The Notre Dame Fighting Irish look to boost their current winning streak to four games for their 2019 home finale against the Boston College Eagles. The Irish are once again facing a team that’s coming off a bye and one that’s been a model of inconsistency at 5-5 on the year.
Except for last month’s debacle against Michigan, the Irish defense has been mostly solid during the course of the season. The Eagles can’t say the same, which offers Brian Kelly’s squad to take control once again early and end any prospect of a potential upset on Senior Day.
Below is a look at some of the matchups that will be worth watching on Saturday:
QB Ian Book vs. Boston College Defense
Book has been prolific in recent weeks, both with his arm and feet, throwing for 806 yards and 11 touchdowns, while also rushing for 220 on 30 carries. He’s only thrown six interceptions on the year, though four of those came during this recent stretch. Still, he very week could have a huge day against a vulnerable unit like Boston College.
The Eagles defense hasn’t offered their offensive brethren much help, giving up virtually the same amount of points as scored by BC’s offense. After a strong start in forcing turnovers, when they collected 10 in the first four games, the Eagles have only managed three in the ensuing six contests.
Notre Dame Defense vs. QB Dennis Grosel
The Notre Dame defense has been clicking since being ripped apart in last month’s loss at Michigan, allowing just four offensive touchdowns and forcing eight turnovers in their previous three games. While the caliber of some of those teams might be cause for closer scrutiny, the Irish have managed to shut down their last two opponents early, allowing the Irish offense to take control of the game.
Boston College’s original starter at quarterback, Anthony Brown, was lost for the season last month when he went down with a knee injury, which inserted Grosel into the lineup. Since taking over, he’s thrown for five touchdowns and has kept errors to a minimum. In the past two contests, he’s picked his passing production, primarily since he offers a minimal threat as a runner.
MLB Drew White vs. RB A.J. Dillon
White has been the central component of the resurgent Notre Dame defense, which did allow more than half of Navy’s rushing yardage after the game had been decided. He leads the Irish in tackles with 65 and hovers near the top of the leader board when it comes to making stops behind the line, having collected eight tackles-for-loss this year.
Dillon stands just 139 yards away from his career-high rushing yardage, having collected 1,451 yards and scoring 13 times. He’s averaging over five yards per carry and has broken 200 yards in a game twice this season. He’s a workhorse, who gets blocking support from David Bailey, but is coming off two games in which he carried the ball a total of 75 times.
Notre Dame Running Backs vs. LB Max Richardson
In an odd coincidence, the top four receivers among Notre Dame running backs each have ten receptions on the year. Book can use Tony Jones Jr., Jafar Armstrong, Lawrence Keys III or Avery Davis as a secondary pass option, which is a good sign concerning the team’s potential firepower. A much better sign would be for this unit to chew up plenty of ground to establish the running game.
Richardson first became a force on the Eagles defense last season and is the team leader in tackles on the year. A total of 14 of those stops have been behind the line of scrimmage, including 3.5 sacks, meaning he’s a player that needs to be held in check. If that happens, an already weak Boston College defense diminishes even further.
WR Chase Claypool vs. CB Jason Maitre
Claypool is arguably one of the hottest receivers in the country and managed to tie a school record for touchdowns in a game with four against Navy. He was able to do that against Navy’s smaller secondary and will be going up against a defender who stands just 5-foot-10, so the senior could be in for another big day.
Maitre leads Boston College in pass deflections with six and returned his lone interception for a touchdown, yet he’s also been part of a defense that’s given up an average of 302 yards through the air this season. That collective problem is magnified by the fact that he’s got less than a year as a starter in this role.