Offense is not something for which the current Notre Dame Fighting Irish are known. It is lately also not a strong suit of the Boston College Eagles football team after a roller-coaster ride of a season for that unit. Notre Dame’s calling card is defense, and the Irish will pose a stiff threat to BC when those two groups are on the field on Saturday night.
The Eagles started off the 2012 campaign improved in this regard, as they had spent the 2009 through 2011 seasons being one of the worst offensive teams in the country. During the earlier stages of the year, Boston College looked like more of a threat to move the football (though only through the air, as a bad running game has been the one constant all season long), but over the last four games, the Eagles have leveled off.
Whether it’s BC’s opposing defenses getting better or the Eagles offense getting worse, the bottom line is that the offense has not been as potent lately. The Wake Forest defeat was the first time since Army that BC had gotten above 300 total yards, and they still have not exceeded 20 points in any game since then. The Eagles have just the 90th-most prolific total offense in the country, but have slipped to 96th in scoring with just 22.11 points per game. BC is ahead of where they were last season, more in certain areas of the offense than others, but with three-quarters of the year now over, it is safe to say that there will not be a sharp improvement from here on. Even if the Eagles play great on this side of the football for the last three games, the total body of work will still reflect a below-average performance with some individual bright spots.
Chase Rettig had been the brightest spot for most of the season, but the guy he throws it to the most is perhaps now shining just as brightly. Alex Amidon is on track to have a potentially record-setting season as Boston College’s #1 wide receiver. Rettig is still having a fine year statistically, but he has fallen off of his early pace for touchdowns and is gaining more interceptions. Regardless, it is the best year of his career so far, and without him, BC might not even have two wins.
The Eagles’ running game remains a major problem. Andre Williams, the last veteran running back left standing, was knocked out of the Wake Forest game, and though Frank Spaziani denies having sealed Rolandan Finch off from the football field, his services are apparently not wanted. If Williams is not able to go on Saturday, BC will be left with two converted defensive players, Dave Dudeck and James McCaffrey, and a bunch of walk-ons. Considering how the Eagles are already 118th out of 120 in rushing offense, it can’t get much worse, but it’s probably not going to get better, either. The run blocking is just as much to blame for that.
Defensively, not much is an issue for Notre Dame. Bob Diaco’s unit is currently ranked 10th in the nation in total defense, allowing just under 300 yards per game, and second in the country behind Alabama with 11.67 points per game. They allow only about 16 first downs per game, a little over a third of opponents’ third downs, and only 61% of red zone scoring chances, the latter of which is tied for fourth-best in FBS.
They do not have many weaknesses, if any at all. Led by Manti Te’o, the senior linebacker who is finally no longer obscured by Luke Kuechly, is having a tremendous season for the Fighting Irish. Truth is, Notre Dame has a number of playmakers on this side of the ball and the results speak for themselves. This may be the best defense Boston College faces this season, and moving the ball on them will not at all be easy.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, they’re strong neither offensively or defensively, which in this case creates a substantial mismatch. Pittsburgh is an average offensive team and they needed 60 minutes of regulation and three overtimes to score 26 points. Notre Dame recently also held a very good Oklahoma Sooners team to 13 in their own building. If the Eagles score more than 14 points, they should be very pleased with themselves.