Boston College vs. Notre Dame Analysis & Spread Winner
Boston College Eagles (3-7 SU, 3-7 ATS) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-3 SU, 5-5 ATS)
Date/Time: Saturday, November 19th, 2:30 PM
Where: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend IN
Point Spread: BC +21 / ND -21
Over/Under Total: 44.5
Notre Dame Stadium plays host to the battle for the Frank Leahy Memorial Trophy on Saturday afternoon when the Fighting Irish host the Boston College Eagles in a game known as ‘The Holy War.’ Notre Dame holds a 17-9 all-time advantage in the series, including a current streak of eight wins in a row, with the last three by an average of over 25 points per game.
THERE’S ALWAYS NEXT YEAR
Boston College has undoubtedly had a disappointing season in 2022, but they finally found some positivity last week in their upset win against North Carolina State. It broke a laughable 25-game losing streak against ranked opponents and was their first road victory against a top-25 team since 2008. The Eagles are mathematically eliminated from gaining bowl eligibility regardless of how things play out in the final two weeks, but with a new quarterback breathing life into what has been a stagnant offense, they can at least build some much-needed momentum heading into next season depending on how things play out against Notre Dame and Syracuse.
BC has particularly struggled on the offensive side of the ball this year, ranking 120th in scoring and 117th in yards per game. They have thankfully seen an uptick in production, though, since red-shirt freshman Emmett Morehead was elevated into the starting quarterback position due to an injury to Phil Jurkovec. Morehead has passed for 330 yards in each of the last two games while also throwing seven touchdowns compared to two interceptions. The newcomer has struggled with accuracy, though, completing just 58% percent of his passes, and will surely be tested coming up against an Irish pass defense that ranks 28th and Syracuse unit that is in the top ten.
The clear star of the Eagle offense is wide receiver Zay Flowers, who, after last week, now ranks first all-time at Boston College in receiving yards. He is line to make school history next season in the NFL Draft as well, with no Eagle receiver having been chosen since 1984 and none have ever gone higher than round four, which Flowers assuredly will. Despite being the focal point of opposing defenses, Flowers still has 921 yards on the year with a 5th-best in the NCAA 10 touchdown receptions. His success and that of quarterback Emmett Morehead have opened things up as well for other receivers on the team recently, with Joseph Griffin having scored three touchdowns over the past two weeks while also posting a career-best 100+ yard game against Duke and Jaelen Gill putting up his best game of the season a week ago against the Wolfpack with five receptions. Every aspect of the Eagles passing attack will be needed if they hope to trade points with Notre Dame, especially considering just how terrible the BC running game has been.
RUNNING ON EMPTY
Averaging under 63 yards per contest, the Boston College running game ranks dead last amongst FBS teams at 131st. Pat Garwo was a popular preseason All-ACC second-team selection at running back but has been stuck in neutral nearly all season with an average of just over three yards per carry and less than 300 yards on the ground. His performance has been even worse, considering most of his stats were built up against lowly Maine, and he has just 71 yards on 37 carries over the last five games. Backup Alex Broome has done well enough when given consistent carries and could see more of a look as the season comes to a close, though Garwo’s chances for playing time are at least bolstered by the fact that his 25 receptions rank second on the team behind only Zay Flowers. Eagles head coach Jeff Halfey and offensive coordinator John McNulty will need to come up with some sort of a way to get the running game going, as attempting to upset the Irish as a near three-touchdown underdog with a predictable and one-dimensional offense will be nearly impossible.
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The Fighting Irish come into this week riding a season-salvaging, four-game winning streak that has helped catapult them back into the top 20. They have settled on a backfield focal point in Audric Estime. However, they are still struggling to find offensive consistency, as evident by the stagnant second half against Navy a week ago that saw Notre Dame muster just 12 yards of total offense and a single first down. If they want to finish their season strong with victories against BC, USC next week, and whoever they play in a bowl game, the Fighting Irish will assuredly need to find a way to get a full 60 minutes out of their team.
FULL ESTIME AHEAD
After experimenting with a little league backfield plan of everyone getting equal playing time, the Notre Dame coaching staff thankfully came to their senses and made Audric Estime the leader of the pack, and it has continued to pay dividends. The bruising back is averaging 5.5 yards per carry and has scored ten touchdowns on the season. It’s evident in the standings the sort of effect he has had when given ample opportunity, as the Irish are 5-0 this season when Estime gets over ten carries and just 2-3 when he doesn’t.
After back-to-back games with less than ten completions in each and four straight without eclipsing a 55% completion rate, Notre Dame quarterback Drew Pyne had his most accurate day of the year (81% passing) against Navy. The Eagles defense that Pyne faces this on Saturday ranks 43rd against the pass, though their stats may be a bit of a mirage considering most teams have built a good enough lead against the struggling Eagles this season that they have done a lot more running and clock control in the second half and haven’t really needed to open things up in the passing game. Notre Dame is clearly a run-first team (their rushing attack ranks 45th, passing 109th), but Pyne will undoubtedly be relied upon heavily to get the offensive consistency restored, and with some emerging receivers trending in the right direction, the process should be a lot smoother on Saturday.
The star of the Irish passing game continues to be tight end Michael Mayer, who ND fans now have just three games left (at most) to watch until he departs for the NFL and is locked in as the top available option at his position in the draft. Much like Estime, Mayer’s success has translated to that of his team, with the Irish having posted an 11-1 regular season record when the tight end scores a touchdown. Thankfully of late, he has not been the only option for Pyne to rely on in the passing game, with both Brandon Lenzy and Jayden Thomas stepping up in recent weeks. Lenzy has nine receptions in his past two games and has scored in back-to-back weeks, while the explosive Thomas has gotten into the endzone twice in the past three games. Pyne will be hoping that Lorenzo Styles can recapture some of his early momentum, as despite being second on the team in receptions, he has averaged just two catches per game over the past five weeks and has scored only once all season.
THE FINAL DECISION
The possibility of a look ahead or letdown is definitely a possibility on Saturday, with Notre Dame having rival USC on tap next week and Boston College still riding high after ending their embarrassing futility streak against ranked opponents with last week’s upset win at NC State. The Irish have done exceedingly well in this exact situation in recent years, though, as they are 7-0 against the spread in their last seven games before USC when favored by more than a touchdown. The Eagles, on the other hand, have just one win against a ranked road team in the past 14 years and have struggled this season, especially away from home, having gone just 1-4 versus the number in road games. Notre Dame has won 56 straight regular season games when scoring over 21 points, and I expect that success to continue with a tune-up win and cover against Boston College on Saturday in South Bend.
Mike’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Notre Dame -21