Fresh off of a double overtime upset over top-ranked Clemson, Notre Dame comes to Chestnut Hill on Saturday gunning for the top spot in the AP Poll. With No. 1 Alabama’s tilt with LSU postponed due to COVID-19, the Fighting Irish will look to make their case as the nation’s top team, while Boston College will be out to prove that its close loss to Clemson was no fluke.
New BC quarterback Phil Jurkovec has a personal stake in Saturday’s matchup, having transferred from Notre Dame to take over the starting job for Jeff Hafley’s squad. The sophomore transfer has been a godsend for Boston College, injecting some life into a passing offense which lacked flair for so many years under old coach Steve Addazio.
In fact, Jurkovec has statistically outperformed Irish signal-caller Ian Book this season, with over 500 more passing yards and seven more passing touchdowns (albeit in one more game).
The running game, on the other hand, has disappeared. It remains to be seen whether or not last Saturday’s strong rushing performance is sustainable, but with most of the season already in the rearview, it looks more like an anomaly than anything.
Prior to last weekend’s game against Clemson, the Fighting Irish had allowed over 13 points in just one game this season, so putting points on the board could be an issue for an Eagles team which has shown an ability to put points on the board in bunches this season.
Notre Dame’s defense has yielded just 6.67 yards per passing attempt this season, per NCAA.com, but after Clemson’s offensive outburst a week ago, Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. should be encouraged.
Wideout Zay Flowers and tight end Hunter Long have been dominant receiving presences for Jurkovec throughout 2020, and while the Irish secondary is likely one of the stiffest tests yet, both should see their fair share of targets.
The offensive line will also have to hold up against a Notre Dame pass rush with 19 sacks this season. Jurkovec took a beating in the Clemson game, and was even forced to sub out on a crucial fourth down. As he goes, so do the Eagles, and Ben Petrula and company will need to keep him clean (with a little pass-blocking help from backs David Bailey and Travis Levy).
On the defensive side, senior linebacker Max Richardson will once again be the X factor. Notre Dame has averaged over 200 rushing yards per game this season, and Richardson’s ability to get the defense organized and stay disciplined in the run game will likely dictate whether or not the Eagles can hang around.
When Book drops back, Richardson, Isaiah McDuffie, Marcus Valdez, and Maximilian Roberts (the team leader in sacks) will need to get home, putting Brian Kelly’s squad in unfavorable down-and-distance scenarios.
As far as special teams go, Eagles fans would be wise to keep a close eye on kicker Aaron Boumerhi after last week’s performance. The senior missed two field goals in the win against Syracuse, and may need to step up in a critical spot if Boston College can keep the game close well into the fourth quarter.
With this being the second-to-last home game of the season, Saturday’s matchup could provide the verdict on the first season with the Hafley-Jurkovec tandem. While most Eagles fans already consider 2020 a massive success, a victory over the Irish would be an emphatic statement, putting the nation on notice of the bright future that is taking shape at Alumni Stadium.
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