays early in the game. They'll need to take advantage of those opportunities.
My guess is the Irish will have some success running behind Sam Young and Trevor Robinson in this game, but I think they'll have to spread the Eagles out early with some big gains in the passing game before they'll be able to run. Clausen will need to be accurate early, and the Irish will have to give him solid pass protection. BC has picked off 14 passes this season, so they make plays on defense. The game plan will be very important early in the game.
I think each week Irish fans go into the game worried about the Irish defense and some of their weakness. However, the Irish defense has played very well all season early in games. They play especially well when they have some help from the offense. I expect the same thing in this game.
The Eagles have a struggling quarterback in Chris Crane. He's had some recent poor performances and he's prone to mistakes. However, the Irish have a habit of making all Boston College quarterbacks look like John Elway when they play them.
I expect the Eagles to ride the back of freshmen running back Montel Harris early in the game. Harris is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and he can make some big plays. I think they'll slowly work on Crane's confidence by slowing working him into the game. If Harris starts off strong, that will be bad news for Notre Dame. Stopping the run early will be important. They did it last week against Pitt and LeSean McCoy, so they can do it again this week.
The game plan has to be to make Crane beat the Irish. If the Irish can do that, they'll have a good chance to win on Saturday.
It's the same every week for this team, but more so this week than any other. Attitude, want to, desire, effort, all of it will be important. Getting off to a fast start will be very important. Probably the most important factor off all will be protecting the football. The Irish won't win on Saturday if they turn the ball over often.
The keys to this game on offense are to protect Clausen, run the football, hold onto the football, and score touchdowns when they get into the red zone.
The keys on defense are to stop the run, get some turnovers, and make Crane beat them.
Mike Frank Prediction: I think ND fans will know within the first 10 minutes of this game if the Irish are going to win. This game has always been about which team wants this game more. Unfortunately, it's been Boston College who wanted this game more in recent contests. That's something that has to change if the Irish ever want to become a great team.
Notre Dame: 28 Boston College 21