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BC battling uphill in this rivalry

By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / November 19, 2011

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Boston College and Notre Dame have turned their series into a rivalry, perhaps even worthy of the hype that, at times, was manufactured more by the Eagles than the Irish.

Winning six games in succession - as BC did from 2001-08 - will earn you some respect, though Notre Dame appears to be regaining control of the series, which continues today at Notre Dame Stadium.

The Irish, who are 7-3 and ranked No. 24 in the Associated Press poll, have won the last two meetings and are 24 1/2-point favorites over the 3-7 Eagles.

“Being at Notre Dame, you’re going to get your best game from everybody,’’ said Irish wide receiver Michael Floyd, who may be the top NFL draft prospect at his position, with 77 catches for 922 yards and 7 touchdowns this season.

“It doesn’t matter about the record. It doesn’t matter if they got beat last week, 73-0. They’re going to come with a full head of steam because they are playing Notre Dame.’’

BC coach Frank Spaziani has looked at the tapes and doesn’t see many - if any - weaknesses in Notre Dame.

“I don’t think we’ve seen a Notre Dame team like this in the past several years,’’ said Spaziani. “They are big and fast and much more skilled in all positions.

“Even though they are 7-3, that’s a top-five football team right now. I’d put them up against anybody in talent. They also have an edge to them.’’

As for Floyd, Spaziani said, “If that kid is not the No. 1 receiver in the country, I don’t know who is.’’

Having said all of that, Spaziani believes BC can play with the Irish - but they can’t give anything away.

“Teams like that, you’ve got to kind of hang around with them and hope you get a break at the end,’’ he said.

If the Eagles are going to pull off the upset, they must find a way to stop the Notre Dame running attack, which features two ball carriers - Jonas Gray and Cierre Wood - closing in on 1,000-yard seasons. They run behind an offensive line that averages 304 pounds, as opposed to a BC defensive line that averages 279 pounds.

The X factor for the BC defense is middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, who is having another All-American season and leading the country in tackles with 168. Kuechly is only seven tackles short of becoming the ACC’s all-time leader, and with two games remaining, he is 37 shy of becoming the all-time leader in college football history.

“If there are records broken as far as linebacker play, he’s in line to break them,’’ said Spaziani.

Offensively, the Eagles must find a way to not only score but hold onto the ball, something they could not do in a 38-7 pounding by Florida State Nov. 3. Running back Rolandan “Deuce’’ Finch dropped behind Andre Williams on the depth chart after fumbling four times in a two-game stretch against Maryland and FSU.

“Deuce is a dilemma,’’ said Spaziani. “He’s got to hold onto the ball. Gaining 100 yards and fumbling twice doesn’t balance.’’

The Eagles also need more production at quarterback from starter Chase Rettig and backup Josh Bordner, who has been used in certain situations the last few games.

BC must come up with the magic formula for the kind of highlight plays that have allowed it to pull off major upsets in this series.

Mark Blaudschun can be reached at blaudschun@globe.com.

BC vs. Notre Dame

■When: Today, 4 p.m.

■Where: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.

■TV, radio: Ch. 7, WEEI (850)