If one were to compare Boston College and No. 4 Notre Dame, it would seem like comparing David and Goliath. The Golden Eagles post a meager 2-7 record (1-5 in the ACC) and only gain 74.7 rush yards per game, which is 122nd in the country. Meanwhile, although they have struggled in some games, the undefeated Irish have looked unstoppable in others and are allowing only 11.7 points per game, second in college football. That being said, history tells us that Notre Dame should not treat its gridiron matchup in Chestnut Hill as a cupcake game.
Let’s rewind the clocks back to 1993. After starting off the season 9-0, the No. 2 Irish revved up for an epic showdown against the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles in South Bend. The game came down to the wire; with only 1:39 left to play and down by 14 points, the Seminoles scored on 4th and 20 to make it a one-score game. After shutting out the Irish offense, the Noles drove down to the Notre Dame 14 yard-line with :03 left. On the final play, FSU QB Charlie Ward rolled out to deliver one final prayer to the endzone, only to be knocked down by CB Shawn Wooden. The Irish were back on top of college football.
Coming off an emotional win, Notre Dame figured that nothing could stop it from being named national champions. That all changed when the No. 17 Boston College Golden Eagles strolled into town. The Eagles outplayed the Irish all game, leading 38-17 with just under 12 minutes left. Despite Notre Dame’s 22-point comeback, Boston College found a way to win, kicking a 41-yard field goal as time expired. The Eagles pulled off the improbable upset, effectively crushing Notre Dame’s title hopes.
Now fast-forward to 2002, Tyrone Willingham’s first season as head coach of Notre Dame. The 7-0 Irish travelled down to Tallahassee, FL to clash with No. 11 FSU (see a pattern?). As a double-digit underdog, Notre Dame quickly made a statement by opening the game with a 65-yard play action TD pass from QB Carlyle Holiday to WR Arnaz Battle. From there, the Irish never looked back, securing a 34-24 triumph at Florida State. After a signature win in Tallahassee, it seemed as though the Irish had returned to glory.
At 8-0, the possibility of Notre Dame reaching the championship game once again dominated all talks about college football. With the championship only four wins away, the Irish felt that no one could get in their way. The least of their concerns was Boston College (4-3), who still didn’t have a victory in the ACC. To say that Notre Dame overlooked the Holy War in South Bend would be an understatement; the Eagles forced five turnovers, including a 71-yard pick-six against backup QB Pat Dillingham. The Irish could never recover, losing at home 14-7. Notre Dame let its guard down and allowed Boston College to stun the Irish once again. The perfect season and run at the title were over for the Irish.
Finally, let’s get back to this season, when Notre Dame’s title chances seem to be as legitimate as ever. Coming off an emotional win over Pittsburgh, many expect the Irish to blow out the Eagles. Boston College’s poor play throughout the season has proved that is possible; however, Notre Dame cannot afford to expect an easy victory. History shows us that the Eagles are capable of defying all odds and crushing Notre Dame’s hopes and dreams. With this in mind, the Irish can’t only expect to win; they must want the win. If they don’t, and the Eagles want the victory more, history may repeat itself.