Notre Dame’s Opponents: Boston College’s struggles make Irish worries look tame; Clemson faces first real test
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.
BC QB Phil Jurkovec came into last night's game against Maine having completed just 2-of-11 throws traveling 20+ yards downfield in the 1st two weeks of action, per PFF. He was 3-of-8 on such passes vs. the Black Bears.— Andy Backstrom (@andybackstrom) September 18, 2022
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.
Quick BC O-Line summary: After the 2021 season, BC lost four starting offensive linemen to graduation/the NFL. Then its lone returning starter tore his ACL in May. Then, of BC's five new starters this fall, two have sustained knee injuries, one of which is another torn ACL.— Andy Backstrom (@andybackstrom) September 17, 2022
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.