Players to watch: Notre Dame vs. Boston College

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

A look at a few players to watch in Saturday’s game (2:30 p.m. EST on NBC) between No. 15 (AP)/No. 16 (CFP) Notre Dame (8-2) and Boston College (5-5).

WR CHASE CLAYPOOL, Notre Dame

Coming off a historic four-touchdown performance, Claypool has a solid chance to dominate again. He faces an Eagle defense that ranks No. 121 nationally in pass efficiency and No. 128 in total defense. BC has allowed a 100-yard receiving performance to a player in seven of its last eight games. November also seems to favor Claypool. The 6-foot-4, 229-pound senior has caught 56 passes for 902 yards and seven touchdowns in 13 career November games. Expect Claypool to continue that success in his final game at Notre Dame Stadium.

LB ASMAR BILAL, Notre Dame

For the second straight game, Notre Dame must handle one of college football’s elite rushing attacks. Navy’s top-ranked ground game ran for more than 50 yards below its average against the Irish, recording 281 rushing yards. The Eagles, ranked No. 5 in rushing yards per game (282), bring a bruising style that features beefy running backs AJ Dillon (6-0, 250 pounds) and David Bailey (6-1, 240 pounds). Bilal’s aggressiveness and physicality tends to set the tone for this Irish run defense. The senior ranks second on the team in tackles (61) and is tied for third in tackles for a loss with eight.

RB AJ DILLON, Boston College

BC starting quarterback Anthony Brown's season-ending knee injury has meant an increase in volume for Dillon. The junior has earned 128 carries in the four games since Dennis Grisel replaced Brown after the Oct. 5 Louisville game. Averaging just over 175 rushing yards during that span, Dillon will face a Notre Dame run defense ranked No. 79. Clemson marks the only team out of BC’s last eight opponents to hold Dillon under 118 rushing yards. Dillon must pace the BC offense on the ground early. Falling behind in the first quarter will require the Eagles to play out of their element by relying more on the pass.

LB MAX RICHARDSON, Boston College

Only one BC defender has tallied more than 67 tackles this season — Richardson with 95. The 6-0, 230-pound weakside linebacker also leads his team in sacks with 3.5. Richardson has been one of the few silver linings to one of the nation’s most porous defenses. The junior has at least six tackles in every game this season and at least eight in all but three contests. A standout performance from Richardson could bring the bad out of Notre Dame’s inconsistent rushing offense and keep this game closer than expected (ND favored by three touchdowns).

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Notre Dame linebacker Asmar Bilal (22) ranks second on the team with 61 tackles this season.
Linebacker Max Richardson (14) ranks first on Boston College in tackles and sacks with 95 and 3.5, respectively.