No. 2 Notre Dame at Boston College: Who, what, when, where, why and by how much?

Shaun Crawford Clemson
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WHO? No. 2 Notre Dame (7-0, 6-0 ACC) at Boston College (5-3, 4-3).

WHAT? A comedown from a program high and, separately, a historical coincidence as a repeat of 1993’s sequence, when the Irish topped the No. 1 team in the country and then faced the Eagles the immediate week after; similarly Notre Dame topped No. 11 Florida State to rise up to No. 4 in 2002 before facing Boston College the week after and … yes, those were both losses.

But know what game gets forgotten in these repeated tales of Irish terror? Notre Dame went to Chestnut Hill as the No. 4 team in the country in 2012 and cruised to an anticlimactic 21-6 win. If that evening was ever in doubt, that worry dissipated as John Goodman waited and waited in the end zone for a rainbow toss from Everett Golson. If one were being unkind, it could be said Goodman had enough time to call for a fair catch under the 18-yard touchdown pass.

WHEN? 3:30 ET on ABC, just as every Irish road game has been thus far and the next one will be, as well, on the Friday after Thanksgiving at North Carolina. Selfishly-speaking, these run of mid-afternoon kickoffs while on the road is a delight.

WHERE? Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Mass., with no fans in attendance. Of all weeks, this is the one most disappointing to be in an (understandably) empty stadium. Every season, Boston College celebrates a “Red Bandanna Game.” As all annual occasions in college football do, it comes with unique jerseys, but this particular event brings out much more than specific home whites.

The Red Bandanna Game honors the heroic story of Boston College alum Welles Crowther, who saved up to 18 people in the South Tower on Sept. 11, 2001, while wearing a red bandanna. The cloth covering came from a teaching from his father to always carry one. The bravery and selflessness came from somewhere deeper. When the 9/11 Memorial Museum was dedicated in 2014, President Barack Obama spent time specifically memorializing Crowther.

“They didn’t know his name,” Obama said. “They didn’t know where he came from. But they knew their lives had been saved by the man in the red bandanna. He called for fire extinguishers to fight back the flames. He tended to the wounded. He led those survivors down the stairs to safety and carried a woman on his shoulders down 17 flights. Then he went back up, back up all those flights. Then back down again, bringing more wounded to safety, until that moment when the tower fell.”

Crowther’s story and example always turns Alumni Stadium into an inspired atmosphere, one it is inarguably unfortunate to see missed this season.

Kickoff is not until midafternoon. Even then, the game will be a plodding one. Take 13 minutes and remember Crowther.

WHY? Notre Dame and Boston College were not slated to play in 2020, part of why Phil Jurkovec’s transfer to Massachusetts made sense in January. His quick turnaround to facing his former team is a bit of an anomaly, but not one Irish head coach Brian Kelly sees as an Eagles advantage.

“When he was here, he was fairly bright in terms of understanding what we were doing,” Kelly said Monday. “There were times when we were trying to get him to get the ball out of his hands a little faster, but the normal progress that most young players were making in the program, he was making.”

Jurkovec has played better, though with highs and lows, in his short time out east than he managed in two years in South Bend.

“Watching him on film, he can make every throw, he’s a big guy, he can throw on the run,” fifth-year defensive end Ade Ogundeji said Tuesday. “He can do a lot of different things, and he’s a playmaker out there.”

This reunion may be two years earlier than expected, but it still brings much attention with it.

BY HOW MUCH?
Notre Dame arrives as a 13.5-point favorite, per PointsBet in the early hours of Saturday morning, with a combined point total over/under of 50.5. Frankly, a 32-18 result would be high-scoring in this situation.

To spare the Irish defense wear-and-tear, as well as to maximize offensive efficiency, Notre Dame has made ball control a priority this season, most notably in games when it had a distinct talent advantage as it does this weekend. As a result, the Irish rank No. 5 in the country, among teams to have played more than three games, in time of possession. Boston College ranks No. 15.

Notre Dame should have little trouble running through the Eagles; this offensive line should have little trouble in that regard against anyone on its schedule. Meanwhile, there is no reason to begin doubting Clark Lea’s defense now. If ever there was a time the third-year defensive coordinator might want to prove somebody wrong, it may be against Boston College.

No, that is not because slowing Jurkovec would help justify past Irish decisions. It is because Lea was the runner-up to the Eagles’ coaching vacancy this past offseason. Why not show them what they missed out on?

But at some point, Notre Dame should have enough of a second-half cushion — maybe just three possessions, but with a stranglehold on the game — to pull many defensive starters, to give sophomore running back Kyren Williams some time freed from a physical pounding, to ease off the gas pedal after an intense few weeks — more accurately, an intense couple of months. That may lead to the Eagles getting a late score; Jurkovec will not stop slinging.

But such a late rally will not gain momentum. The Irish have already put chokeholds on three different games this season, running out the final 7:55 against Louisville, 7:52 at Pittsburgh and 5:38 at Georgia Tech.

Back in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, 29 Major League Baseball teams knew they had only eight innings to get to the New York Yankees. Mariano Rivera would close the door in the ninth. He was so reliable, he deserved the simple nickname, “The Great,” and his cutter spurred the definition of insanity in batters, as they tried the same thing over and over again expecting different results despite constant failure.

Notre Dame’s ground game, led by the offensive line, serves as the closer for the 2020 Irish. With any lead in the fourth quarter, it will grind away the game.

Notre Dame 27, Boston College 17.
(6-1 straight up, 4-3 against the spread, 3-4 over/under)

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INSIDE THE IRISH READING:
An understandable field-storming at Notre Dame because of, if not despite, the pandemic
Notre Dame ’payback’ a long time coming for Clemson
Just how likely is Round 2 against Clemson?
Ogundeji’s patience sets tone for dominant Notre Dame defense
And In That Corner … The Boston College Eagles and former ND QB Phil Jurkovec
Things To Learn: Recovery, not Jurkovec, the correct narrative at Boston College

OUTSIDE READING:
Nation remembers Notre Dame is a thing
If I were a student who stormed the field
Notre Dame’s biggest win in years comes with an addendum
Notre Dame’s epic win
Williams settles in as go-to RB for No. 2 Notre Dame
Former Notre Dame QB Phil Jurkovec putting his own brand on Boston College’s offense
How Jeff Hafley and Boston College are making the best of an unusual 2020 season
Jury still out on Notre Dame’s 1-and-done ACC member status
Ugly week sinks big-brand programs
Trevor Lawrence leads way, but other QBs shake up Dane Brugler’s updated top 50
2021 NFL Mock Draft
Beers, brand and Big New Saturday: How Homefield Apparel came to life