Notre Dame Football Primer: #7 Irish take on Virginia in Primetime

The Irish improved to 8-1 last week and will face their greatest remaining challenge, the Virginia Cavaliers.

Brian Kelly and Notre Dame continue to ascend the College Football Playoff Rankings, with three regular season games remaining. As injuries continue to mount and Kyle Hamilton’s status remains uncertain, the Irish will face a major road test in Charlottesville. Virginia has a high-powered offense, but they are also uncertain of their star player, quarterback Brennan Armstrong. This will be an enormous matchup Saturday Night as the 8-1 Irish take on the 6-3 Cavaliers.

Essential Game Info

  • Game Time: Saturday, November 13th at 7:30 PM ET on ABC
  • Location: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Matchup History: The Irish are 3-0 all-time against the Virginia Cavaliers (Last Meeting 2019: Notre Dame won 35 to 20)
  • Current Odds: Notre Dame -5.5

Weather Forecast

The current forecast for GameDay shows a 30% chance of rain with a high of 61 degrees and a low of 37.

Virginia Details:

  • Conference: ACC (Coastal Division)
  • Head Coach: Bronco Mendenhall
  • 2021 Record: 6-3 (4-2)
  • 2020 Record: 5-5 (4-5)

Virginia Storylines:

Offense distinguishes Bronco Mendenhall’s 2021 Cavaliers. The former BYU Head Coach and current Virginia Head Coach is certainly offensive minded, and this year has been no exception. In their three losses, the Cavalier Defense surrendered 59-points (North Carolina), 37-points (Wake Forest), and 66-points (BYU). The offense has undoubtedly not been the issue for Virginia.

Brennan Armstrong headlines the Cavalier Offense. According to Coach Mendenhall, Armstrong is “day-to-day” and will be a game time decision after a rib injury two weeks ago against BYU. This season Armstrong is 261 for 406 (64%) with 3,557 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. On the ground the Virginia Quarterback has 81 attempts for 271 yards (3.3 yards per carry), with 7 rushing scores.

Key Virginia players in this matchup. The rushing attack is led by running back Wayne Taulapapa who has 55 attempts for 290 yards (5.3 yards per carry) with 2 rushing touchdowns. While the Cavalier’s leading receiver is Dontayvion Wicks who has 42 receptions for 972yards and 9 receiving scores.

Notre Dame Storylines:

Tommy Rees is relying heavily on Kyren Williams. Against Navy, Williams had 17 carries for 95 yards and 2 rushing touchdowns. As a receiver, the Irish running back had 7 receptions for 36 yards. There are three games remaining, and Notre Dame is extremely thin at the skill positions.

Kyren Williams has carried the offense all season and will be tasked with doing so the remainder of the 2021 campaign. I hope that the superstar running back has enough in the tank to lead the Irish to a 11-1 finish.

Kyle Hamilton’s status is uncertain. There are too many injuries on both sides of the football to list this year. No matter who is hurt, the games on the schedule will continue to be played and fans can hope that the coaching staff has prepared the “next man in” to step up for the remainder of the season.

Whether or not Hamilton will play another snap for the Irish, the defense must be prepared for a plethora of quarterbacks this weekend.

Marcus Freeman’s Defense faces a major challenge. Virginia has a high-powered offense that puts up a lot of points. Luckily for the Irish, they faced the North Carolina Tar Heels two weeks ago without Kyle Hamilton. However, the unit surrendered 34-points at home to Sam Howell. Coach Freeman will be burdened with slowing down the Cavaliers with key injuries and a linebacker core that has taken a lot of snaps.

Head-to-Head Matchups:

Notre Dame Offense vs. Virginia Defense: The Fighting Irish are scoring 33-points per game, while the Cavaliers are allowing 31-points per contest. Kyren Williams has taken over on offense the past several games. While Jack Coan has been consistent in the passing attack, his lack of running ability has hindered the Irish Offense, but the team is 8-1 and it is what it is at this point.

Notre Dame has a major advantage in this matchup.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Virginia Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: Virginia is averaging 39-points per matchup, while Notre Dame is surrendering 22-points per game. This matchup is difficult without knowing the status of Brennan Armstrong and Kyle Hamilton. Notre Dame’s defense has struggled with mobile quarterbacks this season, and Virginia has one of the better units in the country.

I give the Cavaliers the advantage in this matchup.

Advantage: Virginia

Special Teams: Virginia’s Kicker, Brendan Farrell, is 8 for 9 this season with a long of 43-yards. While Notre Dame’s Jonathan Doerer is 13 for 17 with a long of 51-yards.

There is no distinct advantage in this category.

Advantage: Tie

My Prediction:

This game worries me if Kyle Hamilton is out, and Brennan Armstrong can play (I would be surprised if he does). Notre Dame struggled mightily against Sam Howell and the Tar Heels two weeks ago. For the Cavaliers, this will be perhaps one of the bigger games in the history of the program.

It is week 10 on the Notre Dame schedule and I honestly still do not have this team figured out. Sometimes this season the defense has shown up and other times the offense has won the game. But they do find ways to keep winning. Virginia has one of the worst defenses in the country and I think a lot of points will be scored Saturday Night.

If Kyren Williams can continue to wreak havoc on offense and Jack Coan can consistently make throws like he has been doing, I have the Irish winning by 10-points. Even with the multitude of Irish injuries, I believe they will still get the victory in a hostile environment.

Prediction: Notre Dame 41 Virginia 31

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