Notre Dame lost a squeaker in South Bend to a Georgia team that boasts one of the most promising defenses in the country. Even in defeat, the Fighting Irish can take solace in the fact that they only lost by a point (20-19) to a ranked team that will challenge for the SEC East crown.
It's a bit of a different feel in Chestnut Hill, as the Eagles turned the ball over four times in a 34-10 blowout loss to Wake Forest, a team that in no way looks to be any sort of contender in the ACC Atlantic Division title chase.
But for both teams, this game offers a bit of a special acquaintance. The rivalry, dubbed "The Holy War" because these are the only two Catholic universities at the FBS level, has usually been competitive, even though Notre Dame has the more storied tradition. The Eagles always seem to get up emotionally for this game more than just about any other on the schedule. Over the years, Notre Dame holds a 14-9 edge in the series and has won the last five straight after dropping the previous six in a row to BC.
Notre Dame at Boston College
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 16 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Notre Dame -13.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Dual threats
The quarterbacks on both teams can make plays with their feet if something is not there through the air, and that is something that both defenses will have to account for. A week ago, BC quarterback Anthony Brown threw three interceptions and was benched for Darius Wade, but he still possesses a strong arm and the knack to get out of trouble if he has to. This will be the best defense he has faced to date and the redshirt freshman will have to grow up fast to play well. Notre Dame's Brandon Wimbush completed 20-of-40 passes for 210 yards against Georgia, but picked up a 32-yard gain on the ground and also rushed for a score, albeit just a 1-yard touchdown. Both quarterbacks will need to use their feet to keep the chains moving against what promise to be stingy defenses.
2. Trench play, part I
When the Notre Dame offensive line goes up against the BC front seven, it will offer a chance for the Fighting Irish to live up to its potential after a sobering effort against the Bulldogs last weekend. Notre Dame boasts two potential high NFL draft picks in left tackle Mike McGlinchey and left guard Quenton Nelson, but the right side struggled against a powerful Georgia front, and Wimbush was sacked three times. Despite giving up 34 points to Wake Forest, BC's defense mostly suffered from having to defend short fields, and with All-American defensive end Harold Landry, the Eagles will provide another steep challenge for the Irish offensive line.
3. Trench Play, Part II
The Boston College offensive line is in even more dire circumstances. With center Jon Baker out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, the Eagles have lost their leader up front, and true freshman Ben Petrula out of New Jersey powerhouse St. Peter's Prep has big shoes to fill. Overall, the BC offensive line struggled in both the win over Northern Illinois and the loss to Wake Forest, so don't expect a dominant effort against the Irish. Notre Dame sophomore defensive lineman Daelin Hayes played well against Georgia and is emerging as one of the top players along that front. Along with Jonathan Bonner, who also has gotten off to a fast start this season along the Notre Dame defensive line, the Eagles will be facing the best front seven they've encountered in 2017 Saturday.
If Boston College can protect the ball a little better, perhaps the Eagles will have a puncher's chance in this one. But the offense simply looked out of whack against Wake Forest and does not seem to have a better chance of moving the ball against a Notre Dame defense that will have a clear advantage at the point of attack. Don't expect the Irish to move the ball at will, either, but their skill positions give them a better chance to succeed than their counterparts. Look for a close game early before Notre Dame wears BC down in the second half and pulls away for a comfortable win.
Prediction: Notre Dame 33, Boston College 13
— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.