Stacking Up: Notre Dame Offense vs. Boston College Defense
No. 15 Notre Dame (8-2) will look to extend its home winning streak to 18 when it hosts Boston College (5-5) in the final home game of the season. We begin our week-long breakdown of the matchup against the Eagles by taking a look at how the Irish defense stacks up on paper against the Boston College offense.
Notre Dame Scoring Offense vs. Boston College Scoring Defense
Advantage: Notre Dame
All season the Notre Dame offense rankings were fueled by blowout victories over New Mexico (66-14) and Bowling Green (52-0). For most of the season the Irish offense has been quite disappointing against quality opponents.
Over the last two games that has begun to change, with the Notre Dame offense dominating a pair of defenses that ranked in the Top 30 in defensive efficiency before getting thrashed by the Irish offense.
Notre Dame has average 41.5 offensive points and 439.5 yards over the last two contests, to go with 6.9 yards per play. The Irish have done it multiple ways, dominating Duke with its ground game and punishing Navy with its aerial attack.
Notre Dame has been an outstanding red zone offense all season, and that has continued in recent weeks, as the Irish scored on all 11 of their red zone trips the lsat two weeks, including nine that ended with touchdowns.
The Irish have ripped off a lot of big plays during its recent hot streak, but its ability to move the chains has been arguably the top key to that success. Notre Dame converted just 38-percent of its third-down opportunities during the first six games against Power 5/AAC opponents. In the last two games, Notre Dame has converted 50-percent of its third-downs.
Boston College has been awful on defense this season, especially against Power 5 opponents. The Eagles have allowed Power 5 opponents to average 34.2 points per game, 500.6 yards per game and 6.7 yards per play. The only two opponents to rack up fewer than 440 yards of offense were Rutgers (2-8) and NC State (4-6).
The Eagles rank 98th in scoring defense and 128th (out of 130 teams) in total defense. Its red zone defense and third-down defense have also been poor, ranking 113th and 107th in those categories, respectively.
Boston College forced five turnovers in its season-opening win over Virginia Tech, but in the nine games since the Eagles have forced only eight turnovers, including just two in the last five games.
Notre Dame Rush Offense vs. Boston College Rush Defense
Advantage: Notre Dame
I can’t remember a Notre Dame offense that has been this erratic when it comes to running the football. Notre Dame has been outstanding at times, but there were other games when the offense either couldn’t run the football, or didn’t even try to run the football very much.
The unit has shown itself capable of effectively running the ball when it wants to, which we saw during a 308-yard performance in a win over USC and a 288-yard performance against a quality Duke defense. The Duke performance was sandwiched between a 106-yard game against Virginia Tech and a 105-yard output against Navy. A week after its dominant performance against USC the offense was held to just 47 yards against Michigan.
Notre Dame has scored just three rushing touchdowns in its last four games, and half of its rushing touchdowns (8) came in wins over Louisville and Virginia.
The Irish have been good at limiting tackles for loss in the run game. Opponents have racked up just 37 run game tackles for loss all season, which is an above average number for the Irish line and backs.
The good news for Notre Dame is that Boston College has the second worst run defense the offense has faced all season; only Bowling Green was worse. Boston College ranks 98th nationally in rushing yards allowed (184.6) and 85th in yards per attempt (4.6).
Kansas (329) and Clemson (302) both racked up over 300 yards on the ground against the Eagles, and both Louisville (236) and Richmond (215) both topped the 200-yard mark, with Wake Forest (197) just missing it.
Boston College has, however, held three opponents (Virginia Tech, Rutgers, NC State) below 100 rushing yards on the season. The Eagles other seven opponents all topped at least 150 rushing yards.
One area where Boston College has been quite stout is generating negatives in the run game. Boston College has racked up at least 10 tackles for loss in three games (Richmond, NC State, Syracuse) and at least eight tackles for loss in two more games (Virginia Tech, Louisville).
Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Boston College Pass Defense
Advantage: Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s offense has been mostly defined by its ability to throw the football. The Irish dominated through the air against New Mexico and Bowling Green, with 12 of its 29 passing touchdowns and 30.6-percent of its total passing yards coming in those two games.
It has struggled against Power 5 opponents, which is why scoring has been a bit of an issue against the quality Power 5 opponents the Irish have faced this season.
If you look at how things have gone for Notre Dame against Power 5 opponents the numbers are quite discouraging. Seventeen of Notre Dame’s 29 passing touchdowns came against three non-Power 5 opponents, which means the Irish had just 12 touchdowns in seven games against Power 5 teams.
The positive is that Saturday’s performance against Navy was the best of the season. Although Navy is not a Power 5 opponent, it was a Top 30 defense from an efficiency standpoint coming into the contest. Notre Dame absolutely shredded Navy, completing 16-of-22 passes (72.7-percent) for 305 yards and five touchdowns.
Notre Dame’s 13.9 yards per attempt was its second-highest output of the season, and quarterback Ian Book had arguably the best game of his career in terms of throwing the deep ball. If Book can build on that to finish the season he’ll go into the offseason with a great deal of confidence about his all-around game.
Book has thrown 11 touchdowns in the last three games and is averaging 267 yards through the air. It’s not a coincidence that his recent surge coincides with senior receiver Chase Claypool becoming more of a focal point of the offense.
Claypool has been targeted 29 times in the last three games. It was the most targets for Claypool over a three-game stretch all season.
During that stretch Claypool has hauled in 20 passes for 332 yards and five touchdowns. Claypool had five games with at least 90 receiving yards during the first 44 games of his career, but he’s had at least 97 yards in each of his last three games.
Boston College has been an abysmal pass defense all season, ranking 125th in yards allowed, 123rd in yards allowed per pass attempt, 120th in yards allowed per completion and 121st in pass efficiency defense. Boston College has registered just 11 sacks all season, which ranks 122nd in the nation.
Eight of Boston College’s 10 opponents have thrown at least two touchdowns against the Eagles, with only Richmond and NC State tossing one. Six of their ten opponents have passed for at least 304 yards. Boston College has picked off just one pass in its last five games, and just one opponent (NC State) has completed fewer than 61.7-percent of their passes against the Eagles.
In its last five games, Boston College has given up 349 passing yards per game and allowed 14 touchdown passes. The only good news is that six of Boston College’s 11 sacks have come in the last four games, although it failed to get a sack in its most recent loss to Florida State.
Notre Dame is poised to have a monster game through the air on Saturday afternoon.