The Irish are heading to Blacksburg, Virginia to play in one of the most hostile environments in all of college football. Fresh off a 21-point victory over top ten Stanford, the Irish face #24 Virginia Tech on the road. After a 3-point loss to the Hokies in 2016, Notre Dame will look to even the series this Saturday Night.
Essential Game Info:
- Game Time: October 6th at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC
- Location: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Virginia
- Matchup: Notre Dame is 0-1 all-time against Virginia Tech
- Current Odds: Notre Dame -5.5
Blacksburg Weather Forecast
The current forecast for GameDay shows a 30 % chance of rain with a high of 79 degrees and a low of 62. Below is a look at the next 5 days leading up to the game (this will automatically update to be the most recent 5 days throughout the week).[wunderground location=”Blacksburg, VA” numdays=”5″ layout=”simple”]
Virginia Tech Details:
- Conference: ACC (Coastal Division)
- Head Coach: Justin Fuente
- 2018 Record: 3-1
- 2017 Record: 9-4
Virginia Tech Storylines:
How good is Virginia Tech? In Week 1 the Hokies went to Tallahassee, Florida and demolished the Florida State Seminoles. They were promptly launched into the Top 15. Florida State, however, is currently 3-2 with a close win over Samford. Just 2 weeks ago the Old Dominion Monarchs beat Virginia Tech 49 to 35, in the biggest upset of the college football season.
Last week, Virginia Tech dominated the 22nd ranked Duke Blue Devils on the road. Led by backup quarterback Ryan Willis. Prior to the loss, Duke had wins at Northwestern, at Baylor, Army, and North Carolina Central. Now Virginia Tech is back in the Top 25 rankings for the matchup against Notre Dame. The Hokies showed great resiliency by coming back after that monumental upset, and subsequently losing their starting quarterback.
Quarterback Josh Jackson out indefinitely. Jackson fractured his fibula during the Old Dominion game just 2 weeks ago. He is not listed as “out for the season”, but he will not be playing this weekend. Also, Trevon Hill, Virginia Tech’s best pass rusher was kicked off the team after the Old Dominion loss. Two of the Hokie’s best players won’t be facing Notre Dame this weekend.
Players to Watch Saturday. Ryan Willis is the new starting quarterback for the Hokies. He does not lack experience. As a transfer from Kansas, Willis has career totals of 266 completions, 55% completion percentage, 3,057 passing yards, with 15 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He is not a dual-threat; Willis has -48 rushing yards in his career on 110 attempts. Almost all of those statistics were compiled at Kansas in 2015 and 2016 though where he did not have much of any support.
Against Duke last weekend, Willis went 17 of 27 for 332 yards with 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Willis is accompanied by running backs Steven Peoples and Deshawn McClease. Peoples has 55 carries for 302 yards and 5 touchdowns. While McClease has 45 attempts for 214 yards and 1 touchdown. Despite their decent numbers, the entire running game only totaled 81 total rushing yards against Duke last week.
The Hokies main receiving target is the 6-2 Damon Hazelton who has 15 receptions for 348 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Notre Dame Storylines:
Notre Dame Defensive Line. Jerry Tillery went off against the Stanford Cardinal with 6 tackles and 4 sacks. The Notre Dame Defensive line has been the difference against ranked teams. In the first half, Stanford was able to convert on 2 touchdown drives. But in the second half they were completely shutdown by the entire Irish defense, and more precisely the Notre Dame defensive line.
The Fighting Irish had a total of 5 sacks and 1 turnover. Perhaps the most dominating statistic of the night was the Stanford rushing total. In the entire game, the Cardinal only totaled 55 yards on the ground. Bryce Love may not have been 100%, but to hold the Heisman Runner-Up to those 73 yards on 17 carries was tremendous.
Injury Updates. Unfortunately, the only thing that may be able to slow down Notre Dame is injuries. Last weekend Notre Dame lost its best offensive lineman Alex Bars for the season. Bars will be replaced by veteran Trevor Ruhland who has already started at Wake Forest, but there is still no replacing the production from Bars. Again, the Irish will be missing running backs. Jafar Armstrong is still out with a knee infection, and Tony Jones Jr. is banged up, but will likely play through it this weekend.
Drue Tranquill suffered a broken hand against Stanford in the first quarter and was able to pay through it. Tranquill will likely be playing through it again this weekend, someone the Irish cannot afford to lose.
The Notre Dame Offense taking off. Ian Book continues to impress each week. He went 24 of 33 for 278 yards passing and 4 touchdowns, with a few dropped catches as well. He was balanced with 15 rushing attempts for 47 yards. The Irish Offense put up 550 yards of total offense against the #7 team in the country.
Dexter Williams blasted into the game with a touchdown on his first carry. He went on to carry the load rushing with 21 carries for 161 yards, and 7.7 yards per carry average. With Armstrong out and Tony Jones Jr. not 100%, he will have to carry the same load again this weekend. Once Notre Dame has all its running backs healthy, they will be even deeper as a unit.
Head to Head Matchups:
Notre Dame Offense vs. Virginia Tech Defense: Ian Book has completely changed the Notre Dame Offense. After only averaging 23 points the first 3 games, the Irish have averaged 47 points the past 2 weeks. Old Dominion scored 49 points on Virginia Tech just two weeks ago. Although this game will be played on the road and the Hokies likely won’t play that poor this weekend, I still give the Irish the advantage.
Advantage Notre Dame
Virginia Tech Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: The Fighting Irish Defense shut down the Stanford Cardinal last weekend. Yes, Virginia Tech scored 31 points against Duke, but they only totaled 81 yards on the ground. Ryan Willis had a great game last weekend as well, but I want to see what he can do against the Irish.
Ryan Willis has more interceptions in his career than touchdown passes. That may have been a product of playing at Kansas, but we’ll find out this weekend. The Irish Defense has the advantage.
Advantage Notre Dame
Special Teams: Virginia Tech’s Kicker, Brian Johnson, is 4 of 4 on the season. His counterpart, Justin Yoon, has gone 6 of 9 on the year. Virginia Tech has one of the best punters in the ACC, Oscar Bradburn, who averaged 44.8 yards per punt just a week ago. Notre Dame’s punter and captain Tyler Newsome is a great punter as well and averaged 51.3 yards per punt last weekend against Stanford.
I don’t see a distinct advantage for either time, I have a tie for this matchup.
After losing to Old Dominion two weeks ago, Virginia Tech bounced back in a major way last weekend. I fully believe that Notre Dame is the better team all around, but this game is being played in one of the hardest environments in college football. Lane Stadium is famous for being extremely difficult to play in.
This will be Ian Book’s first ranked road contest. But he is not attempting this challenge alone. Book has the support of one of the best defenses in the country. The Fighting Irish defense has shut down opponents all season long. On the offensive side of the ball there are several players that won’t be available this week. But, with the support of the running game, emerging wide receivers, and his ability to run, Ian Book is setup for success this Saturday Night.
In 2015, the #1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes traveled to Blacksburg and came away with a 42 to 14 victory. Last year, the #2 ranked Clemson Tigers went to Virginia Tech and traveled home with a 31 to 17 victory. If Notre Dame is truly going to be an elite team and consistently be in the playoff hunt late in the season, these are the games they must win, like other top tier programs. I have the Irish winning by 2 touchdowns.
Prediction: Notre Dame 31 Virginia Tech 17