The Journal Gazette
Saturday, November 23, 2019 1:35 pm

Pregame: No. 15 Notre Dame (8-2) vs. Boston College (5-5)

Dylan Sinn | The Journal Gazette

SOUTH BEND – The final Notre Dame home game of the decade of 2010s takes place today.

The No. 15 Irish will try to continue a home winning streak that has already stretched for 17 games dating back to early in the 2017 season. A victory today over a mediocre Boston College team would give Notre Dame two straight perfect home seasons and send out a senior class that has been instrumental in three straight successful seasons with one more victory in South Bend.

That senior class started its career with a disastrous season, living through a 4-8 campaign as freshmen in 2016. From that experience, the class learned some collective lessons that has helped it turn the program around in recent seasons and prevent a repeat of that lost campaign. Senior defensive end Khalid Kareem summed up those lessons in one word this week: "accountability." Brian Kelly has said all season that this team's upperclassmen hold not only the young players accountable, but do the same for each other, ensuring that even stars never coast through any workout. The result has been a 30-6 record over the last three seasons and a good chance at three straight 10-win seasons.

The Irish can get one step closer to another double-digit-victory campaign with a win today against the 5-5 Eagles, who have dropped six straight to Notre Dame and have not won in South Bend since 2007. Although Boston College has developed a reputation under coach Steve Addazio for tough defenses and physical play, this Eagles team has struggled to stop anyone. Boston College is giving up 486.3 yards per game, ranking its defense 128th out of 130 Division I teams. The Irish have to be licking their chops after rolling up an average of 440 yards against Duke and Navy the last two weeks. That's especially true for quarterback Ian Book, who has been terrific throwing the ball deep the last two weeks and will be facing a BC pass defense that is surrendering more than 300 yards per game.

On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Notre Dame's strategy will be fairly simple: slow down A.J. Dillon. The Boston College running back is a bulldozer, standing 6-foot and weighing 250 pounds. He has run for more than 1,450 yards this season at 5.3 yards per carry with 13 touchdowns. The Irish tried to recruit Dillon out of high school, but he chose the Eagles instead and has blossomed into one of the ACC's best backs. Notre Dame has had trouble with some bruising backs in the Dillon mold this season, notably USC's Markese Stepp and Michigan's Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins. They'll have to better up front today.

Boston College's passing game might be somewhat limited with quarterback Anthony Brown sidelined with a knee injury for the rest of the season. Backup Dennis Grosel is a redshirt sophomore who had never started a college game before Brown went down and has had an up-and-down performance since he took over in mid-October. Grosel is completing fewer than 50% of his passes for only 7.2 yards per attempt (compared to 9.1 for Brown), but has been much better in the last couple of games against Syracuse and Florida State. After two weeks off to prepare for the Irish, he might come in with some confidence and Notre Dame will likely try to rattle him early.

This is a game the Irish should win relatively easily if they play to the standard they have shown over the last two games. Doing so would end the 2019 home schedule on a positive note and set the Irish up with a chance to win their 10th game in the regular-season finale against Stanford next week. It would also give Notre Dame a fourth November victory for the second straight year, a testament to how changes in offseason workout and in-season practice schedules have helped the Irish remain fresh late in the season.

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