Here are five keys for No. 2 Notre Dame (7-0, 6-0 ACC) against Boston College (5-3, 4-3) at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Mass., on Saturday (3:30 p.m. EST on ABC).
BC will treat this game like its Super Bowl for a few reasons. The Eagles already considered the Irish as their top rival, dubbing this game as the “Holy War.” BC narrowly lost to No. 4 Clemson (34-28) and North Carolina (26-22) earlier this season, so Notre Dame is its last chance to pull off an upset. Eagle quarterback Phil Jurkovec will look to defeat his former team in the Irish. There’s also the history of this matchup. The last time Notre Dame defeated the nation’s top-ranked team (Florida State 31-24 in 1993), the Irish lost to BC 41-39 the following week. Notre Dame will need to remain composed after winning an emotional game over then-No. 1 Clemson last week.
MAKE JURKOVEC UNCOMFORTABLE
Notre Dame defensive ends Adetokunbo Ogundeji and Daelin Hayes came to play in the second-overtime period against Clemson, trading sacks on back-to-back snaps. They appear to be poised to carry that momentum to Saturday. BC ranks No. 91 nationally in sacks allowed. Jurkovec has been sacked 22 times this season. With his athleticism and strong arm, Jurkovec brings the ability to make big plays. The Irish wreaking havoc and cutting plays short will prevent Jurkovec from creating many of those opportunities.
TAKE AWAY THE DEEP BALL
The Irish sold out to defend the run against the Tigers, holding running back Travis Etienne to 28 rushing yards on 18 carries. But their pass defense was exposed in the process. Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei went 29-of-44 for 439 passing yards and two touchdowns, completed 11 throws for at least 14 yards and connected on six longer than 21 yards. Notre Dame replaced junior cornerback TaRiq Bracy for true freshman Clarence Lewis after he allowed a 53-yard touchdown reception from Cornell Powell in the first quarter. Whether Bracy or Lewis starts against BC remains unclear. But they will need to do a better job defending the deep ball, particularly against Jurkovec and Eagles receiver Zay Flowers (38 catches for 600 yards and six touchdowns).
KEEP IT ROLLING
After the 65-yard rushing score from Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams, the Irish offense did not finish a drive with a touchdown until their final possession of regulation. That eight-play, 91-yard drive capped by receiver Avery Davis’ four-yard touchdown catch jumpstarted Notre Dame’s offense again. Irish quarterback Ian Book made plays in the vertical passing game and established a rhythm against Clemson. To beat the Eagles, Book must sustain that success while leaning on Williams as a pass blocker and runner. And Notre Dame will need to continue finishing possessions with touchdowns rather than field goals.
THIRD DOWN SUCCESS
Being successful on third down is one of the biggest reasons why the Irish have dominated the time of possession and controlled the game flow for most of this season. Notre Dame ranks No. 11 nationally in third-down conversion percentage (53.8) and ties for No. 27 in third-down conversion percentage on defense (42.9). Having long, sustained drives have been a key for the Irish. Keeping the ball out of Jurkovec’s hands while wearing down BC’s defense with Williams should set Notre Dame up for another win.