Friday, October 12, 2007

Next Victim: Boston College

So the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are two-touchdown underdogs in their own house tomorrow? I'd say we have the Boston College Eagles right where we want them. Here was my pre-season analysis of the B.C. game:

Boston College (Oct. 13 @ Home). The game against BC is the second of the two swing games in the middle of the season that worry me. The Eagles are ranked #28 in the AP poll and #26 in the USA Today poll. They had a nice 10-3 campaign last season in what was really a down year for the ACC. They bring back a decent quarterback in Matt Ryan who played much of last year with a broken foot. They were 50th in the nation in total offense and 34th in total defense. They have a new head coach after Tom O'Brien bolted for N.C. State. I expect Notre Dame's new defensive scheme to be in full bloom by this point in the season and handle the Eagles' quality but not dynamic offense without much difficulty. On offense, we're going to have to change things up and win this one through the air, as there will be little room to run. Boston College expects to start two defensive tackles that weigh in at 343 and 337 pounds, and the linebackers are a veteran group that is stout against the run.

Since I anticipate a likely loss at UCLA, I think the Irish bounce back with a solid win and a very balanced performance against BC. Footballs will be in the air and we'll see some scoring. Notre Dame 31, Boston College 17.

[NOTE: If the Irish pull out the win at UCLA, then the BC game is a potential trap game. A letdown after a UCLA win, plus looking ahead to the Trojans a week away would likely mean a Notre Dame loss.]
Well, it turns out the Eagles are a bit more dynamic on offense than everyone expected, especially through the air. BC QB Matt Ryan is having a great year and his Heisman Trophy campaign is in full swing. At 6-0 and ranked #4 in the USA Today Top-25 Poll (actually in just about every poll), Boston College is a very "nice" story. But they have yet to be really tested. You can't really criticize any team that gets to mid-October with six wins and no defeats, but the fact remains that their most significant win to date has been a road win over a Georgia Tech squad that has since dropped out of the polls and is slotted at #35 in Jeff Sagarin's rankings. Their other five games have all been at home, where they have scored wins against Wake Forest (Sagarin #46), N.C. State (Sagarin #95), Army (Sagarin #111), Massachusetts (Sagarin #83), and Bowling Green (Sagarin #73). Overall, Sagarin's computers rank Boston College's schedule as the 78th toughest in the land. By the way, despite the Eagles' #4 ranking in most polls, Sagarin has them slotted at just #14 overall. Dig a little deeper and you'll find that Sagarin's computers REALLY think Boston College is the 24th best team in the country, but political correctness imposed by the BCS drives them up to #14. Here is an excerpt from the Sagarin web page discussing his different ranking methods:

"In ELO-CHESS, only winning and losing matters; the score margin is of no consequence, which makes it very "politically correct". However it is less accurate in its predictions forupcoming games than is the PURE POINTS, in which the score margin is the only thing that matters. PURE POINTS is also known as PREDICTOR, BALLANTINE, RHEINGOLD, WHITE OWL and is the best single PREDICTOR of future games. The ELO-CHESS will be utilized by the Bowl Championship Series(BCS)."
Thus, according to Sagarin the real, non-PC rankings are the "Pure Points" or "Predictor" ratings. Sagarin's "Predictor" ratings have the Eagles at #24 - a far cry from 4th best football team in the country. Of course, Notre Dame's two most recent opponents were ranked right near that #25 hole when we played them. We played Purdue on the road and had a real chance to win the game. Purdue is currently #22 in the Sagarin rankings (#26 in "Predictor). We also went on the road to play UCLA in the Rose Bowl, where we earned our first victory of the year. UCLA is Sagarin's #18 (#13 in "Predictor). Overall, Sagarin ranks Notre Dame's schedule as the 3rd toughest in the country. The Irish have been sorely tested and they are battle-hardened.

For a great break-down showing that Boston College's statistics have come against weak competition and that the Eagle's are thus likely not as daunting as their statistics would suggest, go read the latest post at The Irish Roundup.

So, as I said up top, I think we have the Eagles right where we want them. They are undefeated and feeling pretty good about themselves. But they are untested, and they have been enjoying home cooking all season. When they saunter into Notre Dame Stadium they are going to get punched right in the mouth, and it will be "game on." They are on par with our previous two opponents, but this game is being played in front of an Irish crowd, and our team has been getting better every week. Last week's game against UCLA was the coming-out party for Corwin Brown's defense. Given the match-ups, this week has to be the coming out party for Jimmy Clausen and the Notre Dame passing game. If the O-line can give J.C. some time, it appears likely that he'll be able to pick apart the Boston College secondary. I expect a great game, and although it will be closer than I expected in my pre-season analysis, I do think the Irish get a VERY, VERY important second win tomorrow. And it isn't just an important win because we would rather be 2-5 than 1-6. It's important because:

1. It keeps alive our Bowl chances. A win over BC gives us a chance at a 6-6 season even if we can't beat USC next week. A loss would make USC a must-win game to preserve a shot at a Bowl game.

2. It would ruin the Eagles' chances at a National Championship.

3. It would likely derail Matt Ryan's Heisman Campaign.

4. It would set the world to spinning properly on it's axis again, having restored the proper balance to the college football universe.

Two touchdown underdogs in our own house? I don't think so.

1 comment:

sir john said...

Let's kick butt.