Whoever compiled this season’s makeshift ACC schedule has a sense of humor, and Boston College football is now facing a situation that is eerily familiar. In 1993, No. 2 Notre Dame defeated No. 1 Florida State in what was widely labeled the game of the century. The next week, Notre Dame—which had moved up to No. 1—hosted the Eagles for a matchup that was largely expected to be a formality for the Irish as they rolled to the national championship game. BC was having a strong season in its own right and was ranked No. 12, but Notre Dame had soundly defeated the Eagles 54-7 the year prior. When push came to shove, the game was anything but a formality. BC stormed out to a 24-10 lead at halftime and, after a furious comeback gave the Irish a late 39-38 lead, won the game on a last second field goal.
The circumstances could not be any more similar this season. Notre Dame hosted then-No. 1 Clemson in South Bend last weekend and came away with an astounding 47-40 double-overtime win. The Irish are now ranked No. 2, only sidelined from the top spot due to the comical ease in which No. 1 Alabama has dispatched its entire schedule. BC may not be the 12th-ranked team as it was in 1993, but the Eagles have had their share of strong performances with close losses to Clemson and North Carolina, and drubbings of Georgia Tech and Duke. Toss home field advantage into the pot and mix in a little revenge factor as Phil Jurkovec faces his old team, and the Eagles may just have another miracle in them.
Who is BC playing?
When is BC playing?
Saturday, Nov. 14, 3:30 p.m.
Where is BC playing?
Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Mass.
How to Watch
The game will be nationally televised on ABC.
How to Listen
Audio coverage of the game will be available via BCEagles.com.
The Holy War, as the rivalry between the Eagles and the Irish is known, has been a story of streaks. BC won six matchups in a row between 2001 and 2008, followed by the Irish running up six straight victories of their own between 2009 and last season. Notre Dame holds the overall advantage with a 15-9 record.
The last couple of matchups have been particularly unkind for the Eagles. Notre Dame pummeled the Eagles 40-7 last season in South Bend and stomped them 49-20 in 2017. Irish head coach Brian Kelly is 5-0 against the Eagles all time. BC head coach Jeff Hafley has never coached against Notre Dame as a head coach, but he picked up a pair of wins against the Irish when he was on staff at Pitt between 2006 and 2010.
What to Expect from Notre Dame:
The Notre Dame passing attack has been a mystery this year. Third-year starting quarterback Ian Book is stellar when he’s on, as he was in a 310-yard, 47-point dissection of Clemson’s defense. He also played impressively against Pitt and Florida State, combining for over 500 yards and five touchdowns between the two contests as the Irish scored 45 and 42 points, respectively. Despite tremendous experience and success he has had starting in South Bend, Book has his off days. He went just 11-of-19 for 106 yards against Louisville, and the Irish barely eked out a 12-7 victory. Book’s top receiving threat is Javon McKinley, a 6-foot-2 outside receiver who adeptly uses his large frame to make plays downfield.
The rushing game has been far more consistent. Running back Kyren Williams is a force, racking up 740 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, including a 65-yard touchdown on Notre Dame’s second play of the game against Clemson. C’bo Flemister and speed back Chris Tyree will also feature prominently in the backfield for the Irish.
ESPN’s analyst Bill Connelly’s SP+ rating system ranks Notre Dame as the No. 19 offense in the country, primarily on the strength of its rushing attack.
Other than Notre Dame’s 47-point explosion against Clemson, the biggest storyline of that game was the Irish’s ability to stop the run. Notre Dame dominated the line of scrimmage, and Clemson star back Travis Etienne picked up just 28 yards on 18 carries. This dominance in the trenches has been consistent for the Irish all year, and they rank fourth in all of college football in rushing yards allowed per game.
The pass defense is no slouch either, as star safety Kyle Hamilton leads a secondary that gives up just over 200 yards per game. Still, Clemson showed that there are opportunities to attack the Irish through the air. Notre Dame made it clear from the onset that their strategy was to take away Etienne and dare backup quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei to beat them. Uiagalelei did just that, throwing for 439 yards and a pair of touchdowns. We’ll see if Notre Dame employs a similar strategy against David Bailey and Jurkovec.
On the surface, this matchup does not look favorable for the Eagles. Notre Dame is favored by nearly two touchdowns, and BC has a tall task of stopping Williams and the Irish ground attack. BC’s offensive success in recent weeks has been based on the run game, and those easy yards simply will not exist against the stingy Notre Dame defensive line.
Still, if there’s anything we know about college football, it’s that we have to throw out the record books whenever narrative is involved, and it would be hard to find a game with more narrative on the line than this one. The Eagles are playing in a famous rivalry and looking to replicate a 1993 victory that came in eerily similar circumstances. Jurkovec gets his chance for revenge against a program that caused him to feel as if he’d “lost his love for [football].” BC has also named this matchup its annual “Red Bandanna Game” and will be wearing special uniforms to commemorate the event. The story is already written. All that’s left is for the Eagles to deliver.
Featured Image by Michael Conroy / AP Photo