Notre Dame’s Opponents: Boston College’s trenches woes will waste Phil Jurkovec and dynamic playmakers

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Vs. Boston College Eagles At Alumni Stadium
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The Boston College Eagles have not quite reached “Notre Dame East” levels, but the Eagles will showcase a few familiar names to Irish fans when they arrive for Senior Day this November. Quarterback Phil Jurkovec is once again healthy after his fractured throwing hand cost Boston College its 2021 momentum, and he is now directed by offensive coordinator John McNulty, Notre Dame’s tight ends coach the last two seasons. Note: They did not overlap in South Bend.

McNulty did overlap with tight end George Takacs at Notre Dame. Takacs initially intended to return for the Irish in 2022, publicly announcing as much, but when McNulty went to Chestnut Hill, the opportunity to start for a familiar coach proved too enticing for Takacs. He finished his Notre Dame career with eight catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns, routinely overshadowed by more downfield threats at tight end such as Cole Kmet and Michael Mayer, despite being a strong overall option, himself.

2021 REVIEW
Without Jurkovec, Boston College went 2-4, and the two wins were somewhat smoke and mirrors, largely garnered because the opponents were Temple and Missouri. Once again led by Dennis Grosel, the Eagles struggled through a four-game ACC losing streak without Jurkovec, lowlighted by two-possession losses at both Louisville and Syracuse.

When Jurkovec returned, unexpectedly, he still did not have full grip strength in his throwing hand, and the discerning viewer noticed as much on the field. Boston College went only 2-2 with him back, but it was impossible to gauge how viable he was as a passer. 

WHAT BOSTON COLLEGE LOST
The Eagles lost all of their offensive line.

Let’s repeat that: Boston College returns no starts along its offensive line.

Second-team All ACC right guard Christian Mahogany was set to be the only returning lineman before he suffered an ACL tear in an at-home workout in May.

Boston College ranks No. 91 below at 58 percent returning production.

OFFENSIVE SUMMARY
The Eagles enjoy a few notable pieces of skill position talent, highlighted by senior receiver Zay Flowers (44 catches for 746 yards and five touchdowns last season), who reportedly turned down up to $600,000 in name, image and likeness rights offers to transfer. Undoubtedly, part of Flowers’ logic for remaining at Boston College was few potential transfer destinations featured an NFL-likely quarterback like Jurkovec.

RELATED READING: A more optimistic Jurkovec ready for final BC season

Flowers needs that kind of passing talent to best feature his own pro potential. Since 2020, Flowers has caught 13 passes for at least 40 yards. Go ahead here and log a prediction that he will catch at least one such ball against the Irish.

RELATED READING: Why Boston College football star Zay Flowers turned down big-money offers to transfer

But the Eagles will not be a pass-only offense, even with those rampant offensive line worries. Senior running back Pat Garwo averaged 5.1 yards per rush last season (205 carries for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns), furthering the thought that the Eagles have skill position talent.

DEFENSIVE SUMMARY
How Boston College so adeptly defended against the pass while featuring just about no pass rush will long defy logic. The Eagles ranked No. 96 in the country in sacks per game, and still there is no individual threat along the defensive line despite returning six of those top-eight linemen. Yet, Boston College gave up only 173.5 passing yards per game last year.

That was not simply because opposing offenses enjoyed running the ball. The Eagles gave up only a 57.9 percent completion rate against.

There is no need to try to explain that dichotomy. No explanation will suffice.

2022 OUTLOOK
Jeff Hafley enters his third season trying to repair the damage done by Steve Addazio — who has already been hired and fired since leaving Boston College — with one hurdle to clear that has been an Eagles challenge since Addazio’s second season: Boston College has not beaten a ranked opponent since 2014.

That will not be the sole metric determining the success of what should be Jurkovec’s final season. The 6-foot-5 passer could lead the Eagles to a 9-3 record with all three losses against ranked opponents (Clemson, North Carolina State, Notre Dame), and it would be considered a successful season. But perhaps breaking that 23-game losing streak in October’s Red Bandanna Game against the No. 4 Tigers could catapult Boston College toward more.

PointsBet sets the Eagels’ wins total Over/Under at 6.5, with the odds favoring the Under. Right now, they would be three-touchdown underdogs in South Bend. There is no expectation such an upset will occur in 2022, but Boston College has the position players to make it possible, even if absolutely no faith in its trenches.

NOTRE DAME’S OPPONENTS
— Ohio State’s offense projects to match the best of the century
— Marshall set for fun in the Sun Belt with advantageous debut schedule
— Cal’s offensive struggles continue to undermine quality defense
— New QB Drake Maye not the only change for disappointing North Carolina, Mack Brown
— Veteran BYU will be anything but a trap game in Las Vegas for the Irish
— Stanford’s woes may cut deeper than the current roster
— UNLV set to improve in 2022, not that that’s saying much
— Syracuse star RB Sean Tucker keys Orange run to a bowl
— No. 4 Clemson needs more of everything from QB DJ Uiagalelei, except weight
Navy’s rebound dependent on QB progress and OL health

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    Notre Dame vs North Carolina: Time, TV, Preview & Prediction with the Irish as underdogs

    COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 17 Cal at Notre Dame
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    After this afternoon, the Notre Dame Irish and the North Carolina Tar Heels will have met three years straight. Not bad for an ACC arrangement that should have those meetings come on an average of every three years.

    The 2021 and 2022 rendezvous were always scheduled, and the pandemic forcing scheduling on the fly led to the 2020 date. After today, they now will not meet until 2026, though that will be yet another Irish trip to Chapel Hill. Somehow this series will include four trips to the southeast (including 2017’s) around one trip to South Bend in 2021.

    Wherever it is played, this has been a one-sided series. Notre Dame has won the last four meetings and 20 of the 22 in history. Of course, only those last four have any pertinence presently.

    North Carolina may argue it has improved since some of those games, but the Irish roster could broadly claim the same.

    TIME: 3:30 ET, the rare afternoon game for Notre Dame on the road, something announced 48 hours after the Irish lost to Marshall. That timing was a coincidence, the 12 days of notice serving as the usual timeline for these announcements, but that upset may have changed the initial plan.

    TV: ABC has this broadcast with Bob Wischusen on the play-by-play while Dan Orlovsky provides analysis.

    PREVIEW: Let’s rattle off three North Carolina-specific facts.

    First of all, the Tar Heels offense has been astounding this season. That cannot be argued. Irish head coach Marcus Freeman did not outright compare North Carolina to Ohio State’s offense, the best in the country, but he did grant the premise of pondering the game plan Notre Dame used to slow the Buckeyes. The Irish would not lean into that clock-eating approach as aggressively, but Notre Dame also knows better than to get into a shootout with sophomore quarterback Drake Maye.

    In the first three starts of his career, the former five-star recruit has thrown for 11 touchdowns and rushed for another. He is the proverbial straw that stirs the drink for the Heels, and as the offense is averaging more than 50 points per game, he is clearly stirring it quickly.

    Secondly, North Carolina has not faced a defense anything like the Irish will bring to Chapel Hill. While their rankings were, assuredly, damaged by simply facing the Tar Heels, Appalachian State and Georgia State rank Nos. 76 and 97, respectively, per SP+’s defensive considerations. Notre Dame is at No. 18.

    Set aside those intangible thoughts and simply recognize the talent disparity between the Sun Belt’s best and the Irish. Neither the Mountaineers nor the Panthers leaned into the transfer portal to find Power Five talent as Marshall did, and even against the Herd, Notre Dame’s defense had plenty more talent. The offense never produced to reward it.

    Lastly, the Tar Heels are coming off an idle week. That isn’t the fact. Well, that is a fact, but here is the intended third of these three facts: Idle weeks do not better a team’s chances of winning the subsequent week. They may help players get healthy, but only in so much as time passes. They may help a bit with rest, but hardly as much as many think, especially this early in the season.

    Consider Notre Dame’s plans for its off week following this game.

    “I hope after four games, we’re not tired,” Freeman said Thursday. “I don’t plan to rest them a lot. We gotta get better. We have to develop in that week. We’ll have three or four practices during that week to continue to find ways to develop as individuals, as football players. We’ll utilize that.”

    PREDICTION: After spending the week as the slightest of underdogs, somewhere between a pick’em and faded by 1.5 points, the Irish became 2.5-point underdogs on Friday. That minimal move stands out only in that if the spread reaches three points, obviously that will look more like a plausible football score. Anything less than three speaks more to a version of a lopsided pick’em.

    The combined points total Over/Under of 55.5 argues for a final score of 28-27 or so, and for Notre Dame, either one of those numbers would be a season-high in points.

    Of the two mismatches this afternoon, though, the wonder may not be about the Irish offense. Increasingly, offenses have the advantage in modern college football. When a lackluster offense (Notre Dame’s) meets a porous defense (North Carolina’s), it is valid to assume the offense will manufacture its way to a respectable showing.

    When a stout defense (the Irish) meets a dynamic offense (the Tar Heels), however, such scheming may not be enough. And in one particular area, Notre Dame will have an advantage today.

    North Carolina gave up 49 sacks last season. Think about how many that is. Nearly four times per game, Sam Howell was brought down for a loss when intending to pass. Returning much of that offensive line obviously would not bode well for the Tar Heels, and fortunately for them, only 1.5 of those starters still man that line, left tackle Asim Richards (two-year starter) and left guard Ed Montilus (six starts in 2020, eight in 2019). To supplement them, North Carolina found a Harvard transfer, a Miami transfer and is still trying to figure out its right guard situation.

    Nonetheless, the Tar Heels have given up six sacks in their last two games, and only one of those came on a clear passing down (a 3rd-and-5). The Sun Belt defensive lines did not have their ears pinned back to get to Maye. They just beat the North Carolina offensive line. One of those came on a 4th-and-2, when Maye needed to make a better read of the situation.

    Notre Dame’s defensive line should feast, particularly after racking up four sacks in the fourth quarter against Cal. More dramatically, when the Irish defensive line feasts, it does so decisively. Of the 10 sacks from the Notre Dame defense this season, the opposition managed to move the chains afterward on that possession a grand total of zero times.

    Sacks are somewhat underrated in today’s game. They not only cost an offense a down, they also obviously cost yardage. Duh. But what they do beyond that is turn an offense one-dimensional on any subsequent down, a dimension that has just been sowed with doubt.

    Of the 10 Irish sacks, only five were on clear passing downs. Five came in the flow of a productive or newfound possession. They then rendered those possessions all-but dead on arrival.

    If Notre Dame can merely match Appalachian State’s and Georgia State’s three sacks, those should be three possessions on which the Tar Heels do not score. A couple more possessions expiring by more natural causes, if you will, could be enough to bring North Carolina’s explosive offense down to a level the stagnant Irish offense can match.

    Notre Dame 27, North Carolina 23
    (Spread: 1-2; Over/Under: 1-2; Straight-up: 2-1)

    INSIDE THE IRISH
    Manti Te’o’s return to Notre Dame ‘always’ a comfortable one for him, long before recent Netflix doc
    Notre Dame’s Opponents: Boston College’s struggles make Irish worries look tame; Clemson faces first real test
    And In That Corner … The North Carolina Tar Heels’ explosive offense could set too strong a pace for Notre Dame
    Things To Learn: New-look Notre Dame offense needed against prolific North Carolina attack

    OUTSIDE READING
    Betting on a fast start at North Carolina today
    Notre Dame punter Jon Sot winning on and off the field
    Four-star OT Elijah Paige decommits from Notre Dame
    College football games are taking longer, and everyone, including TV, wants to fix that
    ‘I’m still here’ by John Wall

    Twitter | @statsowar

    Things To Learn: New-look Notre Dame offense needed against prolific North Carolina attack

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    As well as Notre Dame’s defense played at Ohio State, the Irish needed to risk opening up the game with their offense in order to produce enough to beat the Buckeyes. Hindsight makes both that fact clear and that Notre Dame did not have the offensive cohesion to trust it could do so.

    Unless the Irish defense is about to prove itself as undeniably one of the country’s best — as in, not far from Georgia’s, Clemson’s or what is coming together at Utah — then Notre Dame’s offense will need to find that cohesion at North Carolina on Saturday (3:30 ET; ABC).

    The Tar Heels offensive production defies some comprehension. No matter the opponent — in this case, FCS-level Florida A&M followed by two Sun Belt foes — putting up 51.3 points and 547.3 yards per game warrants respect. In his first three career starts, sophomore quarterback Drake Maye has completed 74.2 percent of his passes for 9.6 yards per attempt and 11 touchdowns with only one interception, adding 146 rushing yards and another score.

    North Carolina (3-0) will score. Notre Dame (1-2) will need to manage more than its season high of 24 points, though by no means do the Irish want junior quarterback Drew Pyne trying to match Maye blow for blow.

    “We know they’re an explosive offense, and we obviously don’t want to get into a shootout,” head coach Marcus Freeman said Monday. “I don’t think anybody in our program wants to do that, especially not the defensive side of the ball. We have to find ways to stop them, not just limit them. We have to find ways to stop their offense and be creative in terms of our plan defensively.

    “Offensively, we have to be able to control the ball, but we also have to score some points. I don’t expect it to be a [10-7] game at the end of the third quarter like it was at Ohio State. This is going to be a game where we’re going to have to score some points.”

    Though the Buckeyes dominated that fourth quarter in the opener, the fact remains that the Irish forced punts on five of Ohio State’s nine possessions, standing up to force a missed field goal on a sixth. Marshall found similar success running the ball late, but anytime a defense gives up only 19 points, it should be lauded. Cal’s first touchdown drive came courtesy of a short field off a Pyne fumble, scoring just 10 points otherwise.

    Notre Dame’s defense has been up to the task. When the Tar Heels inevitably score — and it should be considered inevitable, especially with the possible return of star slot receiver Josh Downs and deep threat Antoine Green, neither of whom has helped Maye to this prolific start — that is simply a reality of modern college football.

    As long as the Irish keep North Carolina to fewer than 30 points, the onus will be on the offense to get the win.

    Neither the game plan at Ohio State (against the best offense in the country) nor the one vs. Cal (in Pyne’s first start) will push Notre Dame to a new season-high output. Something new will be needed.

    Freeman said the conservative approach against Cal was less about Pyne’s limitations and more about Cal’s scheme.

    “They were primarily a one-high team,” Freeman said. “One-high teams, a lot of the time, are built one, to stop the run, and two, to stop the vertical passing game. We missed a couple shots that we we took a chance on.”

    Couple may have been generous. Most notably, Pyne overthrew junior tight end Michael Mayer up the seam early in the game, prompting a brief conversation with offensive coordinator Tommy Rees that was assuredly not blunt or direct. (Note: Heavy usage of sarcasm there.)

    Pyne’s first touchdown pass to junior running back Chris Tyree did cover 18 yards in the air past the line of scrimmage, though. An outlier in many respects. Even the 36-yard throw-and-stumble to sophomore running back Audric Estimé, preceding Mayer’s touchdown grab, traveled just four yards past the line of the scrimmage before Estimé did the rest.

    “We’re going to throw some balls downfield,” Freeman said. “We’re not going to get way with running five-yard outs and [run-pass options] and running the ball the entire game, we know that. To be able to win the upcoming games that we play, you’re going to have to be able to complete some balls down the field.”

    Notre Dame’s offense hasn’t quite reached “Believe it when I see it” levels of doubt about a downfield passing game, but it is closer to that territory than anything belying confidence.

    What did inspire confidence late against Cal that could spur the downfield passing game moving forward ss the Irish rushing game. Estimé may have gained only 76 rushing yards, but combine his day with Tyree’s and Notre Dame’s backs averaged four yards per carry on 35 attempts. If told exactly when to run where, most of us could have gained more than half those yards.

    This is not the first time the Irish offensive line has needed time to gain momentum in a season. This has, in fact, become a Notre Dame pattern. A quick search of archives of this space pulls up a quote from then-fifth-year left tackle Liam Eichenberg following the 2020 opener against Duke.

    “It’s one of those things, it’s the first game,” Eichenberg said. “I hate to say it, but it takes a couple drives to get up to game speed. …

    “One of the tough things is you practice something in practice or on scout team, and it shows up in the game as something completely different. It’s just one of those things, you have to adjust to personnel, to the players you’re playing against. It’s tough. I’m not going to lie, it’s tough, but at the same time, we have to start quicker, we have to attack more, and we just need to focus on improving and going back to basics.”

    That offensive line eventually propelled the Irish into the College Football Playoff, sending three players into the NFL draft.

    Last season’s offensive line struggled so much in September, now-sixth-year right guard Josh Lugg essentially worked through film with the media during the month, and then in November, he was pointing to those lessons to show what had improved so much for Notre Dame to dominate the final month of the season.

    The Irish may have enjoyed a moment of truth against Cal, handing off the ball to Estimé on four consecutive plays, the exact same play call four times over, to get into the end zone.

    Freeman repeatedly pointed to that kind of success as an avenue for Notre Dame to open up its passing game. That will need to become proven fact on Saturday for the Irish to outpace Maye.

    And In That Corner … The North Carolina Tar Heels’ explosive offense could set too strong a pace for Notre Dame

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    The North Carolina Tar Heels may not score 51.3 points per game much longer this season, just logically speaking, but no matter who the Heels put those points up against, that prolific offense should worry Notre Dame this weekend (3:30 ET; ABC). The Irish (1-2) have barely scored that many points all season, managing just 55 points in three games.

    Then again, North Carolina (3-0) has given up 37.3 points per game against arguably inferior opponents in FCS-level Florida A&M (24 points), Appalachian State (61) and Georgia State (28). The Mountaineers managed more points against the Heels than Notre Dame has given up all season (57). In that fourth quarter alone, when Appalachian State scored an outrageous 40 points, North Carolina gave up more points than the Irish have to two Power Five opponents combined.

    To repeat a line that began popping up in the elevator at Notre Dame Stadium as soon as the Irish notched their first win of the season, an unstoppable force (that Tar Heels offense) meets an immovable object (Notre Dame’s defense) on one side of the ball while a stoppable force runs into a movable object on the other. To get a better idea of if North Carolina’s defense is weaker than its offense is strong, The News & Observer’s C.L. Brown lends some insight.

    DF: These first few games from North Carolina, do they have folks excited or frustrated? They were great wins, but they were closer than expected. The offense looks great, but the defense has not been able to compete against the Sun Belt.

    CB: “Defensively, it’s definitely been frustrating. They are up 41-21 in the App St. game, and App. St. comes back to tie it and had a chance to take the lead. They’re up 21-3 against Georgia State, and Georgia State scores 25 straight points to take a 28-21 lead.

    “On that side of the ball, it’s definitely been frustrating. They’ve been searching for answers because they felt like when they brought back Gene Chizik as defensive coordinator, they were simplifying the defense, (they thought) they wouldn’t give up as many big plays as they did.

    “(Former defensive coordinator Jay) Bateman’s scheme was kind of complicated sometimes for the players with the amount of presnap reads they had to make. They never really clicked in that defense last year. Chizik was supposed to make everything better, and it hasn’t really been better so far.

    “From the offensive side, though, it’s been great. They’ve responded to every challenge. When App. St. came back, Carolina always had an answer offensively. Then against Georgia State, when they fell behind, the offense got it together and pushed ahead for the win on the road. … Quarterback Drake Maye definitely has been better than advertised.”

    Before we get into Chizik’s struggles or Maye’s stardom, solve a riddle for me: Why did North Carolina go on the road to App. St. and Georgia State? Personally, I love it for college football. All I really want from Notre Dame is to play a game at Annapolis rather than face Navy in Baltimore, San Diego and Dublin. But it was still unexpected. What convinced the Tar Heels to do that?

    “(Head coach) Mack Brown talked about wanting to build his schedule. Last year they started off at Virginia Tech, which was a tough season opener for them. They didn’t really feel like they got their legs under them, and then they go out and lose that game early. He wanted to make a schedule where they progressively play harder games.

    “Especially this year, coming in with the new quarterback, (Brown) wanted to give them a shot to work out some kinks, get some reps, get some experience, get better as the season moved on. He even moved the Florida A&M game from last Saturday to Week 0. One, so they could have a Saturday to themselves nationally without everybody in the world playing so they would get a little bit more publicity. And two, to have this weekend off before Notre Dame comes.”

     

    Smooth moves from Brown there, thinking big picture well before he knew entirely what this roster would be, but then there is the Chizik hire. Chizik hadn’t coached since 2016. In the last decade, he spent two seasons as North Carolina’s defensive coordinator under Larry Fedora and that was the extent of his coaching. What were the expectations for him this year? Where has he fallen short?

    “I don’t think anybody was expecting them to be dominant, but just be sound, be better, not have the mistakes. Last year was basically characterized by their communication breakdowns and just allowing big plays. They don’t allow as many big plays (now), but they’ve still given up more than they should have so far this year.

    “I thought the defensive line was going to be the strength of the unit, and they haven’t played up to par. They haven’t been terrible, but I was expecting them to be better than they’ve been, be able to pressure more, get quarterback pressure with their base four without having a scheme or a blitz with that kind of pressure. They have a good rotation now, they have the depth now, but they just haven’t taken that step forward as a defensive line.

    “And the secondary, Tony Grimes was injured the second series of the season opener and then he missed the App. St. game. He probably hasn’t played as well as expected. Storm Duck has battled injuries … They were expecting him to be a shutdown corner, and he hasn’t worked his way back into playing at that level on the corners.

    “Those are the areas that have been the biggest letdowns defensively, their coverages and the defensive line.”

    If spending that time criticizing Chizik and the defense, more time should be spent on sophomore quarterback Drake Maye. Let’s run through his stats real quick, as absurd as they sound: 930 passing yards on 9.6 yards per attempt with a 74.2 percent completion rate with 11 touchdowns against only one interception while adding another 146 yards and a score on 26 carries. That’s quite the three-game start. He may be a former five-star recruit and a one-time Alabama commit, but did you see this coming?

    “I don’t think anybody really saw it coming. Expectations were he would perform well, but he’s just shown maturity beyond his years. He’s not a game manager. He’s shown he can win a game if they need him to. Honestly, I was kind of hoping App. St. would have converted that (first) two-point conversion because that would have meant Drake Mayer would have had the ball with a chance to have a game-winning drive. A couple timeouts and 30 seconds, let’s see what he can do.

    “He hasn’t been in that situation yet, but everything else, he’s shown he can make all the throws. He makes good decisions with the ball. … The main thing he needs to work on is he’s left his feet a couple of times. He got hit and did a bit of a helicopter flip against Florida A&M, and they definitely don’t need him getting injured for a run that doesn’t really mean anything in some of those early games.

    “But everything else, he’s shown to be as advertised.”

    Editor’s Note: C.L. Brown also made the point that Maye has enjoyed this success without star receiver Josh Downs or big-play threat Antoine Green this season. Downs caught 101 passes for 1,335 yards and eight touchdowns last season, while Green took 31 receptions for 612 yards and five scores. Brown thinks Green (shoulder) is likely to play this week, while Downs (knee) will be a game time decision.

    A year ago, this Q&A included you suggesting Brown thought 2022 would be North Carolina’s year, not Sam Howell’s final season in 2021. It may be early to claim he was right, but did he see Maye coming?

    I think he was thinking the defense would be a little better than it’s been, because on that side of the ball they stockpiled good recruiting classes and a bunch of talent, especially on the defensive line. He felt like they would have the depth they needed to really, if not be dominant up front, definitely hold their own against anybody. It hasn’t quite been like that.

    “He felt like Drake Maye could be good, could be this good. … Mack was looking at this as the year they would have the talent and could make some noise. Right now, the defense is what has held them back.”

    Will Maye be enough Saturday? As of Thursday morning, this is essentially a pick’em, with the Heels favored by a point. What do you expect?

    “Saturday is going to answer a lot of questions. If they pull out a win, there will be some more excitement about it. Right now, people just look at it as the same old defense. When the games get harder, when the opponents get tougher, are they going to be able to stop anybody? Are they going to have to win every game in some kind of 42-41 shootout? …

    “For football to keep anybody’s attention around here, the defense has to play better, and they’re going to have to win on Saturday for people to be like, Oh, this football team might be something.

    “I picked Carolina, because they are at home obviously and because I’m not sure Notre Dame’s offense is any better than Carolina’s defense. I definitely think it’s going to be a game where Notre Dame is going to have to score probably in the 30s to win. I’m not sure they can get that done.

    “So I’m taking Drake Maye.”

    Notre Dame’s Opponents: Boston College’s struggles make Irish worries look tame; Clemson faces first real test

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    The attention around Notre Dame (1-2) is currently focused on North Carolina (3:30 ET; ABC) and rightfully so, but some recognition should be given to a developing situation further north along the East Coast.

    Boston College may have a problem on its hands. Eagles head coach Jeff Hafley’s third season is at risk of being completely undone by offensive line problems that make the Irish dearth of receiver depth look like a full array of options. Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec has been decently public with his frustration with his offensive line, compounding the issues that could torpedo what some thought would be a promising season for the Eagles.

    Notre Dame does not face Boston College until mid-November, but there is a very real chance the Eagles are 3-7 at that point and Jurkovec’s 2023 NFL draft hopes are waylaid for a year.

    But first, the Tar Heels …

    North Carolina (3-0): The Tar Heels enjoyed an idle week, but do not assume that establishes a great disadvantage for the Irish. Power Five teams coming off idle weeks last season and then facing Power Five teams went 32-33.

    The Irish are 1.5-point underdogs in Chapel Hill, as of midday Wednesday, a number that all but means this game is a pick’em. The combined points total Over/Under, per PointsBet, is the highest it has been for Notre Dame since the season opener. A 56-point mark suggests the winner may reach 30, hard to believe for the Irish offense of late.

    BYU (2-1): The Cougars’ theoretical Playoff chase came to an abrupt and decisive end at now-No. 15 Oregon, falling 41-20. The Ducks ran through BYU in a way Notre Dame may want to remember, taking 44 carries for 212 yards, an average rush that jumps to 5.44 yards when deducting a single 22-yard loss from a receiver.

    The Cougars get to recover against Wyoming (10:15 ET; ESPN2) as a 22-point favorite. The Cowboys sprung an upset last week of Air Force as a three-possession underdog, but pulling off such a surprise two weeks in a row would be a different level of accomplishment.

    Stanford (1-1): The Cardinal took a week off to regroup, and maybe that is enough reason to think Stanford could frighten No. 18 Washington (10:30 ET; FS1), even as two-touchdown underdogs.

    UNLV (2-1): The Rebels became a trendy pick to be upset last week, hosting North Texas as short favorites. Instead, quarterback Doug Brumfield threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-27 passing to lead UNLV to an easy 58-27 win. As hard as it may be to believe, the Rebels are now favored for a second week in a row, this time on the road at Utah State (7 ET; CBSSN). And even more shocking, the 2.5-point spread feels too small.

    Syracuse (3-0): It is time to talk to your children about a ranked Syracuse, about a 5-0 Syracuse, but maybe not yet about an ACC contender Syracuse. By slipping past Purdue 32-29 in a game that would necessitate 1,000 words to describe its ending, the Orange survived what should be their last major test for a couple weeks.

    Re: that ending, realize this first photo below is of Purdue kicking off after taking the lead in the final minute, from its own 5-yard line. Then the second photo below is of Syracuse kicking off after scoring a touchdown, from the plus-35 yard line.

    Orange quarterback Garrett Sharder was sick during the week and likely missed some practice time, lending some understanding to his uneven showing of 181 yards and three touchdowns on 13-of-29 passing with another 83 yards on 17 rushes.

    Of course, true college football chaos would have Syracuse stumble against Virginia (7 ET on Friday; ESPN), but a 9-point spread doubts that.

    No. 5 Clemson (3-0): The Tigers beat Louisiana Tech 48-20, yawn. They now head to No. 21 Wake Forest (12 ET; ABC) and star Deacons quarterback Sam Hartman certainly looks fully reintegrated into Dave Clawson’s offense. That elicits the opposite of a yawn.

    Clemson is favored by a touchdown with an Over/Under of 55.5. The Tigers scoring that suggested 31 points against a viable Power Five opponent would itself stand out as reason to believe in Clemson’s Playoff hopes, no matter how much Wake Forest’s defense often struggles.

    Navy (0-2): There is an irony to both the Midshipmen and Stanford taking an early off week this season. Both programs have fallen so far. Their seasons now following parallel tracks will make for a unique comparison.

    Anyway, Navy heads to East Carolina (6 ET; ESPN+) as a 16.5-point underdog. Anyone backing the Midshipmen early this week was probably doing so thinking Ken Niumatalolo made good use of that idle week.

    Boston College (1-2): The Eagles beat FCS-level Maine, 38-17. Jurkovec threw for 320 yards and two touchdowns on 25-of-37 throwing. Yet, Boston College’s problems were apparent once again.

    Its starting offensive line on Saturday included a former walk-on and a former defensive lineman. The Eagles found only one transfer this offseason to combat this depth issue, a player from Lehigh.

    All that after losing all five starters from last year’s team, and now losing two more this season.

    Boston College is a 17.5-point underdog at Florida State (8 ET; ACCN), and that spread ballooned as the realities of the Eagles’ offensive line became more and more clear.

    No. 7 USC (3-0): Anyone who tries to claim they know what the Trojans are is boasting where they should not. Beating Fresno State 45-17 after the Bulldogs lost their star quarterback is yet again an unconvincing result, but USC scored on eight of its 10 genuine possessions, so at the very least, that offense is every bit as frightening as long-hyped.

    The Trojans now head to Oregon State (9:30 ET; Pac-12 Network) favored by only six points, a game that bookmakers apparently see as something of a trap.

    No. 3 Ohio State (3-0): The Buckeyes welcomed back receivers Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Julina Fleming by hanging 77 points on Toledo in a 77-21 win. Neither starred, though Fleming caught two touchdown passes, but both simply playing was a big step for Ohio State’s long-term hopes.

    The Buckeyes welcome Wisconsin (7:30 ET; ABC) as 18.5-point favorites, a testament to just how respected Ohio State remains compared to the best of the Big Ten West.

    Marshall (2-1): The Herd fell flat, losing to Bowling Green, 34-31, in overtime. But in terms of goals, Marshall’s are all still ahead of it. Dominate in the Sun Belt and a New Year’s Six bowl is likely to follow. That path begins at Troy (7 ET; NFL Network), favored by 3.5-points.

    Cal (2-1): The Bears will follow up their first loss of the season by beginning Pac-12 play against Arizona (5:30 ET; Pac-12 Network). Favored by a field goal, the question may be, what type of ground game do the Wildcats boast?

    Friday at 7 ET: Virginia at Syracuse (ESPN).
    Saturday at 12 ET: Clemson at Wake Forest (ABC).
    3:30 ET: Notre Dame at North Carolina (ABC).
    5:30 ET: Arizona at Cal (Pac-12 Network).
    6 ET: Navy at East Carolina (ESPN+).
    7 ET: UNLV at Utah State (CBSSN); Marshall at Troy (NFL Network).
    7:30 ET: Wisconsin at Ohio State (ABC).
    8 ET: Boston College at Florida State (ACCN).
    9:30 ET: USC at Oregon STate (Pac-12 Network).
    10:15 ET: Wyoming at BYU (ESPN2).
    10:30 ET: Stanford at Washington (FS1).

    Favorites: North Carolina (-1.5) vs. Notre Dame; BYU (-22) vs. Wyoming; UNLV (-2.5) at Utah State; Syracuse (-9.0) vs. Virginia; Clemson (-7.0) at Wake Forest; USC (-6.5) at Oregon State; Ohio State (-18.5) vs. Wisconsin; Marshall (-3.5) at Troy; Cal (-3) vs. Arizona.
    Underdogs: Navy (+16.5) at East Carolina; Boston College (+17.5) at Florida State.