Notre Dame 2015 Shamrock Series Keys to Victory

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Notre Dame heads to Boston this weekend for a home game in Fenway Park against Boston College in this year’s Shamrock Series.  The Irish will look to remain undefeated in the Shamrock Series this weekend against the Eagles and hold on to their #4 position in the College Football Playoff Rankings.  Notre Dame will also be looking for their second 10 win season of the Brian Kelly Era this weekend which would make Kelly the first Irish head coach since Lou Holtz to have multiple 10 win seasons during his tenure.

 

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Here’s what the Fighting Irish have to do to make it all happen.

Fight off Boston College’s initial surge

Notre Dame is walking into Boston, plastering its logo and signage all over historic Fenway Park, and playing a home game miles from Boston College’s campus.  In real world terms, Notre Dame is basically walking into Boston College’s favorite bar, walking right past them, grabbing its girlfriend and kissing her right in front of them and then turning around and smiling when they are done.  It would be naive to think that Boston College is not going to come out tomorrow extremely fired up.  Hell, Boston College comes out like world beaters any time they play Notre Dame let alone under these circumstances.

With that in mind the biggest thing Notre Dame needs to do is fight off the initial surge from Boston College and not let them gain too much early momentum.   On paper Notre Dame has more talent at pretty much every position and as long as they survive that early push from the Eagles, talent should take over.  If Notre Dame comes out and lets Boston College knock them on the ground after kissing its girlfriend in front of them though, well then things will get a little too close for comfort.  The good news here is that this is really not a good Boston College team so even if they do swing back and connect, it shouldn’t knock the Irish off their feet.

Air it out and get Will Fuller going early

We’ve all heard all week long about how great Boston College’s defense is, but that same defense gave up 420 yards through the air to Clemson’s Deshaun Watson earlier this season – Watson’s season best and the second highest total of his career.  So the Eagles defense is not invincible by any means.  With that being said, if Notre Dame tries to come out and play smashmouth football with the Eagles the way they tried against Temple a few weeks back, the offense might have a tougher time getting going.

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With Stanford on the horizon next week, saving some hits on the running backs and the pounding on an offensive line that has been a bit banged up would be wise.  Notre Dame has the weapons to spread Boston College out and attack them through the air.  A week after Wake Forest kept All-American candidate Will Fuller in check, the Irish need to get their star receiver involved early.  Fuller caught just three passes for 37 yards last week and failed to reach the endone for just the second time this season while tying his season low in yardage.  Boston College doesn’t have anyone who can cover Fuller – get #7 the ball early and often.

Keep it simple on defense

There isn’t really a nice way to say this.  Boston College’s offense is bad.  Like really, really bad.  They average just 123.4 yards a game through the air and haven’t scored more than 17 points on a single FBS opponent this season.  In fact, take away their 76 point outburst against powerhouse Howard and Boston College is averaging 10.7 points a game – and even that includes the 24 points they scored against FCS opponent Maine.  They’ve been shut out twice at the hands of Florida State and Wake Forest.

While the Notre Dame defense hasn’t exactly been a juggernaut this season, this will be the worst offense they will have seen all season – perhaps by a wide margin.  With that in mind Notre Dame needs to keep things simple this weekend and just let its talent shut down the Boston College offense.  There shouldn’t be a need for too many all out blitzes or anything like that.  Just play sound defense this week and force Boston College to move the ball down the field.  They haven’t proven they can do it all year.

Force Boston College into third and long

If Notre Dame forces Boston College into third and long situations, it will be a long evening for the Eagles offense.  Romeo Okwara has blossomed into a legit pass rushing threat on this defense with his sack outburst the last five weeks.  He should be able to generate pressure on Boston College and hopefully add to his steadily rising sack total which currently sits at 9.0.  If Okwara can pick up another sack or two this weekend, the senior defensive end will have Justin Tuck’s Notre Dame single season record in his sights in the season finale and post-season.

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Get CJ Prosise some work, but not too much

Star running back CJ Prosise was cleared to play this week, but Notre Dame would be wise to ease him back into action and not let him take too many hits unless absolutely necessary.  It will be good to get Prosise some carries and used to taking some hits again before next weekend’s tilt with Stanford, but with Boston College’s tough run defense, this isn’t the type of game you want to throw him back into the mix full time in.  Josh Adams has back to back 140+ yard games and set a Notre Dame record last week with a 98 yard touchdown run.  Run the frosh again this week and see if he can top 100 yards for the third straight week.

Please throw to the tight end

This one is a recurring theme, but it certainly be nice to see Notre Dame get the tight end position involved in the passing game more.  If Boston College commits a safety to help cover Will Fuller as they should, the middle of the field should be open for Alize Jones to work.  Jones hasn’t caught a pass since his huge 45 yarder against Temple and it’s time to get the frosh more involved in the passing game.

Prediction

Well, last weekend’s prediction was pretty off as I over estimated how many point the Irish offense would put up on Wake Forest.  This week I think the game will be closer than most.  Add a rivalry game that is almost more important to one side (ahem, BC), the take over of Fenway, and the possibility of Notre Dame overlooking Boston College with Stanford up next week and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t more worried about this game than any other this season with the exception of Clemson and Georgia Tech (since we all though the Jackets were a legit team at that time).

All that said, I expect this one to be close at half causing a meltdown on all of the Notre Dame message boards and major over reactions on Twitter – especially from Oklahoma fans.  Notre Dame’s talent will allow the Irish to pull away in the second half though.  I hope I’m wrong and Notre Dame comes out and dominates from the opening whistle but we’ve only seen that once this year and that game in week one.

Notre Dame 31, Boston College 10

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29 Comments

  1. @SFR Couldn’t agree with you more Rob. Same ole BS every year about whoever is playing ND its always their bowl game or the game they have circled on their calendar. Total garbage. IMO ND has shit the bed three times this year but has managed to somehow win 2 out of 3 of those games. Virginia and BC. I’m hopeful they will stay in the top 4 but wont be surprised if the hammer falls on Tuesday

  2. “Style points”? Or “strength of schedule” when most were set before there were even playoffs?
    When you have only four teams chosen, and you could easily make the case for eight this year, “style points” are the glaring weakness evident in the playoff scenario. Robert above is correct in that selective attention to certain teams’ style points has been arbitrarily enforced by fans and pundits. The playoff committee has an impossible task this year, and will in the future as well as parity continues. Last night, as I mentioned above, I heard Clemson “blew out” Wake by 20, after Wake having just played with an emotional edge and with an extra-week prep vs. ND the week before- which many described as ND struggling to win by “only” 21. So rather than encouraging the elite to run up the scores as their schedules wind down, like was the case before the playoffs, giving more than four the opportunity to earn the championship would be fairer and more telling as to who actually belong in the final four at season’s end. If it’s eight, or even six with the top 2 getting a bye- one more game for those who earn their way into the final four would serve the process better. With seemingly thousands of bowl games leading up to New Year’s Day, one or two to serve as elimination playoff games would both generate greater revenue for the host bowl and make it fairer than it now exists.

  3. ND is only school that has to apologize for winning all other schools that win ugly get a pass. If ND beats Stanford they should be in playoff. Maybe BK needs to scream at media the way Sabin and Dabo and all the other coaches do each week. Big 12 is a joke league that plays video game football, first to 50 pts seems to win there.

  4. Well said Irisheyes. The issue is timing of poor play and now isn’t the time. It’s “next man in” that I hear so let’s not use injuries as excuses for poor play. Probably could have used Valium and wine as Burgundy suggested I do, but I’m not wearing blinders. The team played piss poor and the last 2 games that on paper had teams that were not as good talent wise as ND, they did little to score style points in their wins, especially Mich St possibly jumping over ND and even Okla jumping ND after what happened with them yesterday with results on the field. I am all for being 10-1, but, there are some legitimate issues happening that better get addressed if taking the next step will occur with this team & coaching staff. Hey, at least we don’t have a Heisman candidate/starting running back and backup QB criticizing the coaching staff in the locker room after losing.

    Go Irish

  5. The Irish have had a good year without question – 10-1 with wins over #16 Navy and Southern Cal, Temple, Pitt – all pretty good teams. Their only loss being to the #1 team in the country and I think they win that one if they had gone to OT. That being said, last night’s win vs. BC was extremely disappointing. They needed to win convincingly and “score some points” with the selection committee and they did anything but that – in fact they hurt themselves significantly. The bottom line is ND is not playing their best football right now (Wake and BC) and this is not the time of year to play poorly. Not sure I understand how they can play so poorly when so much is on the line. Last night killed them. 5 turnovers and three were either inside BC’s two yard line or in BC’s end zone – they “gave” at least 21 points away last night. Reminded me of the Clemson game. Inexcusable! They should have won by 24 or more last night. ND always seems to play up (or down) to their level of competition. Here’s hoping they “bring it” next Saturday and find a way to win at Stanford! If they can get it done I think it’s hard to keep them out of the playoff.

  6. Good points MTA. Other “blow outs” Saturday are #5 Iowa 40-20 over Purdue , #7 Oklahoma “whipping” a TCU no D , injury riddled offense 30-29 and #9 Michigan State “walloping” over rated #2 weak SOS Ohio State 17-14. Notre Dame plays terrible but WINS 19-16. Forget BC’s record–they are one of best defensive teams in the country. But the expert media/analyst across the web and TV are screaming about ND’s not having enough style points to remain in top 4. Should Iowa , Oklahoma , Michigan State leap frog over ND into #3 and #4 slots ? Iowa might–but that’s it. Crazy things happen and Irish hopefully stay at #4. How bout Irish at #3 , Iowa goes to #4. Hope Prosise is okay for Stanford game. Go Irish just keep winning.

  7. Just heard Clemson at home “blew out” Wake by 20 from a sports analyst on a college-day wrap-up show. Same guy last week said ND at home struggled to defeat Wake by 21.
    So is the final score relevant or not? Let’s review . . .
    Bottom line: ND is 10-1 – it’s only loss to #1 rated and at Clemson, by 2 points, having won on the road three of the last four, (playing BC at Fenway is not an ND home game, regardless what NBC calls it), with still another road game to go.
    I know injuries are part of the game, but has any other team lost as many starters approaching their last road game and still won 10 of their 11 games – or even close to 10 games?
    I suspect no one has lost 12 starters- period!

    ND will probably have to win at Stanford to even secure a major bowl, let alone the final four. A tough order at this point – now adding K. Russell (Stress fractured leg), and CJ (leaving the field on crutches) to the limping wounded dozen or so -both having played great despite the team’s very ugly, sloppy win in Fenway. But it was a win!

    Great individual efforts by Carlisle and Brown despite numerous team dropped passes, 5 turnovers (could have been more), and an 80 yard QB keeper for a TD by BC, with BC seemingly gaining more yards offensively in the second half than ND. That’s not good! Kudos to the ball-hawking Eagles. Haven’t seen such aggressive attacking of the ball both against the run or the pass since Peanuts Tillman left the Bears!

    ND returns to another red zone horror show – or this would have been much more impressive vs. the best D they’ve faced.

  8. Worst game this season that’s been played. They are lucky they scored more than BC. They gave naysayers much proof they don’t belong in the top 4 CFP ratings. Maybe they need to take some coffins to Palo Alto because if they play like how they played tonight, they are going to get buried by Stanford.

  9. 4 T/O’s and who knows what injury Prosise has attained. They definitely look like the don’t belong in the top 4 polling based upon that 1st half debacle of a performance.

  10. We’ve also been led to believe that Sad Warrior was performing special ops missions behind enemy lines, that Bruce went to ND, and that we needed a Plan B for the second half of the Ga Tech game. Stop the madness!

  11. We were led to believe that Temple was the second coming of the 85 Bears. How many points have they given up of late to far from powerhouse teams? The USF Bulls are certainly right up there with Bama and Ohio St., I guess.

    Then it was Wake’s D being the Steel Curtain reborn. Anyone seeing what Clemson is doing to that same D?

    We’re always told that every team that plays ND is playing its Super Bowl. Just another excuse for when this team underachieves.

    How about for a change the Irish play like it was their Super Bowl and they exert their collective will against a vastly inferior opponent?!

    Enough of hyping inferior opponents to make us feel good about this Irish team.

    It’s time for them to do the talking for themselves on the field, preferably starting tonight against BC!

  12. Excellent analysis, Frank.
    Will BC add unseen formations and scheme adjustments with their extra week of prep like Wake did? On offense especially , you would expect so. Dominance on the LOS has not been there consistently for ND this season. And with the numerous ankle sprains among the OL, pushing off and dominating the LOS shouldn’t be expected, as you alluded to.Nothing new from ND- will rely on big plays on both sides of the ball. BCs D’ will be most difficult to sustain long drives against. How well the OL and DL play, avoidance of too many turnovers, and giving up big chunk plays to an offense that has no reason to execute them could be the keys. Yoon might have to be MVP if ND can’t burn BC with long TDs.
    Prediction:
    ND fans will have expected more from ND as the game concludes.
    Other than Navy, I dread BC whenever they play vs. ND for all the reasons already mentioned.
    Just win, Irish.

  13. The Wake game was exactly what it should’ve been; a convincing win, with all the cards held very close to the chest. In the same conditions, I’d predict Kelly to do the same against BC, but with the rapid ascension of OU into the #4 talk, I doubt he’ll have the same wholly conservative attitude. My guess is he’ll seek dominance with the same vanilla football we saw against Wake, but if there’s any doubt that the game might end as anything other than convincing, he’ll stretch the field and go for points.

    Fuller wasn’t shut down, he was never activated.

    The point about Elmer, though, couldn’t be more accurate. I couldn’t see well enough through his snot bubbles to get the color on his pacifier, but I do remember the laughing face of Ejiofor. I haven’t seen an owning like that in years. Sore ankle or not, his performance was simply embarrassing. Let’s hope it was just a really, really bad game, because if that’s what he’s going to be for the remainder of the season, all of Kelly’s attempts to restrain the strengths of his offense won’t veil that glaring weakness. Stanford will take full advantage.

  14. ND needs to play up to our potential. If we don’t, why do we deserve a shot at NC? Put up, or shut up!

    Kick ass or go home. What’s so complicated….jeez!

    Woody

  15. @ Jack…agreed the WF game should have been a cake walk. But don’t put it on our O, put it on our D which could not get the ball back into Kizer’s hands. In 60 mins of FB, WF had the ball 15 more mins then we did. Reverse that, add 7 to 10 more points and it’s an ND blowout. As bad as our D was, if not for the bogus 15 yd penalty for ‘bumping’ the WF snapper (later resulted in a WF TD), they pitch a shut-out. My point, IF as billed, BC has no offense, we control the clock, we put up 3 or 4 TD’s.

  16. Nice analogy on how teams how teams play against ND by FXM. Sure would be good to see tight end use as Frank envisioned.. His whole game plan would be great too. Just adding more “D” line man used. I thought ND had depth their. Have seen a bit more played these last few games, which is great. I like the challenge of Fenway park. Exciting and tough. Expecting ND being able to rush against B.C. though. Thanks.

  17. Well, Wake Forest beat BC 3-0. No it wasn’t baseball and BC would beat Wake Forest by a lot more than 3-0 in Hockey, I know Wake Forest doesn’t play hockey. ND will challenge the fortitude of the CFP committee by winning 27-10. I was going to say, “I can’t figure out why ND can’t destroy marginal opposition,” but then I remembered, everyone gets up to play ND like it is their last game of their career and their grandparents will burn in hell absent maximum effort. It is indeed all of ND’s opponent’s “Super Bowl.”

  18. I watched the ND vs Wake Forest game and I wasn’t impressed with either the defense or offense in that game. Steve Elmer got tossed around like a rag doll, Joe Schmidt was slow dancing with a Guard most of the day and Wake marched up and down the field. The offense couldn’t get out of it’s own way and this was against a horrible Wake Forest team. Look at some of the teams ND played GT is horrible, Temple just got crushed by USF, if ND thinks it will sleep walk this game like it did last week they are sadly mistaken. After watching that game I think ND doesn’t score over 21 and BC will score their highest total all year. Plus BK’s play calling at times scares me. We will see, but after last week they should have blow the doors off that team and it was 21- 7 in the third.

  19. Frank, great points, well written. What was ND thinking? … Going into Boston’s Fenway Pack as the home team is beyond nuts? More like a death wish. This is BC’s Bowl, this is the game BC circled before the season started. To them this is as big a rivalry as USC is to us. For all these reasons i am nervous.

    However, if ND runs the game the way you’ve laid it out…strike thru the air early, limit the run game (early), introduce our TE to the offense, play aggressive D up front and get the ball back into Kizer’s hands, we might just walk away with a 3 TD win. Considering what we put ourselves up against, this could be a signature win for us. Any chance of you spending some time up in the ND booth during the game?

  20. My prediction is that BC scores more than 17 points, which as the article states, is the most they’ve scored on an FBS opponent all season.

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