Commentary

Statement game for BC

Chips planted on shoulders, Eagles amped for rivalry game against Irish

Updated: October 23, 2009, 6:12 PM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

CHESTNUT HILL -- There's a palpable excitement in their voices as members of the Boston College football team talk about Saturday's matchup against Notre Dame, the type of energy most teams reserve for a key conference clash.

The Eagles have never been bashful about admitting that they likely get up for this game more than any Atlantic Coast Conference clash or even a postseason bowl game. Sprinkle in the fact that this year's game will be played in South Bend, Ind., and that only adds to the hysteria.

After all, not everyone gets to play in front of Touchdown Jesus.

The enthusiasm of the Eagles, however, begs the question: Do Notre Dame players get as amped for this game as BC players do?

"I don't know, they play some big-time opponents," admitted BC captain Mike McLaughlin, a senior linebacker. "But we're a big-time opponent, too. We like to think of ourselves as a big-time outfit. But we have to go out there and show them that we are."

It's rather unlikely that the 19th installment of the "Holy War" -- dubbed so because it's a battle between the only Catholic universities in Division 1-A football -- will inspire the Fighting Irish quite like last week's visit from No. 7 USC, or the slugfest with Michigan earlier this season.

Regardless, this is an annual chip-on-its-shoulder game for BC.

As the story goes, former Eagles coach Jeff Jagodzinski fired up his charges last year by asking how many of the players in the BC locker room had been recruited by Notre Dame. No hands went up.

This year, new coach Frank Spaziani doesn't need to remind his Eagles that not all of their games are broadcast on national television.

"There's always a bit of a chip on our shoulders when we play a team loaded with four- and five-star talent," said senior defensive end Alex Albright. "We have more of the two- or three-star caliber guys, who come out and surpass people's expectations. This is another chance to prove ourselves. Maybe we didn't get that attention when we were being recruited, but now we have a good opportunity to prove ourselves on a national stage."

Echoes senior center Matt Tennant: "There's history that goes along with this rivalry. The big-time recruits go to Notre Dame, the lower-ranked guys come to BC. But, you know what, we've been successful with those lower-ranked recruits."

Six straight wins over Notre Dame and a lifetime series tied at nine wins apiece will do little to temper the David-versus-Goliath attitude that permeates The Heights this week.

[+] EnlargeMike McLaughlin
AP Photo/Winslow TownsonBC captain Mike McLaughlin would like to see the Eagles show the Irish they have a big-time program, too.

"There's something special about playing in South Bend," said Albright, who knows a couple of members of the Fighting Irish and says that will add a little fuel to his fire.

"When you get in that visitors locker room and realize the type of players that have been in there, it just gives you a different sense of energy. All these great players from USC and Michigan, it definitely gets you excited. When you play at Virginia Tech, you might not get as much of that feeling."

Given the way the Eagles' trip to Blacksburg, Va., ended earlier this season, BC can ill afford to let South Bend overwhelm its young team. One prominent focus this week is on winning on the road since BC is 0-2 away from Alumni Stadium this fall and was outscored 73-21 in losses at Clemson (25-7) and Virginia Tech (48-14).

What's more, the Eagles haven't put any points on the scoreboard over the first three quarters of those two losses, being outscored 53-0 over those first three frames. BC boasts just a single yard of total offense in the first half of their two losses.

"Anytime you want to be a big-time football team, you have to be able to win on the road. There's no doubt about that," said McLaughlin. "Considering the venues we've played in this year -- Death Valley and Lane Stadium -- this is the biggest of them all. It's an honor to play in stadiums like that. It really is. At the same time, we have a job to do. We're on a mission. We need to get a win on the road and we need to beat an outfit like Notre Dame to do that."

With key ACC road clashes remaining at Virginia (Nov. 14) and Maryland (Nov. 28), it seems imperative that, at the very least, the Eagles gain confidence on the road this week. Especially since a loss doesn't detour their postseason aspirations.

But a win would do wonders for the Eagles, especially given that young nucleus. BC was pegged to finish last in the ACC Atlantic Division this year, and a triumph over Notre Dame might show the nation that there are no more rebuilding seasons at BC.

"We demand respect," said McLaughlin. "The past few years we've shown that we can go beat the big-time opponent. For this year's group, there's no more important game than this."

Chris Forsberg is a reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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