The Shamrock Series — Notre Dame's home game-away-from-home series — will take place for the seventh consecutive year on Saturday. The Irish will host the Boston College Eagles at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. It'll be the first football game at Fenway since 1968, when the then-Boston Patriots hosted the Cincinnati Bengals.
From a fan's point of view, it'll be a "bucket-list" event. Seeing one of college football's iconic programs play a game in one of America's iconic sports venues will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many, and the secondary market ticket prices are a reflection of that.
Be that as it may, this is a business trip for Brian Kelly and his Fighting Irish. Notre Dame is right in the thick of the College Football Playoff hunt. They cannot afford to be consumed and distracted by the unique atmosphere. Distractions aside, Boston College is simply too good of a football team — despite its record — for Notre Dame to look past as the Irish set their sights on postseason glory.
The rivalry between these two programs has historically had national championship implications, but the backdrop on Saturday ups the ante and make this one must-see TV.
College Football Podcast: Week 12 Preview
Boston College vs. Notre Dame (Fenway Park)
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Spread: Notre Dame -16.5
Three Things to Watch
1. How will the Irish attack the Boston College defense?
The Irish bring a bevy of offensive playmakers to Fenway and will look to jump out early. That'll be easier said than done, as the Eagles field what is statistically the best defense in the land. It will be interesting to see whether or not Brian Kelly tries to establish the run early on, risking putting his offense into 3rd-and-long situations right away. If he decides to come out throwing, the Irish offensive line will be trying to protect quarterback DeShone Kizer from a Boston College front seven that leads the ACC in sacks with 31. The Eagles won't be intimidated on defense. As a result, don't be shocked to see Kelly try and fluster them with a trick play early.
2. How does Boston College move the ball?
In his two starts so far, freshmen quarterback John Fadule has completed just over 54 percent of his passes for 400 yards, with only a single touchdown to four interceptions. That's not going to do much in the way of keeping Notre Dame honest on defense. The Irish will likely load the box and challenge Fadule to beat them. Boston College offensive coordinator Todd Fitch may need to get creative with screens and underneath routes in order to back off Notre Dame's front seven and give Tyler Rouse and the rest of the Eagle running backs some breathing room. That might be easier than it normally would have been this week, as Notre Dame linebacker James Onwulalu is out with an MCL sprain. He's accounted for 36 tackles on the season, including five for a loss, two sacks and a forced fumble.
3. Kelly's mercifulness
This will be a special event for Notre Dame, Boston College and the city of Boston as a whole. It will be a spectacle and a celebration of both a great sport and city. That said — and as I mentioned before — Notre Dame is very much in the College Football Playoff mix, and this game has the potential to get out of hand. Despite what anyone says, the name of the game is impressing the committee by any means necessary. Will Kelly be happy to simply control the game and get out of Beantown with a win to stay in the hunt? Or will he drop the hammer if given the opportunity in order to make an eye-popping statement nationally?
Boston College has the talent on defense to give Notre Dame trouble early. The problem the Eagles will have is sustaining enough drive to give their defense a rest against a Notre Dame offense that is a nightmare to defend. At some point, expect Notre Dame's talent and depth to wear down the Eagles on both sides of the ball. DeShone Kizer's mobility will be the difference in this one, as he'll roll out of the pocket and make big plays early with both his arm and his legs. Once that happens, the Eagles will have no other choice but to throw the ball to keep pace. That's going to make BC quarterback John Fadule a sitting duck all night, likely leading to multiple turnovers that transform this game from sound win to blowout rather quickly.
Prediction: Notre Dame 41, Boston College 6
(Top photo courtesy of @fenwaypark)