#4 Notre Dame (9-0) v. Boston College (2-7)
Alumni Stadium - Chestnut Hill, MA - 8:00 EST on ABC/ESPN
First Thing - Boston College's 2012 edition is the most hapless team the Irish will face this fall. The Eagles are brutally bad on both sides of the football and claim just a single victory against a I-A opponent. On their home field two weeks ago, BC took on Maryland's 4th string, true freshman, first-time starter quarterback but still needed an 85 yard fourth quarter drive to eek out a victory over the disheveled Terrapins. Matt Mulvey, Notre Dame quarterback 2008-11, said on the podcast (below) that the scare provided by the Pitt Panthers last week makes him a little more comfortable that a letdown in Massachusetts is less likely Saturday night. Taking on each opponent's "best effort" was always a claim for Irish opponents through the years and it actually applied in last week's triple overtime win to save the season. Barring even more let-downs in all phases of football, Notre Dame should dispatch another future ACC brethren and keep marching towards football salvation in Southern California on Thanksgiving Saturday.
Five Things To Watch
5. Run-Run-Run - Boston College can't run the ball, literally. The Eagles rank 118th out of 120 teams nationally in rushing offense. The only teams trailing BC don't actually attempt to take to the ground as Washington State & Tulane have 40 and 70 fewer rushes attempted respectfully. Countering the Eagles embarrassing offensive futility is a defense also in the bottom ten nationally in stopping the run. With BC allowing 233 yards/game to opposing running backs look for Theo Riddick & Cierre Wood to romp at will as the Irish respond to the pundits doubting the Irish's BCS credentials.
4. Terrible Memories - We all know what lays ahead Saturday night - BC-Notre Dame highlights from 2002 & 1993 ad nauseam until the game is no longer in doubt. I had to ask Oscar McBride, starting Tight End on the 93 squad, what his reaction is to those stomach wrenching memories when they come back on his TV. McBride claims to routinely change the channel or tune the images out until it's safe to resume watching the game. Irish fans can only hope the score is out of hand quickly and ABC is forced to hold onto the never-ending Eagles over Irish loop they've been preparing all week.
3. "Heisman Highlights" - Manti Te'o isn't just garnering national media and NFL attention for his stellar play. Opposing offenses, Pitt especially, are making direct and concerted efforts to neutralize #5 at all costs. We should expect more of the same from the Eagles who seem primed to push the field vertically while possessing the ball and avoid giving our Hawaiian leader a chance to rack up tackles. Fans could be treated to even more of Te'o on the blitz as the Irish pull away and the staff sees opportunities to keep Te'o and his name in the Heisman discussion.
2. The Everett Golson BC-Wake Dilemma - This was supposed to include Pitt, but every ounce of Golson's growth and play making ability were needed to snatch an unimpressive win. The questions facing Brian Kelly regarding his sophomore quarterback remain on the march to USC - sacrifice possible points on the scoreboard and "bigger" victories in an effort to create more growth opportunities for Golson's progression? All indications are the Irish could line up Saturday and win by 30 points without attempting a pass. It could result in a vault up the rankings but would it ultimately help Golson when he needs to try and outscore the Trojans in two weeks? I'm personally not sure there is a right answer and am thankful to not be designing the game-plan over the next two weeks.
1. Other Top 4 Teams - #1 Alabama & #2 Kansas State both play games that are far from guaranteed wins while Oregon travels to Cal, a place they have struggled of late. Irish fans are safe in now discussing all National Championship implications out in public forums without predjudice but they need some help for dreams to be realized. Texas A&M's "Johnny Football" could see his legend grow in South Bend if his Aggies shock the Crimson Tide. Kansas State has quarterback issues of their own. All signs point to Heisman front-runner Collin Klein taking the field against an up-and-down TCU squad that just upset 2012 punch-line West Virginia. If someone other than Klein is taking snaps we might hear the Irish chatter for the BCS title and Heisman grow even louder. If Oregon wins by less than 40 ... never mind. They won't.
Predicting The Game & What We'll See
I have yet to step off the ledge this year and declare any game a clear mismatch and predict a "blowout". That changes now because the Irish locked eyes with devastation for 4+ hours only seven days ago and have some things to prove on an national stage. Why ABC is running the Irish against 2-7 BC in primetime and forcing Kirk Herbstreit to fly from San Diego to Boston for this game is anybody's guess. Notre Dame, a team needing another post-Oklahoma platform for the human voters, will take this opportunity and run, literally, with it.
I'm leaning toward the Irish deploying a run heavy offense that gouges the Eagles weakness and gives ND the best chance to win big and dominate all facets. Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick are both topping 100 yards rushing with Wood leading the charge at 150+ and two touchdowns. George Atkinson III, as he is prone to on the road against inferior opponents, rips off another reminder of who is 2013's lead dog and contributes to another 300+ yard ground day for ND. With the run working so well, Golson hits a few big plays off of play action to Tyler Eifert and DaVaris Daniels but finishes with modest passing/rushing numbers before giving way to Tommy Rees to close out the Eagles and keep the train rolling.