Catholic schools Boston College and Notre Dame renew their rivalry this weekend, and both teams are praying for a victory. ACC blogger Heather Dinich and Notre Dame blogger Brian Bennett take a look at the issues surrounding this matchup:
Brian Bennett: Heather, you can throw the records out when these two play. And Brian Kelly would really, really like you to throw the records out. Kelly is off to just a 1-3 start in his first season as Irish head coach, and now he's returning to his roots in Boston desperately needing a win to keep this season afloat -- and to keep the wolves at bay.
Notre Dame got manhandled last week against Stanford, but it was just a play away from beating Michigan and Michigan State before that. So we know this team is capable of playing with good opponents. What do we know about BC, which faced two weak teams before getting shut out by Virginia Tech at home last week?
Heather Dinich: We know that quarterback Dave Shinskie has been benched. Yes, Virginia Tech’s defense finally looked like what Hokies fans are used to under Bud Foster, but still … after two interceptions and a fumble, the competition is up for grabs this week between Mike Marscovetra and freshman Chase Rettig. The staff had wanted to redshirt Rettig -- he is supposed to be the quarterback of the future. But the Eagles might not have the luxury of waiting. Will it even matter, though? It looks like Notre Dame’s defense has been pretty friendly the past month, although it has faced some ranked competition. It seems to me running back Montel Harris might have a good day against the Irish.
BB: You're talking about the 93rd-best rushing attack in America having a big day? Look, the Notre Dame defense is what we thought it would be. The Irish give up some big plays and points, but honestly, I think their defense has been good enough to win so far this year. The offense has, surprisingly, had some trouble. If Dayne Crist doesn't miss most of the first half against Michigan that's probably a victory. Against Stanford last week, the offense didn't produce a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter. The passing game has been inconsistent, the running game hasn't been reliable on short-yardage downs and the Irish have hurt themselves with turnovers.
I look at both teams' issues and see a fairly low-scoring game on Saturday. What do you think?
HD: “Issues.” So polite. You could say BC has a few of those after being shut out at home last week for the first time since 1998. BC’s defense deserves credit, though, despite the 19-0 loss to Virginia Tech. It’s a typical Frank Spaziani-coached team: blue collar, hard-nosed tacklers holding opponents to about 17 points per game. They’re coming off a performance that held Virginia Tech to four field goals, and once again, sophomore linebacker Luke Kuechly is among the nation’s leaders in tackles. There’s no time for BC to dwell on that loss, though. They know this game means a lot on campus, to alumni and to the community. Plus, it’s not going to get any easier with back-to-back Atlantic Division road trips looming to NC State and Florida State. BC needs this win badly, but I think Brian Kelly needs it more.
BB: Not just Kelly, but the Irish as a whole. A 1-4 start really puts them in a bind, even with the schedule easing up soon. Remember they've still got to play Pitt, Utah and USC, as well as always-tricky Navy, so they may struggle to get to a bowl game if they lose this week.
I can't see a Kelly offense struggling for two straight weeks. I think Notre Dame will score at least 21 points. BC has a good defense, but let's not confuse Virginia Tech with an explosive attack. Crist will be crisper this week and he won't be getting hit every down like he was against Stanford. With a new quarterback, I think the Eagles will be one-dimensional enough that the Irish defense can handle them. How do you see it?
HD: This is supposed to be a debate, right? It pains me to agree with you, but let me point out that BC has won six of the past seven in this series. Besides, which Crist will show up? The one against Michigan State, or the one that was clobbered by Stanford? I think BC’s defense will make it a little tougher than Kelly would like to see -- most likely a score similar to last year’s 20-16 Notre Dame win.