Boston College football’s path to bowl eligibility, quite simply, isn’t particularly easy. The Eagles (5-5, 3-4 Atlantic Coast) head to South Bend to face No. 15 Notre Dame (8-2) before facing Pittsburgh (7-3, 4-2) on the road in their season finale. The Irish boast a 17-game home winning streak and have additionally taken the last six meetings with the Eagles, so Saturday’s afternoon matchup fittingly has the hosts as 20-point favorites and pegged by ESPN’s Football Power Index as boasting a 99.7 percent chance to win. Here’s what you need to know about 25th meeting of this “Holy War” rivalry.
Who is BC playing?
No. 15 Notre Dame
When is BC playing?
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2:30 p.m.
Where is BC playing?
Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, Ind.
How to Watch:
The game will be aired on NBC, and it will notably feature former BC quarterback Doug Flutie as a part of the broadcast team.
The last time these two met was at Alumni Stadium in 2017, and it was a game that many at BC won’t want to relive. The Irish duo of quarterback Brandon Wimbush and running back Josh Adams both eclipsed 200 rushing yards in what turned into a 49-20 rout. That 29-point decision was largely an outlier in the recent history of these two teams, though, as in 2015 the Irish—then ranked fourth in the country—narrowly beat BC, 19-16, at Fenway Park. Ultimately, Notre Dame holds a 15-9 edge in the all-time series, and the Eagles are seeking their first win against their rivals since 2008.
What to expect from Notre Dame:
The Irish have a tremendous amount of experience up and down the offensive depth chart. Senior quarterback Ian Book is fourth in program history with 49 career touchdown passes, and he’s fresh off a Week 12 blowout of Navy that saw him lead the nation in passer rating (271.8). Book is the kind of quarterback that should be able to give a porous BC defense fits, as he can both throw (58.8 completion percentage, 26 touchdowns, six interceptions) and run (421 yards, five touchdowns). He’s taken steps each week, and head coach Brian Kelly pointed out why in his weekly press conference, per CollegePressBox.
“Ian is getting plays from the sideline and getting it in much more of a game-like fashion instead of just standing there and getting it off a script and [it almost] being formulated for him,” he said. “We wanted it to be one where he had to see it, digest it, and then we would coach it after the fact in film study. … It’s benefited him, and he’s playing the way he should be playing.”
Book has plenty of talented skill position players around him too. Wideout Chase Claypool hauled in four touchdowns against Navy and has eclipsed 400 receiving yards for the second year in a row, while a deep tight end depth chart has nine touchdown receptions. Running back Tony Jones Jr. is additionally averaging nearly six yards per carry and has 611 yards and five scores.
In total, the Irish rank 19th nationally in scoring offense, averaging 36 points per game. BC’s defense, fresh off a week in which it allowed 524 yards in a loss to Florida State, will have its hands full in trying to keep Notre Dame off the board. The Eagles rank 128th of 130 teams in total defense and have been beaten repeatedly by big plays.
Eagles’ quarterback Dennis Grosel will have his hands full with a difficult Notre Dame passing defense, as it enters ranked fifth in the country in yards allowed per game (162.5). As expected, BC will likely try to run its way to a victory. Doing so could prove difficult, though, especially with the running back corps showing signs of wear and tear. The Irish are no slouches against the run: While they rank 78th in yards allowed, they’re still holding opponents to four yards per carry and have held three teams—Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Duke—under 100 yards in a game.
BC’s offensive line will attempt to limit a trio of defensive linemen that have shown a knack for getting into the backfield. Julian Okwara (five sacks), Khalid Kareem (4.5), and Jamir Jones (four) have combined for 13.5 quarterback takedowns and 22 tackles for loss. The linebackers are similarly strong and boast an equally dynamic trio. Drew White leads the team in tackles with 65, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has racked up 8.5 tackles for loss, and Asmar Bilal often finds himself involved in every play. Grosel will have to avoid the duo of Kyle Hamilton and Jalen Elliott in the secondary, as the freshman-senior pair have combined for five interceptions.
On paper, this matchup does not look promising for the Eagles. Notre Dame is a top-15 team fresh off one of its more dominant wins of the season, and the game is on the road in a difficult environment. Still, there’s some reasons for hope. BC has shown in years past the ability to play up to the Irish’s level—just look at how narrow the loss at Fenway Park was—and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the Eagles hung around on Saturday. Plus, BC does have the benefit of a bye week, and it came off a break earlier this year to beat North Carolina State by 21 points in arguably one of its more complete performances of the year. The Irish remain heavy favorites—it’s just a matter of which BC shows up: the one that took control of the FSU game early, or the one that just crumbled late against the Seminoles and broke down repeatedly on defense.
Featured Image by Tony Ding / AP Photo