Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs Boston College Eagles: Preview and O/U Prediction

Notre Dame answered a lot of questions last Saturday.

Everything seemed set for a classic UND vs Navy showdown. Navy was a new arrival in the Top 25, and Notre Dame had lost badly to Michigan just 3 games prior. The Fighting Irish have typically been able to subdue the Midshipmen by using a Power-5 offensive line to grind-out long drives on the ground, neutralizing the Naval Academy’s tendency to control the rock and the clock with its own running game. That didn’t seem as likely in 2019, since Navy’s success this season has been built around an aggressive and much-improved defensive unit.

So instead, Brian Kelly’s offense went to the air. Quarterback Ian Book finished the contest with an amazing stat-line of 5 touchdown passes and almost 300 yards on just 20 attempts. Navy trailed 38-3 at halftime after several long bombs bamboozled the Annapolis secondary and left Malcolm Perry helpless to lead a comeback.

Have the 8-2 Irish solved every problem following 2 consecutive blow-out wins? No football team ever solves all of its problems. But a rejuvenated Notre Dame roster and coaching staff have inspired enough trust from handicappers that Saturday’s hosts are a near-3 touchdown favorite vs the visiting Boston College Eagles.

Who: Boston College Eagles at Notre Dame Fighting Irish

When: Saturday, November 23rd, 2:30 PM EST

Where: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN

Lines: BC (+19.5) at UND (-19.5) / O/U Total: (64)

Betting Lines and Game Preview: Notre Dame vs Boston College

Notre Dame’s exemplary offense has been bothered most by physical, hard-hitting units. You can run as many fast and talented DBs onto the field as you like (UND 30, USC 27) or try all kinds of fancy blitzes (UND 52, Navy 20) but it won’t do much good. Irish O-linemen are adept at picking-up any kind of rush scheme and Book is re-writing the book on how to punish defenses – with his arm and with surprisingly-nimble legs when there’s no spy watching. Only a fierce front-7 that meets Notre Dame’s blockers head-on can consistently stalemate them, as Georgia, Michigan, and Virginia Tech have been able to do.

Does Boston College fit that bill at all? Maybe in mentality, but not necessarily in execution. BC’s quality defensive outings have been sporadic, and the ’19 team has more-often relied on offense to compensate. QB Anthony Brown had a terrific passing performance in BC’s 41-39 loss to Louisville but did not play the entire game thanks to injury. Alternate signal-caller Dennis Grosel was excellent in a blow-out win over Syracuse 2 weekends ago, but his arm (and RB A.J. Dillon’s swift legs) were not enough to overcome Florida State on 11/9 as opposing QB James Blackmon passed for 346 yards and 2 TDs in FSU’s 38-31 triumph.

At least BC appears to be a healthier squad headed into Week 13, especially compared to the Fighting Irish:

Brian Kelly discussed the continued progression of Jafar Armstrong’s return from his core injury. Kelly noted that just because Armstrong is on the field does not mean that he is back to his previous level. In Kelly’s eyes, Armstrong’s level of play has increased each week but there is still room to grow. In Kelly’s words, “Jafar is giving us what he has.” Kelly continues to praise the running backs for being assignment correct in pass protection and blitz pickup. Kelly made the tongue in cheek remark that “we don’t have Adrian Peterson back there.” The coaching staff plans to use three to four backs down the stretch with Tony Jones Jr. continuing to be the starter.

Kelly was asked to discuss the long-term health of the running back position in the years to come, which he declined to do. He remarked, “C’Bo Flemister is growing up and maturing. Tony Jones Jr. continues to be a tough, hard-nosed guy, Avery has given us a little.” Since the game winning drive against Virginia Tech, this team appears to be having more fun on the field and playing with a laser-like focus. Hopefully we continue to see the same Notre Dame team in the coming weeks.

UND beat reporters might be in for a surprise – but not a bad surprise. It won’t necessarily be the same Notre Dame team this weekend – but it’ll be a quality team that is likely to win.

I just doubt Kelly will want to keep the high-flying aerial assault going against Boston College for 3 or 4 quarters. The Irish will still play with tempo much of the time, which is bound to have something to do with that rising (64) point Las Vegas total for Saturday’s scrum.

BC will hunker-down on defense with just 2 games to go and 1 victory needed for a bowl berth. Meanwhile, Kelly will want to get that “sans Adrian Peterson” backfield going and moving the chains, what with a squad on the cusp of 100% (or at least 95%) health and a final late-November road trip to Stanford which may wind-up determining whether Notre Dame goes to the Cotton Bowl.

Prediction and Pick on the O/U

Expect a large-and-in-charge UND rushing game to carry the day in a shortened game and a semi-blow out.

Take the Under (64) for a winner in South Bend.

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