A team in a position like the one Notre Dame is in right now cannot afford to take anyone lightly, even if that someone is a true freshman quarterback starting his first game. That’s the first of my five things to watch during this week’s prime time game between Notre Dame and Boston College.
1. Notre Dame must treat true frosh Chase Rettig like he’s any other quarterback.
While BC coach Frank Spaziani is keeping his mouth shut regarding his quarterback situation, someone else spilled the beans. According to a source talking to the Boston Globe, true freshman Chase Rettig took 80 percent of the first team snaps and will start at quarterback on Saturday. Rettig may be green, but he’s a highly-touted recruit who snubbed the likes of Tennessee and USC for Boston College. Considered a 3-4 star recruit by most outlets, he features a big body with a big arm to go along with it. Where he still needs work is with his accuracy, which scouts have pointed out since his high school days. Outside linebackers, such as Darius Flemming and Brian Smith, have to put him on the run and let the secondary clean up his mistakes.
2. Will a hobbled Kyle Rudolph get shut down again?
Say what you will about how well Theo Riddick is adapting to the slot receiver position. There are still two go-to guys in the Notre Dame passing game and one of them is tight end Kyle Rudolph. Most likely, Rudolph will be lined up against former ACC Defensive Player of the Year Merk Herzlich, who two years ago was tied for the lead nationally in interceptions by a linebacker. Especially given his hamstring situation, which no doubt factored into his one catch, one yard performance against Stanford last week, Rudolph could be in for another sub-par performance.
3. Michael Floyd may be in for a big day against the BC secondary.
Floyd will be one of the tallest men on the field when the Irish offense lines up against the Eagles’ defense. Herzlich is Boston College’s biggest defender in terms of height at 6-foot-4 and as athletic as he is, he’s not going to see himself covering Floyd, who stands at 6-foot-3. Boston College’s top corner is DeLeon Gause, who has the speed to keep up with Floyd, but at 5-foot-11, 184 pounds, it’s questionable as to whether or not he can handle a guy like Floyd, who bench presses 250 pounds and has close to a 40-inch vertical leap. Floyd’s size is greater than that of anyone in the defensive backfield for Boston College and that, coupled with his ability, could mean good things for Notre Dame.
4. Montel Harris will have his first touchdown since the season opener against Weber State.
Notre Dame’s defense ranks 98th in rushing defense, allowing 189.75 years per game and have had a really hard time wrapping up small, hard-running backs who bounce off tackles the way Harris does. Nose guard Ian Williams needs to continue improving and take up multiple blockers to open opportunities for Manti Te’o and company to have a chance at filling the running lanes.
5. Notre Dame will end its three-game losing streak.
Notre Dame certainly has enough troubles of its own, but ultimately, it has a much more potent offense than Boston College and that could be the difference. Overall, Boston College’s weaknesses on offense could mask some of Notre Dame’s defensive problems and offensively, especially if Rudolph manages to find some space and Brian Kelly is able to get the running game going again after last week’s setback, then the Irish should win what could be a very interesting contest, matchup wise.
Really a rivalry?
While people tend to think the “Holy War” is an age-old rivalry, the two teams have actually only played 19 games against each other and despite the fact both programs have been in existence since the 1800s, they never played each other until 1975 in a game at Foxboro Stadium.
They met in the 1983 Liberty Bowl, then played again in 1987. It wasn’t until 1992 when they started playing on a regular basis. In 1991, Boston College decided to shed its independent status and join the Big East. When the Eagles jumped ship from the Big East to the ACC, the series was put on hiatus for a couple of years. Notre Dame has a handshake agreement with the Big East that it will try to schedule at least three Big East teams a year. So doesn’t it make sense that the marketing departments of Notre Dame and the Big East manufactured this “rivalry” between the two teams in order to market a game people otherwise wouldn’t care about and that Boston College wished to continue the series after it joined the ACC, knowing how much money they get from the game?
The fact that a game between a 2-1 team that just got easily handled by a Virginia Tech team that lost the James Madison and a 1-3 team that just proved it can’t compete with quality ranked opponents is a prime time game further illustrates why Boston College would want this game. This series is a lose-lose situation for Notre Dame. If they win, well, they’re Notre Dame. They’re supposed to win these games. If they lose, they get ridiculed for losing to an inferior opponent.
That’s not to say it hasn’t been an intriguing series. Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Boston College, 10-9, winning last year’s game 20-16. That win broke up a string of six-straight Boston College victories. Since the team’s started playing regularly in 1992, eight of the 16 games have been decided by a touchdown or less.
Notre Dame is 2-4 overall at Chestnut Hill and hasn’t won on the Boston College campus since 1998.