The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are coming off the most significant victory of their season after defeating the Clemson Tigers, 47-40, in double overtime. The win kept them undefeated and still in the hunt for a college football playoff berth, but they now must look forward to this week’s road game against the Boston College Eagles and avoid a deadly letdown.
The Eagles enter this game with a 5-3 record and deliver a crushing blow to the national title hopes of the Irish if they manage to pull out a victory. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has yet to lose to Boston College in six previous matchups, the most recent taking place last year in the Irish’s 40-7 blowout at home.
Below are some of the key matchups to watch:
QB Ian Book vs. Boston College Defense
Over the past three games, Book has been much more active with his arm, completing 26 passes against Clemson on a season-high 39 attempts. While he only has eight touchdown passes in seven games, he has a single interception on his record. He ran for 68 yards against Clemson, though it was his discipline down the stretch that led the Irish to a game-tying touchdown to send the game to overtime.
One easy threshold to measure the success of Boston College is to see whether or not they’ve kept an opposing offense under 400 yards. The three times they haven’t coincided with their trio of defeats on the year. Clemson collected 342 yards through the air, while Virginia Tech ran for 350 yards against them, so Book will seek out the best way to exploit the Eagles’ defense.
Notre Dame Defense vs. QB Phil Jurkovec
Irish defenders are hoping to get back on track after Clemson lit up their pass defense to the tune of 439 yards on Saturday night. Notre Dame had only allowed an average of 211 yards of total offense in their three previous games, and while the level of Boston College’s talent doesn’t rival that of Clemson, fixing the flaws is important.
That’s because a familiar face behind center will likely focus on trying to pass the Eagles to victory. Phil Jurkovec was with the Irish the past two years before transferring during the offseason and has thrown for over 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns. He’s only had four passes picked off and can run if that becomes an issue during the game.
RB Kyren Williams vs. MLB Max Richardson
Williams broke the 100-yard barrier for the fourth time against Clemson with 140 for the night, while also scoring a career-high three touchdowns. He helped the Irish grab the early momentum with a 75-yard scoring run on the first play from scrimmage and continues to show that he’s a game-breaker. Against Boston College, he has the potential to do even more damage if afforded the opportunity.
For the third consecutive year, Richardson is a key BC defender who knows how to get past an opposing offense’s front line. He’s got 32 tackles-for-loss during his career with the Eagles, including eight this season. It’s clear that keeping him in check can lead to victory since Richardson has been shut out in such stops in BC’s three losses.
CB Nick McCloud vs. WR Zay Flowers
McCloud is halfway through his graduate transfer season and is coming off a Clemson game in which he managed to be in a position to recover a pair of fumbles. He has one interception on the year and only has 20 tackles on the season, a good number for a cornerback.
Flowers is one of Jukovec’s favorite receivers, collecting at least five catches in five different games. He’s had big games against a pair of past Irish foes, Duke and Pitt, and brings blazing speed that marks him as a deep threat that McCloud needs to shut down.
WR Javon McKinley vs. CB Brandon Sebastian
Over the past three games, McKinley has become the deep threat that the Irish need to offer balance with their offensive attack. He’s grabbed five passes apiece in each of the last two games, and while he’s still looking for his first score of the season, Book’s increased focus on the passing game has made him an essential facet of the Irish offense.
Sebastian is in his third year at Boston College and has made 26 stops on the year, including a pair behind the line. He’s also picked off a pass and has made a habit of being able to knock away opposing pass attempts. However, his eight in that category this season is something of a skewed number because six of them came in the Eagles’ win against Pitt.