I still remember where I was standing. I can still see the people surrounding me. I still remember the crestfallen feeling, the utter confusion.
I was a 9-year-old Notre Dame fan — by default, living in New York with no college football teams nearby, the Irish on TV every week and parents whose Brooklyn College degrees didn’t provide an alternative — peeking through a restaurant crowd to see the TV display David Gordon’s field goal as time expired, giving Boston College a 41-39 win, crushing Notre Dame’s 1993 national title hopes.
Just one week earlier, the undefeated, No. 2 Irish won the “Game of the Century” against No. 1 Florida State and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward. I thought a national championship was a lock, but I was too young to understand the energy, focus and emotion expended in such a massive game, unaware that Boston College was a live ’dog the next week.
Now, I know better.
The Irish arrive at Boston College on Saturday, coming off their first win over the nation’s top-ranked team in 27 years. With the double-overtime win over Clemson, Brian Kelly notched his first victory over a top-five team in six tries at Notre Dame, giving the school its highest ranking in eight years.
“We’ve got a target on our backs now,” Kelly said this week. “The real challenge now is to keep this football team accelerating. … Boston College is going to be a challenge for us. I’ve got to get this football team back up, emotionally ready to play.”
Kelly has never lost to Boston College in six meetings, winning last year’s game 40-7. But a 54-7 win over the Eagles in 1992 meant nothing the next year.
Boston College has already played some of its best football against the nation’s best — led by former Notre Dame quarterback Phil Jurkovec, who has excelled in his first season as a starter after being granted just 17 pass attempts in two seasons in South Bend.
Against No. 12 North Carolina, Boston College was a two-point conversion from tying the game in the final minute. Against No. 1 Clemson, the Eagles led in the fourth quarter. Again, BOSTON COLLEGE (+13.5) will be in striking distance for a potential upset.
Illinois (+6.5) over RUTGERS
Take a picture. The Scarlet Knights haven’t been favored in a Big Ten game since 2014. Though Rutgers has shown improvement under Greg Schiano, the COVID-afflicted Illini will also look significantly better than the past few weeks, as several key pieces return from quarantine.
VIRGINIA TECH (-2.5) over Miami
D’Erik King took over to save the Hurricanes from an upset to N.C. State, but this duel will be won by fellow dual-threat Hendon Hooker, who enters averaging 103 yards rushing per game, while completing more than 66 percent of his passes.
Penn State (-3) over NEBRASKA
James Franklin has averaged 10.5 wins over the past four seasons. An 0-4 start seems as likely as widespread mail-in voter fraud. Once the Nittany Lions limit their turnovers, the talent will take over.
Indiana (-7.5) over MICHIGAN STATE
The Hoosiers are still getting used to seeing themselves in the rankings each week, but they’ve learned how to handle success. After upsetting Penn State, Indiana comfortably took down Rutgers. So, even after ending a 24-game losing streak to Michigan, the Hoosiers aren’t likely to look past the Spartans, coming off a 42-point loss to Iowa.
LIBERTY (-32.5) over Western Carolina
The Flames have opened the season with seven straight wins, most recently knocking off Virginia Tech. The FCS’ Catamounts have lost 15 of their past 17 games and will be introducing a new quarterback in their first game of the season. There will be blood.
Usc (-14) over ARIZONA
The Pac-12 favorites needed a late comeback to top what might have been their toughest opponent of the regular season. Things will only get easier against a weak Wildcats secondary, which Kedon Slovis should torch for over 400 yards.
Arkansas (+17.5) over FLORIDA
Even with first-year Arkansas coach Sam Pittman sidelined by COVID-19, the impact of his game plan will be felt. So will that of QB Feleipe Franks, who is set to face his former team after throwing 11 touchdowns and one interception the past four games.
WASHINGTON STATE (+10.5) over Oregon
The Air Raid era is over. In the first game since Mike Leach’s departure, the Cougars ran for 229 yards (7.6 per carry) and three touchdowns in a win over Oregon State. The Ducks gave up 197 yards (6.4 per carry) in their season-opener.
TULSA (-3) over Smu
The Golden Hurricane already beat UCF and the nation’s top-ranked aerial attack. Tulsa is ready for Mustangs QB Shane Buechele and another explosive offense to come to town.
MICHIGAN (+4.5) over Wisconsin
The Wolverines just lost to Indiana for the first time since 1987. Jim Harbaugh seems more likely to return to the NFL than to turn Michigan into a title contender. The Big House isn’t much help when it’s empty. If the overwhelming majority of the planet’s inhabitants hadn’t jumped into bed with Wisconsin — which hasn’t played since Oct. 23 — I’d probably be backing the Badgers, too.
Northwestern (-2.5) over PURDUE
The Boilermakers’ one-dimensional offense will have few appealing options against one of the nation’s top secondaries. Meanwhile, Northwestern — off to its first 3-0 start in two decades — should pad its 205-yard per game average on the ground against Purdue’s soft defensive front.
Best bets: Boston College, Penn State, Arkansas
This season (best bets): 70-60-1 (13-13-1)
2014-19 record: 772-756-13
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