Turning the Page: First Look at Notre Dame Football @ Virginia Tech

The 4-1 Irish look to get back on track as they head to Blacksburg to face off with the Virginia Tech Hokies in a primetime showdown.

As hopes of another undefeated season came to a halt last weekend in South Bend, the next challenge for Brian Kelly does not get any easier as the Fighting Irish travel back to Blacksburg, Virginia. The Hokies are off their bye week and will be eager for a win at Lane Stadium after the Irish blew them away in their last visit. This Saturday Night matchup will be a turning point for the 2021 season.

Essential Game Info:

  • Game Time: Saturday, October 9th at 7:30 PM ET on the ACC Network
  • Location: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Virginia
  • Matchup History: The Irish are 2-1 all-time against the Virginia Tech Hokies (Last Meeting 2019: Notre Dame won 21 to 20)
  • Current Odds: Notre Dame -1.0

Weather Forecast

The current forecast for GameDay shows a 40% chance of rain with a high of 67 degrees and a low of 57.

Virginia Tech Details:

  • Conference: ACC (Coastal Division)
  • Head Coach: Justin Fuente
  • 2021 Record: 3-1 (1-0)
  • 2020 Record: 5-6 (5-5)

Virginia Tech Storylines:

Another primetime game at Lane Stadium. One can imagine Hokie fans are excited to play host to the Fighting Irish this weekend. After Brian Kelly dismantled the Hokies in 2018, Coach Justin Fuente will get another shot at revenge in Blacksburg. Not surprising, Virginia Tech is fresh off a bye week and has had two weeks to prepare for the Fighting Irish (like every other Notre Dame opponent this fall).

Justin Fuente has been on the hot seat for the past few years, and this game will shape the rest of the season for both programs.

Key Hokie Players. Quarterback Braxton Burmeister leads the Virginia Tech Offense. Burmeister is 62 for 101 (61%) on the season with 746 yards, 5 passing touchdowns, and 1 interception. In addition, the Hokie Quarterback has 44 attempts for 140 yards (3.2 yards per carry) with 1 rushing touchdown. This will be the second straight week the Irish face a lethal dual-threat quarterback.

Virginia Tech’s rushing attack is headlined by Jalen Holston, who has 37 attempts for 159 yards and 1 rushing score. The leading receivers are Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson. Turner has 16 receptions for 250 yards and 1 touchdown, while Robinson has 14 catches for 166 yards with 2 scores.

Notre Dame Storylines:

It’s time to let Drew Pyne take over under center. I am not proclaiming Drew Pyne is the answer to all of Notre Dame’s problems, but he brings the right mix of mobility and passing; even Drew Brees said so on the broadcast. Jack Coan has been sacked 20 times and lacks the ability to scramble or move in the pocket. Tyler Buchner is undoubtedly the future but still has a long way to go before becoming a full-time starter.

The competitor in me still believes there is a lot to play for this season, like a New Year’s Six Bowl Game, rivalries, and countless other reasons. However, I want to see what Drew Pyne can become, especially since the Irish open 2022 at Ohio State. It would be ideal to have a quarterback with experience heading to Columbus next year.

The Notre Dame Offensive Line has surrendered 22 sacks this season. It is difficult to beat a top-10 football team when you are playing a 4th string left tackle true freshman. I feel like the only person in the media to acknowledge this ailment along the offensive line was Joe Klatt. Some of the issues are with veterans, but I still believe the future is bright with Blake Fisher and Rocco Spindler in the upcoming seasons.

Unfortunately, this will be week six of the season, and half of the schedule has almost been played. If changes haven’t been made yet, I don’t expect any significant developments in the next few weeks.

The Irish Defense must finish in the 4th quarter. Marcus Freeman’s Defense played tremendous most of the game. The Irish Offense continuously put the unit in bad field position with turnovers, and the defense played about as well as they could under the circumstances. However, in the 4th quarter, when Notre Dame was within 4-points of Cincinnati, the defense surrendered a 6 play, 75-yard drive.

Perhaps they had played too many snaps throughout the game, but that was the opportunity to change the course of the game, and I did not expect Cincinnati to score that easily.

Head-to-Head Matchups:

Notre Dame Offense vs. Virginia Tech Defense: The Fighting Irish offense averages 361 yards per game, while the Hokie defense allows 327 yards per contest. It is week six of the college football schedule, and the Notre Dame Offensive Line is still struggling. Drew Pyne has provided a spark the past two weeks, and he will be the x-factor in this matchup.

Virginia Tech’s defense has looked strong this season, and they have the advantage in this category.

Advantage: Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: The Hokie Offense is putting up 331 yards per game, while Marcus Freeman’s Defense allows 369 yards per game. In their two biggest matchups this season, Justin Fuente’s squad put up 17-points on North Carolina and 21-points against West Virginia.

I look for Saturday Night’s game to be a low-scoring contest, and the Irish Defense has the advantage in this game.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Special Teams: The Virginia Tech kicking game is headlined by John Parker Romo, who is 1 for 3 on the season with a long of 48-yards. At the same time, Notre Dame’s Jonathan Doerer is 7 for 10 on the year with a long of 51-yards.

There is no distinct advantage in this matchup.

Advantage: Tie

My Prediction:

Notre Dame needs to play to their strengths, passing the football and playing the field position battle. The Irish Defense played admirably against Cincinnati last week, even though they were put in horrible situations. However, in the past three weeks, it has been very rare for teams to drive the entire length of the field on Marcus Freeman’s unit.

If Drew Pyne gets the opportunity this weekend, I believe his mobility can give the offense just enough of a spark to pull out a victory. Pyne has a small sample size, but the primary keys to the game will be the turnover battle and field position. The environment will be hostile at Lane Stadium, but I believe if the Irish can limit the big plays and mistakes, they will win this matchup.

Prediction: Notre Dame 20 Virginia Tech 17

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