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The Holy War: 2020 Edition

I still don’t think that I am over the excitement of last week’s win against Clemson but that’s ok; I’m a fan and that’s how it’s supposed to be!  When it comes to the Notre Dame football team, I am hoping that the win doesn’t come with a “hangover” for Saturday’s matchup against Boston College.  The Irish are entering the contest as the second ranked team in the nation with a 7-0 record and the lone undefeated team in the ACC.  The Eagles of Boston College are coming in with a 5-3 record and a former Notre Dame quarterback at the helm.  In order for the Irish to keep the winning streak alive, it will be imperative to be mentally locked in and ready to go from the jump.  Sure, the biggest game of the regular season may be behind us, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to slack off.  At 5-3, the Eagles are no slouch and will undoubtedly give the Irish their best performance.

As mentioned, Irish transfer Phil Jurkovec has been the Eagles starting quarterback for this 2020 season, beating out Dennis Grosel after his enrollment following the end of last football season.  Jurkovec has already put up over 2,000 yards in the air this season and my guess is that he will be out to prove his skill to all watching on Saturday.  Yes, Jurkovec has more passing yards than current Irish quarterback Ian Book, but his rushing yards are significantly lower.  A key for the Irish defense will be to get pressure on Jurkovec and force the pocket to collapse.  The Eagles have already given up 22 sacks this year, almost double what the Irish have given up, and after Notre Dame’s defensive line stepped up against Clemson, an equally dominant performance would solidify a successful outcome for Notre Dame.  Jurkovec will be joined in the backfield with Junior running back David Bailey who is responsible for half of the Eagles’ rushing touchdowns this season.  The Irish defense will also need to contain sophomore speedster at wide receiver, Zay Flowers.  Flowers has remained a consistent target for Jurkovec throughout this year and has tallied 600 yards on his 38 receptions so far.  The Eagles, similar to the Irish, typically rely more heavily on the ground game, but after holding Clemson’s Travis Etienne to a season low of 28 yards last week, I will be interested to see if the Irish defense can put up a similar performance and shut down the Eagles running backs as well.  

During the first six games of this 2020 season, the Irish offense has been all over the place.  It seemed as though either the passing game or the running game were clicking while the other was lost.  Last week’s performance against Clemson was the most complete and well-rounded that we have seen this year, so will that be able to be duplicated throughout the remainder of the season?  What stood out most last week was the “arrival” of the passing game.  Don’t get me wrong, the running game doesn’t need to be forgotten; Kyren Williams racked up 140 yards on the ground last week and the Irish still put up over 300 yards in the air.  That balanced attack could been noticed in the final score of the game with the Irish putting up 47 points.  The consistent threat in the passing game, in turn opened up more room for the Irish ground game.  If Notre Dame can build upon this for the rest of the season, the offense will be extremely hard to stop.  I am hoping that this past performance will have provided the confidence needed in all of the skill position players to know that they have the ability to take on any defender that may be in front of them.  The tight ends, Michael Mayer and Tommy Tremble specifically, were responsible for eight receptions total and having the threats at both receiver and tight end is crucial.  I expect the passing game to continue to show up against Boston College and if the Irish can string together a similar performance, there’s no doubt in my mind that the eight win of the season will be in the books. 

Notre Dame opened up as 13.5 point favorites over the Eagles for Saturday’s matchup and Boston College is another one of those teams, similar to Pittsburgh, who always puts up a good fight.  With Jurkovec leading the Eagles’ offense, I wouldn’t expect that narrative to change.  As long as the Irish can avoid the big game hangover coming off the instant classic against Clemson, I am picking the Irish to win again.  I think Brian Kelly and the entire coaching staff had the team ready and focused from the beginning this past week and now starts the task of closing out the season as well, if not better, than how they started.  A balanced offensive attack and a swarming defense will keep the Eagles from taking flight and allow the second ranked Irish to get their eighth win of the season.  Final score prediction?  In the last two meetings between these two schools, the Irish have put up 40 or more points.  I would love to see that happen again but I think the final will be just shy of that; I’m going to go with a 35-21 Irish victory.  With only four games remaining in the regular season, it’s time for Notre Dame to buckle down and take care of business.  Go Irish.  Beat Eagles.