Notre Dame still a rival to Boston College

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

There is an unlikely source in the ACC with a deep rooted understanding of the rivalry between Boston College and Notre Dame. Virginia center Jack Shields grew up in Duxbury, Mass., and attended Boston College High School. His father, Jack, was a middle linebacker for Notre Dame from 1979 to 1982.

"Up until I started to get mail from schools it was always Notre Dame, clear and above BC," Shields said. "I couldn't stand BC. I couldn't stand anything about BC."

Those were the days when Notre Dame, as Shields said, was "America's team." Both programs have since changed, though, and in turn the rivalry has somewhat fizzled. Considering Notre Dame's recent slide and the fact that BC has won the past five meetings, beating the Irish has become a trend, rather than a remarkable feat. It has always seemed to mean more to those around Chestnut Hill anyway, though, and that hasn't changed. Nor has the fact that they're the only two Catholic programs who play football in the FBS.

Boston College defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani flew his wife and kids out to South Bend to experience it last year.

"There was a time, when I was at Navy and we were at Virginia, that we played these guys and I thought I would never, ever get on the field and beat them," Spaziani said. "It was like man, you can't beat those guys. And then I came here, and we've been able to have some success. It's just a great atmosphere. It's kind of what college should be all about.

"I think with the whole landscape of college football, with the scholarships and numerous things, other people have closed the gap a little bit but they still are who they are. There's nothing wrong with Notre Dame. They're just waiting to rear their head again."

Saturday's game will be just the fourth time in 17 meetings that neither team is ranked for the game. Four of the past five games between the two have been decided by a touchdown or less.

"It's a big game," fifth-year senior Brandon Robinson said. "I've never lost to them. We definitely want to keep this streak going and I think we can. It comes down to a mentality. I think it's going to come down to the fourth quarter and whoever plays 60 minutes is going to win this game."

Robinson said the Eagles will have a slight advantage because they know what defensive scheme to expect. Notre Dame hired former Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta.

"It's very familiar," Robinson said. "We know they're going to blitz every play. They're going to play three fire zone, two fire zone and they're going to play a little bit of man against us. We really know what we have to play against. We just have to go out there and execute. It's very helpful, especially the other guys as a receiving corps, we know what their defense is going to do. We know what their defensive backfield is going to do."

The series will end in Chestnut Hill in 2010, but Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski said he'd like to see it continue.

"It's a great tradition and rivalry," he said. "It's really a natural."