Notre Dame and Boston College are taking their historic college football rivalry to one of America’s most iconic stadiums for the very first time.
The No. 5-ranked Fighting Irish (9-1) will host the Eagles (3-7) at Fenway Park in Boston on Saturday night in a special edition of “The Holy War.”
These teams last played in 2012, when Notre Dame earned a 21-6 win at Boston College. The Fighting Irish have won the last four meetings. BC last emerged victorious in 2008, the end of a six-game win streak over Notre Dame.
Here’s our full preview, and don’t forget to keep it at NESN.com for live coverage Saturday.
When: Saturday, Nov. 21, at 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Fenway Park, Boston
TV: NBC Sports Network
Streaming: NBC Sports Live Extra
Spread (via Oddshark): Notre Dame -15.5
Player to Watch for Notre Dame: Will Fuller, WR
Will Fuller is having a tremendous season with 47 receptions for 937 yards and 12 touchdowns (six in his last four games). He leads the team in all three categories, and just five players among all FBS teams have more receiving touchdowns.
The junior wideout, who currently projects to be a second- or third-round NFL draft pick, is capable of making big plays down the field, evidenced by his 19.9 yards per catch. The BC secondary will need to be aware of him at all times and lend safety help so Fuller doesn’t receive too many 1-on-1 matchups.
Player to Watch for Boston College: Tyler Rouse, RB
The Eagles average just 276.6 yards of offense per game, and they’ll need a much better output to keep pace with a Fighting Irish team that’s averaging 36.2 points per contest. For that to happen, BC must receive a quality performance from junior running back Tyler Rouse, who leads the team with 70 carries, 307 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
The Eagles’ best chance to win is to wear out the Fighting Irish defense and keep Notre Dame’s offense off the field. Controlling the clock with a good rushing attack is the most effective way to accomplish that objective.
Key Matchup: Fighting Irish run offense vs. Eagles run defense
Boston College has the best run defense in the country. It allows just 2.1 yards per carry and 71.7 rushing yards per game, both of which are the lowest in the nation, just ahead of No. 2 Alabama.
The Eagles defense does a nice job getting off blocks and pursuing the ball carrier. This stout run defense limits the opponent’s gains on first and second downs, often setting up a difficult third-and-long situation.
Notre Dame has a powerful rushing attack that averages 215.6 yards per game and 5.7 yards per carry, along with 25 total touchdowns. Senior running back C.J. Prosise leads the Fighting Irish with 975 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, and he will need to play well for the Irish to consistently move the ball and control the clock. He’s coming off an injury that kept him out of last week’s win over Wake Forest and most of the previous week’s win over Pitt.
Success on the ground also would open up the play-action pass, where Fuller could showcase his immense talent on deep throws.
Prediction: Notre Dame 31-17
Yes, Boston College has a good defense, but it hasn’t yet played an opponent near the quality of Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish cannot afford to lose because one more defeat would knock them out of the College Football Playoff race. They should respond to the pressure and improve to 10-1.
Thumbnail photo via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Nov 7, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly (middle) leads the Fighting Irish onto the field to play the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports