Boston College vs. Notre Dame Preview, Week Three

Michael Sullivan, Staff Writer
Eagle Action

WHO: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

WHERE: Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Mass.

WHEN: 3:30 p.m. EST, ESPN

LAST TIME THEY PLAYED: Boston College football last took on the Irish at Fenway Park, when Notre Dame invaded Boston as part of its "Shamrock Series" in November 2015. The Irish, then ranked at No. 4, took on a BC team scuffling on a six-game losing streak through the ACC. With a pitiful offense despite its No. 1 nationally ranked defense, the Eagles were expected to get blown out. Instead, it turned into one of the most exciting games of the Steve Addazio era. The Eagles gave Notre Dame everything they had defensively. They forced five turnovers--Justin Simmons had three, with two picks and a forced fumble; John Johnson had an interception in the end zone; and Matt Milano forced and recovered a fumble. Three of those five turnovers were within the five-yard line, and all three of those players are now in the NFL. Offensively, BC nearly mounted a fourth-quarter comeback with Jeff Smith at quarterback. The freshman ran for an 80-yard touchdown and drove downfield for a touchdown with 0:54 left. But it wasn't enough--especially considering Thadd Smith's drop of a picture-perfect John Fadule pass earlier on--in the 19-16 loss. The closeness of the game may have helped drop Notre Dame out of playoff contention though, only furthered by its loss to Stanford the following week on Conrad Ukropina's dramatic last-second field goal.

THE RUNDOWN ON THE IRISH: Notre Dame is 1-1 thus far in 2017, with a blowout of Temple followed up with a close, one-point loss in South Bend, Ind. to a very good No. 15 Georgia defense that was missing its quarterback. Though the nation joked about Notre Dame being 4-8 last season, the line shows that the Irish actually had a decent year. Football Outsiders puts its S&P+ ranking at 26th, considering its six one-possession losses, a dominating schedule, and a piss poor early season defense.

The Eagles will face an offense that's great on the ground. Notre Dame will throw Josh Adams at BC, the explosive back who has 5.9 yards per carry or more in each of the last two seasons. Adams has only 38 carries for a whopping 214 yards this season. The Irish also have the third dual-threat quarterback BC has faced in three games with Brandon Wimbush, the blue-chip prospect from St. Peter's Prep in New Jersey for whom Ben Petrula blocked in high school. Wimbush hasn't been super efficient through the air and relies a lot on Equanimeous St. Brown. On the ground, he's been iffy, too. He ran for only one yard last week, despite having 106 against Temple in Week One.

THE EAGLES WIN IF... They contain the quarterback run. They've struggled mightily thus far against this, with a lot of overpursuits of the quarterback via Harold Landry and Zach Allen. Additionally, if reports are true at linebacker--and we haven't received word about an injury report as of publication--this job will be mad even tougher. But if BC can take what its learned over the last two weeks, combined with the tape from Georgia, it should be able to contain Wimbush. That'll force Notre Dame to run solely with Adams, and force Wimbush to the air. Brian Kelly's offensive system can work when that happens, but it didn't work against Georgia. BC's defense also seems to be strongest in the secondary, and Lukas Denis and Co. can take advantage.

THE EAGLES LOSE IF... Anthony Brown reverts back to his Wake Forest form. I feel confident that the Eagles will perform well on defense, but as with the Fenway Park game, it won't matter if Brown puts up another 11-for-29 performance with three interceptions. The redshirt freshman quarterback performed admirably in Week One on the road against Northern Illinois, with nearly 200 yards and 26 completions on 40+ attempts, more than any other team quarterback in BC's Addazio era. If Brown can keep the passing game steady against the Irish's mediocre passing defense, it'll prevent Notre Dame's strong run defense from overselling on running backs A.J. Dillon and Jonathan Hilliman, and prevent BC from becoming one dimensional. The injury to Jon Baker obviously won't help this, but Petrula has a full week under his belt, and Sam Schmal should be back at left guard this week.


Notre Dame 24, Boston College 17. The Eagles have already lost one game they shouldn't lose this season. I feel like they'll win one game they shouldn't win. To be safe, I'm going conservative with my prediction, and advising to take BC on the line, not on the game. But against a limping Irish team, I'm betting on a one-week fluke in terms of a blowout score against BC.

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