Hansen: Non-sellout streak extended vs. BC, but more TV options for Notre Dame football

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — With the realization that Notre Dame Stadium won’t be starting a new sellout streak Saturday, when Boston College comes to visit, what better time for a new TV option when it comes to the CFP 16th-ranked Irish?

Rob Hyland, NBC’s coordinating producer for Notre Dame football, teased the concept back in September of a “truly Notre Dame-centric broadcast” for the 25th-ever meeting between the Irish (8-2) and BC (5-5).

So there will be the regular version on NBC Saturday (2:30 EST), with former Boston College Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie providing the in-booth analysis, per usual. And there will be a Flutie-free version on NBC Sports Network.

Radio voices Paul Burmeister and Ryan Harris will describe the action on the alternate broadcast, using NBC’s video. And when NBC goes to a commercial, NBCSN will do so in a more limited fashion — instead providing discussions from a panel of co-hosts with ND connections. The co-hosts will also provide anecdotes during the broadcast.

The panel comprises NBC Sports’ Ahmed Fareed; Notre Dame senior defensive end Daelin Hayes, who is out for the season with a shoulder injury; former Irish running back Darius Walker and ND alum and Sports Illustrated producer Jessica Smetana.

And if TV isn’t your thing, there are actual tickets still for sale, after last Saturday’s ND-Navy game ended the 46-year-old, 273-game sellout streak.

Triple whammy?

Has Brian Kelly finally figured out how to avoid the triple-option hangover?

Notre Dame’s 31-21 victory last November at Northwestern at least squared Kelly’s record at 6-6 in games immediately following a matchup with Navy, Air Force, Army, Georgia Tech or a two-game block from that group.

Saturday’s home finale with Boston College — on the heels of ND’s 52-20 waxing of Navy — should tell us more.

The Eagles, incidentally, are the highest-ranked team in total offense nationally (12th) that ND has faced this season but is the second-worst team in total defense on the Irish schedule (128th out of 130).

Last season’s victory over the Wildcats was just the third of the six post-option offense wins that came by more than seven points. The other two were over UMass 62-27 and USC 41-31, both in 2015.

The combined end-of-the-season records of the six teams ND beat post-triple-option is 40-39, with only 2018 Northwestern finishing as a Top 25 team.

In the six post-option offense losses, the Irish have yielded an average of 35.7 points. Only two of those six games came against ranked teams, and ND was the higher ranked team both times (vs. Arizona State in 2014 and Stanford in 2017).

The Irish lost both, and by 24 and 18 points, respectively.

A factor perhaps in the triple-option funk from a win-loss standpoint has been the propensity for the Irish defense to emerge from those games with lower-leg injuries, many of them serious/long term and at least in part attributed to the practice of cut blocks by those teams.

Kelly instituted a special scout squad in 2015 called the SWAG team (Students with Attitude and Game) that works year-round on the option offense to help prep the Irish defense.

That seems to have reduced the volume of the leg injuries, as fending off cut blocks becomes more routine.

However, linebacker Shayne Simon, out for the season with a dislocated kneecap, and defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola, questionable for BC with an ankle sprain, both suffered injuries against Navy this past Saturday.

Comeback player

On Saturday, Richard Yeargin III gets to play in the stadium he at one point thought he’d call home.

He’s listed as a starter for Boston College in its first game played at Notre Dame Stadium since 2011, bringing a modest 10 tackles this season (with five of those tackles for losses) into Saturday’s matchup.

Then again, that the sixth-year defensive end is playing football at all — anywhere — these days is remarkable, given the neck and spinal injuries he suffered in a rollover automobile accident in the spring of 2017 when he was a reserve defensive lineman at Clemson.

The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., product, was originally part of Notre Dame’s 2014 recruiting class that included Drue Tranquill, Quenton Nelson and DeShone Kizer.

Measuring 6-foot-3, 225 pounds at the time of his commitment, Yeargin was projected to play outside linebacker for the Irish in ND’s old 3-4 scheme. But when defensive coordinator Bob Diaco left after the 2013 season to be the head coach at UConn, Yeargin decommitted less than two weeks before signing day.

Diaco’s successor, Brian VanGorder, recruited to a 4-3 alignment, and the coaching change did factor into Yeargin’s change of heart and ultimately landing at Clemson.

There, he collected 29 tackles in 22 games played prior to the accident. He also picked up a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree at Clemson before successfully petitioning the NCAA for a sixth year and transferring to BC.

He became a starter for the Eagles in game 7, a week before BC played and lost to Clemson, 59-7.

Notable numbers

Ian Book rates better than any of the other starting quarterbacks on Notre Dame’s schedule — except for Georgia’s Jake Fromm — in Pro Football Focus’ mid-November evaluations of all 130 FBS No. 1 QBs.

Book, who climbed 22 spots this week to No. 36 in the latest NCAA pass-efficiency stats, fares slightly better in PFF’s evaluation, which takes in “the avoidance of negatively graded plays, propensity of positively graded plays, strength of competition and value towards a team victory as primary factors.”

He’s 27th in those rankings, while Fromm is No. 7 and LSU’s Joe Burrow is No. 1.

Among ND opponents, Boston College starter Dennis Grosel ranks 102nd, ahead of only Bowling Green’s Grant Loy (118th) on the Irish schedule.

ND didn’t face Micale Cunningham of Louisville (68th) or Hendon Hooker of Virginia Tech (43rd) when the Irish played those teams.

The other opponent QB rankings are: Kedon Slovis (USC) 45th, Shea Patterson (Michigan) 49th, Malcolm Perry (Navy) 56th, Davis Mills/K.J. Costello (Stanford) 58th, Bryce Perkins (Virginia) 67th, Tevaka Tuioti (New Mexico) 88th and Quentin Harris (Duke) 99th.

• Notre Dame will honor the 150th anniversary of College Football Saturday by wearing Under Armour Heritage uniforms that pay homage to the 1988 National Championship team.

• Notre Dame and Alabama are the only two teams that have not lost to an unranked team since the beginning of 2017.

• The Irish will look to complete an undefeated home slate for the second consecutive season Saturday, last time achieved in 1988-89.

• Cold weather could be a good thing Saturday. BC coach Steve Addazio, a former Bob Davie Era Irish assistant, is 1-6 when the kickoff temperature is below 40 degrees.

There will be a new TV option available to Notre Dame fans during Saturday’s game against Boston College.

WHO: Boston College (5-5) vs. AP No. 15 Notre Dame (8-2)

WHEN: Saturday at 2:30 p.m. EST

WHERE: Notre Dame Stadium

TV: NBC

RADIO: WSBT (960 AM, 96.1 FM), WNSN-FM (101.5)

LINE: Notre Dame by 19