No. 3 Notre Dame looks to stay unbeaten against Northwestern

No. 3 Notre Dame (8-0, No. 4 CFP) at Northwestern (5-3), 7:15 p.m. EDT (ESPN).

Line: Notre Dame by 9½.

Series record: Notre Dame leads 37-9-2.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Notre Dame is trying to remain in line for a playoff spot with its best start since the 2012 team went unbeaten before getting routed by Alabama in the BCS championship game. The Fighting Irish were No. 3 in the first two College Football Playoff rankings last year on the way to an 8-1 start, only to go 2-2 the rest of the way — starting with a blowout loss to Miami. Northwestern has a four-game winning streak.

KEY MATCHUP

Notre Dame WR Miles Boykin vs. Northwestern CB Montre Hartage. In the five games since Ian Book replaced Brandon Wimbush as the starting QB, Boykin has 409 yards receiving. Hartage has just one interception but 12 pass breakups — a career-high four in Northwestern’s victory over Wisconsin last week.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Notre Dame: Ian Book is 5-0 as the starter and leads all FBS quarterbacks with a 76.5 completion percentage in his six games. He completed 27 of 33 passes for 330 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s 44-22 romp over Navy in San Diego.

Northwestern: Freshman RB Isaiah Bowser has back-to-back 100-yard rushing games, after setting career highs with 117 yards and 34 carries in a win over Wisconsin last week.

FACTS & FIGURES

Notre Dame is 8-0 for the 10th time in the past 68 years. Three of those teams (1966, 1973 and 1988) won national championships. … Notre Dame is the first top-three team to visit Ryan Field since No. 1 Ohio State in 2006. This is the Irish’s first trip to Evanston since a 48-0 romp on Sept. 25, 1976. … Notre Dame has lost the past two meetings, both at home — 43-40 on Nov. 11, 2014 and 17-15 on Sept. 2, 1995. … Notre Dame gained a season-high 584 yards of total offense against Navy. … Northwestern LB Blake Gallagher is tied for the Big Ten lead with 78 tackles. … Wildcats WR Flynn Nagel ranks third in the conference in yards receiving (711) and second in receptions (59).