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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

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 14: Boston College Eagles quarterback Phil Jurkovec (5) escapes the Notre Dame pass rush as he looks for an open receiver during the first quarter. The Boston College Eagles host the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Alumni Stadium in an NCAA football game in Boston on Nov. 14, 2020. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Boston Globe via Getty Images

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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