1-3 is not where anyone thought or expected Notre Dame would be right now. That is the reality, however. After a thouroughly dominating performance by Stanford last week, the Irish have now lost seven of their last eight. The good news is that this week signals the beginning of five straight winnable games for Notre Dame. The next two won’t be easy, but they are games the Irish could and maybe should win. It all begins with just the second true road game of the season against Boston College.
NOTRE DAME PREVIEW
Notre Dame’s offense regressed last Saturday and the running game was non-existent. In fact, ND hasn’t run the ball very much or very well the last two weeks. Part of it has been that they’ve had to play catch-up, but the biggest reason is that they haven’t tried very much. A large part of Brian Kelly’s offensive system relies on the quarterback to run the ball some. Kelly has been either afraid or reluctant to use Dayne Crist in this capacity since he knows full well that Crist needs to stay healthy for the Irish to have any chance to win. But Kelly sometimes needs to throw caution to the wind and just run the offense he knows how to run. Crist can be effective, and you have to take chances sometimes. Stanford really created a blueprint as to how to defend Notre Dame, namely rushing three and dropping eight into coverage. If Boston College or any other team tries that again, the Irish have to be ready to exploit that and run the ball. We’ll see what adjustments Kelly and his offense make for this Saturday night.
Defensively, I said it before, but it’s pretty clear just what this defense is going to be. They will give up some yards, and a few points, but they’re also going to keep the team in the game. Manti Te’o has been on a tear lately and will need to continue his play. The secondary has done a really nice job this year, especially Gary Gray, but they need some help from their front seven. The Irish have not gotten consistent enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks. It’s amazing how Stanford could rush only three or four and still get to Crist, but when ND rushes five or six, they struggle to get to the QB. That means either there is something fundamentally wrong with the Notre Dame defense, or they’re just not good enough. If there something fundamentally wrong, it needs to be fixed. If it’s a talent issue, Kelly’s working on it. Pressuring the quarterback is going to be a huge key for the Irish this week.
BOSTON COLLEGE PREVIEW
The Eagles enter the game 2-1 with wins over Weber State by 18 and Kent State by 13. The only good team they have faced this season has been Virginia Tech and they lost to them last week 19-0. So BC finds themselves at a sort of crossroads as well. They’ve beaten the teams they should have, but lost to the only team that is worth anything. And shut out at that. To that end, true freshman Chase Rettig will get his first start of his career this Saturday. Sophomore Dave Shinskie had been the starter, but has not performed well throwing for 529 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions this season. He is a guy that had a career day last season against the Irish (279 yards, TD), but also threw three picks, including the game-sealing interception late in the contest. So now it’s up to Rettig. Everyone is high on his talent and ability, but how well can he play in the spotlight, on national television, against a pretty good defense?
One way to help Rettig out is with their running game. Boston College has a great running back in Montel Harris. Harris is a dual threat back that can run very effectively, and catch passes out of the backfield. So far this season, he’s rushed for 306 yards and a touchdown, and caught eight passes for 52 yards. He’s going to be the big key for BC. If Harris can run wild, the Eagles will have a more than fair chance of winning. If Notre Dame can contain him, as they did well last year, and put the game on Rettig’s shoulders, then the Irish have a great chance to win.
Receiving wise, the Eagles have a great young player in freshman Johnathan Coleman. He’s leading the way with 8 catches for 173 yards for an average of 21.6 yards per catch. Still, he had only one catch against Virginia Tech showing he still has a long way to go to be a constant threat.
Defensively, BC has done a really nice job. They are 31st in the nation giving up just 17.3 points a game, and even in their loss last week, held Virginia Tech to just one touchdown and four field goals. They seem to be in a similar mold to Notre Dame’s defense, bend but don’t break. They do have outstanding linebackers in Luke Kuechly and Mark Herzlich. Kuechly already has 37 tackles and a sack this year, while Herzlich has 16 tackles and an interception while coming back after battling cancer last season. They make this defense go and will need to play well to beat the Irish.
Boston College always plays Notre Dame tough and Chestnut Hill has been a pit of despair for the Irish. ND has won just twice ever at BC and hasn’t won there since 1998. With both teams reeling, it’s going to come down to what team can execute the best and who wants it more. A true freshman starting at QB means Notre Dame should be able to take advantage of that, but as we’ve seen that is not always the case. I think Notre Dame will come out ready to play. This team is hungry for a win and they need to win this game for any number of reasons. Before the season I thought this would be a loss, but now with they way things have played out, I think the Irish must win this game. With their backs to the wall, look for a close, defensive struggle, but a tough Notre Dame victory.
SCORE: Notre Dame 21, Boston College-17