Alabama's loss cleared out one of the teams in the way of Notre Dame's 2012 title hopes. An hour later, the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish avoided one of their peskiest obstacles of years past.
Everett Golson ran for a touchdown and threw for two more on Saturday night to help Notre Dame beat Boston College 21-6, giving the Irish a workmanlike victory over a rival that had twice before ended their drive to a national championship.
"You can't come out and worry about another team that lost. You have to be focused on the task at hand," Notre Dame cornerback Bennett Jackson said. "Wins don't come easy. Boston College plays us hard every year."
Taking the field soon after top-ranked Alabama lost to No. 15 Texas A&M, the Fighting Irish (10-0) remained unbeaten and in the hunt for a spot in the BCS title game. And a week after needing triple overtime - and a lot of luck - to get past unheralded Pittsburgh, Notre Dame eased past a BC team hoping that a victory in the rivalry known locally as "The Holy War" would salvage its dismal season.
"A win against Notre Dame - a top-ranked team in the country - would have been great for the whole organization," BC receiver Alex Amidon said. "It just didn't happen."
Chase Rettig completed 27 of 34 passes for 247 yards for BC (2-8), which is off to its worst start since 1989. Amidon caught six passes for 84 yards to break the school's single-season record for receiving yards.
Theo Riddick ran 18 times for 104 yard and caught six passes for 67 more for the Irish, who are 10-0 for the first time since 1993.
That was the year BC's David Gordon kicked a 41-yard field goal as time expired in the final game to beat No. 1 Notre Dame and end its hopes for a perfect season. In 2002, the Irish were unbeaten and No. 4 in the country when unranked Boston College won 14-7 in South Bend to again spoil Notre Dame's chances at a national championship.
"It's Notre Dame. Everyone knows them when you're growing up," Rettig said. "Everyone says play each game the same, but that doesn't stand true when you're playing Notre Dame. It's an exciting game to get ready for, especially when playing at home. The stadium is packed. They don't think it's a rivalry, but we still have that sense."
But there was no upset this year in the matchup between the only two Catholic schools in the FBS, a game that drew the first sellout crowd of the season on a frigid night in Chestnut Hill.
In fact, it wasn't even as close as Notre Dame's victory over Pitt, or the four other games the Irish have won by a touchdown or less, keeping them near the top of The Associated Press rankings with an outside chance at a spot in the BCS title game.
Notre Dame entered the day trailing Alabama, Oregon and Kansas State in the AP Top 25; the Irish would probably need either Oregon or Kansas State to fall from the unbeaten in order to squeeze into the top two in the BCS rankings.
Kelly said he found out about the Crimson Tide loss when he saw a TV on his way out to the field for the pregame warmups. A wide grin broke out on his face when he was asked if he had talked to his team about the potential shake up in the polls.
"Oh, no," he said. "Absolutely not. Wouldn't talk about Alabama."
Notre Dame scored on its first possession, going 95 yards to make it 7-0 on Golson's 2-yard run. The Irish fumbled on their second try but then mounted another long drive, going 87 yards on 16 plays and taking a 14-3 lead on Golson's pass to Niklas with 26 seconds left in the half. Golson rolled right and found Goodman in the left corner of the end zone on the first drive of the third quarter to make it 21-3.
Boston College made one last charge with a 45-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter that cut the deficit to 21-6. On Notre Dame's next possession, Riddick fumbled and, while the referees tried to untangle the pile, BC safety Spenser Rositano stood 15 yards away, waving the ball in the air.
But BC couldn't get past the Notre Dame 35 before turning the ball over on downs. The Eagles held on defense, then brought the ball to midfield before Rettig's pass was deflected by receiver Donte Elliott and right to Te'o.