Coming off a thrilling double-overtime upset of then-No. 1 Clemson on Saturday, the No. 2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish aim to keep the momentum going when they travel to Chestnut Hill to take on the Boston College Eagles in the latest edition of the "Holy War" between the only two Catholic universities with an FBS football program. Boston College returns home — where the Eagles are 3-1 in 2020 — after a two-game road trip to Clemson and Syracuse, with their next two games at home before ending the regular season at Virginia.
The win over Clemson was Notre Dame's first meeting with the nation's No. 1 team since 2005 — thus marking the program's first under Brian Kelly — and the Irish ensured that history would remember this one differently. After scoring on its first official offensive play of the game, Notre Dame held a 23-13 lead at halftime but needed a touchdown in the final minutes to claw back and force overtime, which the Irish offense delivered. In a complete team effort, the offense came through in clutch moments while the defense forced three fumbles and notched two double-overtime sacks to seal the win.
Boston College had a similarly fast start to Notre Dame when it met Clemson on Oct. 31 but couldn't close the deal in a 34-28 loss. Last week against Syracuse, the Eagles had another tense matchup but were able to hang on for a 16-13 win. Close games have been nothing new for Boston College in 2020, as three of the Eagles' five wins have been by three or fewer points, while two of their three losses have been by six or fewer points.
Notre Dame has won 16 of 25 all-time meetings with Boston College, including a win in 2012 later vacated due to a discretionary NCAA penalty. In 1993, however, the last time Notre Dame took down a No. 1 team (Florida State), the Irish proceeded to drop the following week's game against... Boston College. Boston College hasn't come out on top in this rivalry since 2008, a 17-0 win in Chestnut Hill. After a 19-16 Irish win in Fenway Park in 2015, Notre Dame has dominated the last two matchups, winning 49-20 in 2017 and 40-7 last season.
No. 2 Notre Dame at Boston College
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 14 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Notre Dame -13.5
When Notre Dame Has the Ball
Quarterback Ian Book had a career-defining game against Clemson, throwing for 310 yards and a touchdown while adding 64 yards rushing on 14 carries. But the stats only tell part of the story. As the veteran leader of the offense, he escaped pressure numerous times, such that the Tigers mustered only two sacks and none after halftime. He also led the Irish on an eight-play, 91-yard game-tying drive in the final two minutes of regulation which ultimately forced overtime, a drive culminating with Book's only touchdown of the game — a four-yard connection with Avery Davis — after Book found Davis for a 53-yard completion just three plays earlier.
Book and Davis were far from the only ones to star in the win. After the Irish elected to receive the opening kickoff, Kyren Williams took the handoff on the first official play from scrimmage and sped 65 yards to the end zone to give the Irish a 7-0 lead. Williams rushed 23 times for 140 yards — his second-highest rushing total in his career — for a career-high three touchdowns en route to his selection as the ACC Running Back of the Week. In the passing game, in addition to Book's and Davis' heroics, Javon McKinley and Michael Mayer notched five receptions apiece for 102 and 67 yards, respectively.
Boston College enters this week with a top-40 scoring defense, with 24.6 points allowed per game as only three opponents have eclipsed 30 points against the Eagles this season. But where defensive coordinator Tem Lukabu's unit particularly excels is in creating turnovers. Boston College has collected seven interceptions and seven fumble recoveries in 2020, with Marcus Valdez tallying a pair of fumbles and five other Eagles notching one apiece.
When Boston College Has the Ball
Phil Jurkovec completed nearly 70 percent (20 of 29) of his passes against Syracuse, throwing for 200 yards and the Eagles' only touchdown of the game. Despite the low yardage total last week, Jurkovec leads the ACC and ranks sixth in the FBS with 2,083 yards passing, and his 21.5 completions per game is right behind Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence's ACC-leading mark of 22.5.
Seven different Eagles caught at least one pass from Jurkovec against the Orange, with Zay Flowers hauling in six receptions for 64 yards and Jurkovec's lone touchdown. The rushing attack, which ranks third-worst in the ACC and in the bottom-20 nationally, nearly matched Jurkovec's passing total with 193 yards. David Bailey rushed 25 times for 125 yards, eclipsing the century mark for the fourth time in his career, while Travis Levy added 73 yards on 17 carries.
Notre Dame's defense struggled to stop Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei (439 yards passing and two touchdowns) but held Clemson's running game in check. The Irish limited the Tigers to just 34 rushing yards — with the unit’s per-game average of 85.1 rushing yards allowed now a top-5 mark in the FBS — and held the ACC's all-time leading rusher Travis Etienne to just 28 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries (1.56 yards per carry). Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah tied for the team lead with nine tackles and added two forced fumbles, the first of which he recovered and returned 23 yards for his first career touchdown and the Irish’s first defensive touchdown of 2020.
Notre Dame has plenty of energy right now after taking down Clemson, but the Irish must be careful not to overlook the Eagles this week. With the team ranked at No. 2, its highest ranking since 2012, look for Brian Kelly's group to be more than ready for this game and inspired to keep the positive momentum flowing.
Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Boston College 20
Podcast: Week 11 Preview and Predictions
— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a 2019 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and worked for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.
(Top photo courtesy of @NDFootball)