Notre Dame Football Preview: Boston College

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Notre Dame Football Preview: Boston College
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Boston College Run Offense vs. Notre Dame Run Defense

The Boston College offense is heavily run-oriented this year, averaging nearly 37 carries per game to 25 pass attempts. The workhorse of the Eagles run game is No. 2 Montel Harris . Harris is averaging 21 carries and 108 yards per game. He's also averaging 5.6 yards per carry and has 10 touchdowns on the season.

Harris is spelled by No. 29 Rolandan Finch and the diminuitive No. 1 Josh Haden . Haden is averaging eight carries and 30 yards per game, while Finch is averaging five carries and 22 yards per.

BC's starting quarterback, No. 15 Dave Schinskie , is not a threat with his legs. However, his backups No. 7 Justin Tuggle and No. 16 Mike Marscovetra are, so look for them to be sprinkled into the game against the Irish. Outside of Tuggle, Marscovetra, and the running backs, no Eagle has recorded a carry. But that doesn't mean BC won't pull out all the stops for this game.

Notre Dame's run defense plays right into Boston College's strengths. An inexperienced front seven for the Irish has given up 136.5 yards per game on the ground this year. All five of Notre Dame's starting defensive backs (counting nickel Sergio Brown ) are among the top nine in tackles for the Irish. Kyle McCarthy leads the team with 54 tackles, 18 more than his nearest competition (fellow safety Harrison Smith ), and 20 more than any member of the front seven (linebacker Brian Smith ).

The Irish have been getting into the backfield, registering 40 tackles for loss in six games, but at this point most Irish fans would settle for more tackles within three yards of the line of scrimmage.

Notre Dame Run Offense vs. Boston College Run Defense

The Irish ground game has vastly improve this year, thanks largely to the hard, downhill running of Armando Allen and Robert Hughes . Allen is averaging 16 carries and 83 yards per game, while Hughes is adding six carries for 29 yards. Both are right around 5.0 yards per carry.

Not to be outdone, Golden Tate is averaging two carries and 16 yards per game, for 7.0 yards per carry. Jonas Gray , Theo Riddick , Dayne Crist , James Aldridge , and LepreCat-QB-of-the-week John Goodman have also made positive contributions to the Irish running game.

Boston College is giving up 117 yards per game on the ground. That's not a good number, but certainly not a bad one either. Freshman linebacker No. 40 Luke Kuechly leads BC with 69 tackles, more than double anyone else on the team. So look for the Irish to run their base counter plays quite a bit to keep this freshman off balance (and to simply keep him away from the play). Kuechly is also second on the team with six tackles for loss. The Eagles are averaging seven TFL per game, so they like to spend time in opponents' backfields.

Boston College Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

BC's primary quarterback is Dave Schinskie. As a freshman, he's lucky to be able to rely on a solid running game to relieve pressure. As a passer, Schinskie is completing 53.9 percent of his attempts. In an average game, Schinskie will connect on nine of 16 passes for 116 yards. In seven games, Schinskie has nine touchdowns against four interceptions.

Justin Tuggle has struggled as a passer, completing only 13 of his 37 pass attempts with three interceptions to counter four touchdowns. Mike Marscovetra has been slightly more successful in limited action, completing 13 of 20 attempts for two touchdowns and no interceptions.

BC's primary target in the passing game is senior wideout No. 18 Rich Gunnell . Gunnell is averaging three catches and 37 yards per game. If stats are any indicator, No. 10 Colin Lamond is the deep threat to Gunnell's possesion receiver. Lamond is averaging just over two catches per game, but for 53 yards per contest. Lamond also leads the team with four touchdowns. Tight end No. 81 Chris Pantale is averaging close to two catches per game, and he's joined by a slew of players averaging around one catch per game.

It will be interesting to see how the Irish pass defense—surrendering 283 yards per game—will play Boston College and their young quarterbacks. BC runs a base two WR/one RB/one TE offense with either a fullback or a second tight end. They have a variety of players who have caught passes this year, but in essence only two or three primary receivers. With the extra blockers the Eagles keeps in for the run game, it may be most beneficial for the Irish to blanket BC's top two receivers, try their best to get a pass rush with the front four, and accept whatever short checkdowns Schinskie et al. choose to take.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Boston College Pass Defense

Heisman talk aside, Jimmy Clausen has been virtually unstoppable this year. Clausen is a far cry from the nervous mess who threw four picks in last year's BC contest. The Irish QB is now completing close to 65 percent of his passes, with 14 touchdowns and only two interceptions in six games. On an average day, Clausen will complete 20 of 32 passes for 301 yards.

Golden Tate has willingly and capably stepped into the role of primary receiver following Michael Floyd 's injury. Tate is averaging close to six catches, 120 yards, and one touchdown per game. Kyle Rudolph , handcuffed in the USC game due to a need for extra blockers, is still averaging four catches and 46 yards per game.

Robby Parris was the surprise hero of the USC game, with nine catches for 92 yards. But an awkward landing ended his afternoon. The good news is that Parris's status has gradually been improving from out to doubtful to questionable over the course of this week. Even if he doesn't see action in this game, don't be surprised if Parris is playing in San Antonio next week.

In Parris's absence, look for Duval Kamara or Shaq Evans to step up. Both are averaging one catch and 12 yards per game, but have the ability to do more. The running backs may also become more involved in the passing game. In six contests, Armando Allen, Robert Hughes, and Jonas Gray have combined for 21 catches.

Like Boston College's run defense, their pass defense has been decent but not great. The Eagles are giving up 212.1 passing yards per game. Despite the team's abililty to get into the backfield against the run, they only have 10 sacks on the year. Lineman No. 96 Kaleb Ramsey has two sacks, and eight other Eagles have single talleys in that category. BC has pulled in seven interceptions, led by free safety No. 45 Wes Davis and linebacker No. 26 Dominick LeGrande with two apiece.

Special Teams

Senior No. 83 Steve Aponavicius is back as BC's kicker, and he's converted all six of his field goal tries thus far. His longest has been for only 37 yards, but something still needs to be said for consistency. For the Irish, Nick Tausch has now made 10 straight after missing the first attempt of his career.

No. 46 Ryan Quigley is BC's punter. He's averaging "just" 40.9 yards per kick, but he does have a long of 58 and six total kicks of 50 yards or more. Quigley has also had plently of practice—his 45 punts work out to an average of more than six per game. Boston College's punt coverage team is giving up a very respectable 9.5 yards per return. Ben Turk is still Notre Dame's punter. After seven tries, his numbers are remarkably similar to Eric Maust 's—an average of 38.3 yards per with a long of 48.

Running back No. 6 Jeff Smith is BC's primary kick returner. He's averaging 21.6 yards per return with a long of 42. David Ruffer has taken over as the Irish kickoff specialist. He averaged 62.2 yards per kick in his four tries last week. Notre Dame's kickoff team is giving up a mediocre 20.1 yards per return, giving opponents an average start on the 27.

Theo Riddick has become the primary kick returner for Notre Dame. He's averaging 23.7 yards per return with a long of 38. Ryan Quigley also kicks off for the Eagles, and with good reason. He's averaging 61.2 yards per kick with three touchbacks in 37 tries. UW's kickoff coverage team is giving up 20.5 yards per return, for an average start on the 26 yard line.

Rich Gunnell returns punts for Boston College. In 10 tries, he's averaging a very good 14.6 yards per return, including a 56-yard touchdown. Maybe the "posession reciever" label was premature. Golden Tate is Notre Dame's punt returner. He's now averaging 7.8 yards per return, with a long of 23.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Jimmy Clausen, Duval Kamara, Harrison Smith, Kapron Lewis-Moore , David Ruffer, Ben Turk

Prediction

Notre Dame 32, Boston College 24

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