The running game has revived Notre Dame's fading postseason hopes and moved Boston College one win away from bowl eligibility.
It also should determine who wins tonight's game (7:45, ESPN) between the teams.
Quarterback Carlyle Holiday, leading the option offense, rushed for 350 yards during Notre Dame's current three-game winning streak, in which the team ran 179 times and threw 41 passes.
"He's elusive and, if given the time, they can throw the football," BC coach Tom O'Brien said. "You have to be disciplined to know who has to tackle the fullback, who has the quarterback and who has to tackle the pitch."
BC's William Green relies on a more traditional running approach: break through gaps in the line then outrun defenders.
Green, the nation's fifth-leading rusher, almost certainly will reach his second straight 1,000-yard rushing season today, the first time that would be done by a BC player.
"I'm very surprised about that," said Green, who enters the game with 969 yards and 11 touchdowns on 190 carries. "We've had so many good running backs here."
The only one Notre Dame coach Bob Davie is trying to stop is Green.
"You line up and play great gap-control defense and you can't take a play off," Davie said. "I don't know if we can keep him under 100 yards, but certainly that's our goal."
It will be critical if the Irish (3-3) are to maintain their momentum and Davie is to further quiet critics among the team's demanding fans. There's also the motivation of trying to beat the only other Catholic school playing Division I football.
"There's a lot at stake," Davie said, "not only for that reason, but because both of these teams have a chance to have outstanding seasons. There's going to be a lot of momentum coming out of this football game."
Meanwhile, autumn in Virginia is spectacular, with a chill in the air and turning foliage creating a landscape of vibrant color that draws visitors from all over.
But when Syracuse and No. 5 Virginia Tech take the field at Lane Stadium today (noon, Ch. 67), some of the Orangemen are just as likely to be on the lookout for snowballs, the kind the Hokies have used to bury visitors time and again.
Syracuse knows as well as anyone. In 1999, the Orangemen arrived in Blacksburg ranked No. 16 and unbeaten in the Big East. They left 62-0 losers, owners of the largest shutout loss for a ranked team in the history of the Associated Press poll.
"It just seemed like everything that we tried to do backfired," fullback Kyle Johnson recalled of the mid-October night game. "It was one of those nights, and once that snowball starts rolling downhill, it can really get big."
In their latest game, the Hokies bolted to a 21-0 first-quarter lead against Boston College, getting a defensive touchdown for the fourth consecutive game and using a quick, decisive momentum surge to demoralize the Eagles right away.
For opponents at Lane Stadium, the psych job begins long before kickoff, in cramped locker rooms with cement floors, folding chairs and nothing cozy. The fans also more than do their share to get into the game.
"The last time we were down there they were throwing oranges at Dee Brown," O'Connor said of his former teammate. "That's kind of bush-league stuff you don't expect, but in a hostile environment you've got to be ready for everything."
In other televised games today, No. 2 Oklahoma is at No. 3 Nebraska (noon, Ch. 7); Ohio State at Penn State (noon, ESPN); Northwestern at No. 24 Purdue (noon, ESPN 2); UB at Eastern Michigan (3 p.m., Empire); No. 15 Georgia at No. 6 Florida (3:30 p.m., Ch. 4); No. 8 Michigan at Iowa (3:30 p.m., Ch. 7); No. 12 South Carolina at No. 9 Tennessee (6 p.m., ESPN 2); and Mississippi at LSU (9 p.m., ESPN 2).
Quarterback Chris Rix will start today for No. 19 Florida State against No. 10 Maryland, while backup Adrian McPherson could see early playing time.
However, Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden also said he would not be quick to pull Rix should he struggle early against the undefeated Terrapins.
"Don't get the idea that if he makes a mistake, I'm going to take him out," Bowden said. "No, I would never do that to a quarterback. But if we're struggling, then you might want to look at (McPherson) a little sooner than you have been."
With a victory, the Terrapins will take complete control of the ACC. They would also eliminate Florida State (4-2, 3-1) from the mix for the first time since it joined the league in 1992.
The Terps can move within one game of clinching at least a tie for the ACC title and a possible BCS bowl bid with a victory.
In other games today involving teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, No. 4 UCLA is at No. 20 Stanford; No. 7 Texas at Missouri; No. 11 Oregon at No. 14 Washington State; No. 13 Washington at Arizona State; No. 16 Brigham Young at San Diego State; No. 17 Auburn at Arkansas; and No. 25 Colorado at Oklahoma State.