What do 1995-96-97-98 and 2009-10-11 and potentially 2012 have in common? They'd be the only continuous string of victories for Notre Dame over Boston College in series history. Particularly vexing for Irish fans was a string of six consecutive wins the Eagles enjoyed over the Irish in between, winning in '01, '02, '03, '04, '07, and '08.
Notre Dame fans overlooking Boston College became an annual error during the aforementioned stretch, but that's not pertinent to the recent rivals slotting below. The November road trip to Chestnut Hill ranks just 10th on our Trouble Spots list because of Notre Dame's challenging schedule and the fact that the Eagles have trended downward of late and the 2012 group appears no better than the 9th or 10th best team -- potentially the 12th best -- among Irish foes this fall.
Boston College Game Slotting/SituationNotre Dame's handling of Boston College in its last visit east, Brian Kelly's first road win for the University, effectively ended a stretch of futility for the Irish on Chestnut Hill. This season's matchup for Notre Dame follows a home date with middling Pittsburgh (more on the Panthers soon in the Trouble Spots series) and precedes a Senior Day matchup with Wake Forest. ND vs. BC is Game #2 of a three-game stretch of absolute must-win games for Notre Dame to begin November.
If the Irish lose to any of the trio, a sixth straight season with four or more losses is nearly guaranteed considering the quality of its remaining eight foes.
The Eagles host Notre Dame after traveling to Wake Forest and one week prior to a visit by national power Virginia Tech. Rest assured, Boston College will be ready for the Irish after three straight defeats and its proclivity to naturally bristle in its role as the red-headed stepchild to Notre Dame's Golden Boys. The tact was hugely successful over a 10-year, 8-game span that saw BC take seven of the eight match ups from '99 through '08.
Notre Dame's 2012 senior class has never lost to the Eagles and with a victory would join the 1998 graduating class as the only pair to win four straight vs. BC in program history.
Inside the EaglesJunior Chase Rettig enters his third season as a starter. He was destroyed by Notre Dame's defense in his first career start two seasons ago in Chestnut Hill. Former Kent State head coach Doug Martin is the new offensive coordinator of a group that ranked among the nation's bottom 20 in passing offense, scoring offense (18 points per game) an total offense last fall. Even the usually reliable running game slipped to 82nd, scoring just 12 rushing touchdowns, a number reminiscent of the latter portion of the Charlie Weis era in South Bend.
The program's all-time leading rusher Montel Harris was dismissed from the team in the off-season and landed at Temple. Harris hurt his knee last fall and was in-line for a 5th-season with BC prior to his dismissal for a "repeated violation of a team rule."
Gone from the defense is all-world linebacker Luke Kuechly, the best defensive player Notre Dame has faced over the last three seasons. Kuechly finished with an astounding 42 tackles (three for lost yardage), two pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in three career games vs. Notre Dame, all Irish victories.
Though BC has a solid LB unit in his stead lead by third-year regular Kevin Pierre-Louis, a drop-off in front seven play is inevitable.
If the Eagles can't improve upon a 4-8 finish in 2011 on the heels of a 7-6 2010, 4th-year head coach and long-time Eagles defensive assistant Frank Spaziani will likely be replaced on Chestnut Hill.
Outside Looking In: Lindy's Sports has Boston College ranked #71 nationally while Athlon Sports has the Eagles way down at 86th and last in the ACC Atlantic. Phil Steele has Spaziani's crew near .500 on the strength of 17 returning starters but at #77 among 124 FBS schools.
Final ThoughtsA thus-far shaky quarterback, two veteran but suspect wide receivers, and the sudden loss of the program's leading rusher in the off-season. There are plenty of reasons to scoff at the Eagles offense, but the presence of a solid tight end and four returning starters up front, along with a crew of capable runners suggests the BC offense could improve after two terrible seasons.
Improvement is of course relative, as anyone that watched Notre Dame's punt-fest vs. the Eagles last November in South Bend knows the visitors couldn't have scored 20 if locked alone in the Stadium for three more hours.
Kuechly's loss is immeasurable on defense and in Spaziani's four seasons, Boston College is a telling 0-6 vs. Top 25 teams and just 12-12 in ACC play. Spaziani is a likable sort, but better fit for the defensive coordinator position he ably manned for the program previously, the aforementioned period during which BC finished 7-1 vs. the Irish.
Notre Dame's warranted former fear of the Eagles as tough-minded spoilers does not currently apply, at least not until a new era begins in Chestnut Hill.
Next in the Series: Trouble Spot #9 will be published over the weekend.