BOSTON — Second-ranked Notre Dame has been in position for an undefeated season and a run at a national title many times during its storied history. Boston College has some history on its side, too, spoiling it for the Fighting Irish.
For Notre Dame, coming off a huge 47-40 double overtime win over Clemson at home, it's simply a matter of trying to continue its march toward a berth in the College Football Playoff.
Next up: the Eagles in the 26th meeting of the Holy War on Saturday at Alumni Stadium, matching the only two Catholic universities in the Bowl Subdivision.
The Eagles (5-3, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) have ruined Notre Dame's seasons before; most notably in 1993 with a 41-39 victory on David Gordon's 41-yard field as time expired in South Bend, Indiana, a week after the Irish upset then-No. 1 Florida State and vaulted to No. 1.
But, that's not all.
A year later, the eighth-ranked, one-loss Irish traveled to Chestnut Hill and former BC coach Dan Henning, in his first season with the Eagles, referred to them "as the mythological giants of college football" during a pregame pep rally and again after another upset win, 30-11.
"I respect what he was saying, he was probably trying to get his team to realize that they're a bunch of college players just like he (had)," BC first-year coach Jeff Hafley said this week. "I haven't gone that way with the team. We, just two weeks ago, played the No. 1 team in the country and we talked about ourselves and how we need to improve. I don't talk to the team too much at this stage of my first year of who we're playing because that's not how I'm trying to build this."
The Irish have dominated the series of late, having won the last seven times. They are on the path to the ACC title game in their first season in the league, a move necessitated by the pandemic.
"We've got a target on our backs now," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "The real challenge now is to keep this football team accelerating."
On Saturday, the Irish (7-0, 6-0) will face a team that nearly knocked off Clemson two weeks ago, opening an 18-point, first-half lead in Death Valley before losing 34-28.
"Coach Hafley has done a great job with his team," Kelly said. "They play hard, very gritty, tough team, well-coached. It's going to be a great challenge for us."
The Irish will also see a very familiar face — BC quarterback Phil Jurkovec — who transferred from Notre Dame in January.
"I think this is a special game just because I played there and I know all the guys," he said. "It's just going to be fun. We get the chance to play the No. 2 team in the country. It's going to be a great opportunity for us."
Kelly is seeking his 100th career victory at the school, which would tie him with Lou Holtz for second all-time, five behind coach Knute Rockne.
RED BANDANNA GAME
The Eagles will honor the memory of Welles Crowther, a former BC lacrosse player, and wear special uniforms in their annual Red Bandanna Game. Crowther became known as the "Man in the Red Bandanna" after he saved over a dozen lives in the south tower of the World Trade Center during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He wore a red bandanna, which he carried and wore during his playing days at BC, to protect him from smoke and dust.
"The guy made the ultimate sacrifice. He gave up his life for other people that he doesn't even know" Hafley said. "It's an honor for me to be part of something that's so special."
A REUNION OF SORTS
For many of Notre Dame's defenders, it's going to be weird playing against their old teammate, Jurkovec.
"Still talk to him quite frequently," said linebacker Shayne Simon, who got his first college offer from BC. "We all stay pretty close. Looking forward to playing against him, may the best man win. We're looking to compete and go after him."
Notre Dame's current seven-game streak is the longest in the series that started on Sept. 15, 1975, when the ninth-ranked Irish beat BC 17-3 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. at the home of the New England Patriots. BC's longest winning streak is six games from 2001-08.
The Irish own a 16-9 edge after a 40-7 victory in South Bend last season, which improved Kelly's record to 6-0 against the Eagles.
BC's last win was 17-0 at home on Nov. 8, 2008.