Notre Dame hits the road today to take on nemesis Boston College in a rivalry game that almost always means more to the Eagles than the Irish. On the heels of last weekend’s historic win, Notre Dame looks to avoid a letdown to keep their perfect season alive heading into next weekend’s bye. The Eagles know a thing or two about ending perfect seasons for the Irish, though. Will history repeat itself, or will Notre Dame learn from its past?
Notre Dame needs to exorcise more demons today
Earlier this year, Notre Dame exorcised some demons from 2011 with a total beatdown of South Florida. There are much bigger demons for Notre Dame to slay today. Notre Dame fans are still traumatized by memories of Boston College’s upsets in 1993 and 2002 when they ruined perfect seasons for the Irish. Notre Dame lost more games in 2002 following their loss to the Eagles, but 1993 without question, cost the Irish a title.
Coming off an upset of #1 ranked Clemson last weekend, the 1993 comparisons are unavoidable even if they seem to have gotten annoying to Brian Kelly this week. Get ready to see highlights of David Gordon over and over today during the telecast, though.
The one big difference between 1993 and today is that this game is on the road, which in a case like this, I think favors the Irish. In ‘93, the Irish hosted Boston College and had all of the distractions of being on campus all week. Getting away from home and being on the road should help with focus. This Boston College team is also far from a top 15 team like the Glen Foley led squad of ‘93.
Don’t freak out over a slow start
Don’t be surprised if the Irish do have a slow start today. Last week was grueling both emotionally and physically for this squad. A double-overtime thriller against a team like Clemson will take its toll on any team. So, if the Irish look a little sluggish out of the gate, don’t be too concerned. Now, if that sluggishness lingers until, say, the second or third quarter, then you can freak out.
Notre Dame Must Limit Phil Jurkovec’s Deep Balls
The one way Boston College can hang with Notre Dame and pull of an upset today is if Phil Jurkovec hits on a few deep shots. It’s how Boston College built its big lead against Clemson two weeks ago, and it’s really how Clemson came back against Notre Dame last weekend. Neither BC against Clemson or the Tigers versus the Irish last week could string together long drives. They needed big plays.
If Jurkovec doesn’t have at least two long touchdown passes today, this game won’t be particularly close. If he does, well, then things could get dicey.
Notre Dame could not get much pressure last week – until the very end – while using primarily their front four. Given the problems on the back-end of the secondary recently, I don’t think you will see Clark Lea change much and send too many blitzes today, so the front four will need to have a more significant impact this week.
Can Notre Dame get Chris Tyree going again?
Kyren Williams will eat today – he has every week. Freshman speedster Chris Tyree, however, has slowed down a bit in recent weeks. Today would be a great time to get him going again, even though the Boston College run defense has been excellent lately. They didn’t limit Travis Etienne to 28 yards rushing like Notre Dame, but hey, no defense has ever really done that before Notre Dame.
Tommy Rees has been running some interesting motion plays with Tyree and Williams in recent weeks that have been a work in progress. I am hopeful that we’ll see that work pay off today with a big play.
Boston College is going to be overly aggressive in a game like this. Rees and the Irish offense will be able to capitalize on that with some big plays.
Will Javon McKinley continue his emergence?
Hats off to Javon McKinley for proving pretty much everyone wrong by being the guy against Clemson. He had a career day against the best defense he ever had to face by winning almost every 50/50 ball that Ian Book threw his way. After an effort like that, look for Book to continue trusting him to win those matchups similar to how he did with Miles Boykin in 2018 and Chase Claypool last year.
For all the good that McKinley’s done so far, one area he hasn’t had an impact yet is in the redzone. Notre Dame’s redzone offense has not been great this year, but if McKinley can make contested catches against the Clemson defense, he should be able to do the same against any other defense he faces this year.
Look for McKinley to score his first touchdown of the season today.
I am really hoping for an Ian Book explosion
Ian Book does not have to outplay Phil Jurkovec today to prove anything after what he did last week. Still, at the same time, I’d love to see Book come and silence the contingent of Notre Dame fans who still think that Jurkovec should be the starting quarterback for the Irish over Book this year.
After a really slow start, Book has had 300+ yards passing in two of the last three games, both of which were the best two defenses the Irish have faced all season – Pitt and Clemson.
Notre Dame’s offense relies on its power rushing attack, and they will again today, but part of hopes Kelly and Rees dial up a few more passes this week to let Book shine against his former understudy.
When the line opened for this game at 13.5, I immediately thought, man, that’s a lot of points to cover. But as the week has progressed, I’ve come along more and more to the idea of Notre Dame taking care of business today. I think the Irish will start a little slow, but Boston College already had their one game of the year where they played out of their minds two weeks ago. I just don’t think BC is talented enough to repeat that effort.
Notre Dame 38, Boston College 17