Observer Staff Predictions: Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech
Notre Dame travels to Blacksburg, Virginia to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies in a night game at the always raucous Lane Stadium. The Irish are looking to avoid losing two straight games in the regular season for the first time in five years. The Observer staff – after watching Notre Dame lose at home for the first time as students – pick whether the Irish can rebound.
Aidan Thomas – Associate Sports Editor
Well, the streak is over. Playoff hopes are done, and now it’s about refocusing and resetting the season goals for the Irish. The rest of the schedule is full of tricky games, but it’s very winnable. Winning out puts Notre Dame — almost certainly — in a New Year’s Six Bowl with a chance for a long-awaited major bowl win. However, winning out starts with a game I’ve been worried about for a long time in the Virginia Tech Hokies. The Hokies, like Notre Dame’s past two opponents, are coming off a bye. They were able to watch a blueprint of how to topple the Irish on Saturday. However, I don’t think the Hokies have the offense for this battle. Notre Dame gave Cincinnati ten points through turnovers, as the Bearcats started inside the Irish red zone on consecutive possessions. Throughout the rest of the game, the Irish surrendered just 10 points. Virginia Tech has been held to 21 or fewer points in three of their four games, so the defense has been the strength of this team. At home, they’re giving up 11.3 points per game. Notre Dame is good enough to hold Virginia Tech to less than 20 points — but the offense is full of question marks. If Drew Pyne starts, the Irish win this game. If it’s Coan under center – inexplicably – then I have far greater concerns.
Notre Dame 27, Virginia Tech 17
Mannion McGinley – Sports Editor
Notre Dame 14, Virginia Tech 16
Nate Moller – Sports Writer
Last week’s heartbreaking loss to Cincinnati was largely due to Notre Dame being out-coached by the Bearcats and some inexcusable Irish turnovers. Using three quarterbacks in a game is not usually advised, and it did not work out well for the Irish. I imagine Drew Pyne will be the starter for the Irish this week, and he will be up for a challenge against a tough Virginia Tech defense in one of the greatest atmospheres in college football. The key for the Irish will be to take care of the football and not make any mistakes that set up the Hokies’ offense with good field position. Unfortunately for the Irish, there are just too many question marks on the offense at this point, and I anticipate a couple of turnovers and miscues. These miscues will be the difference in the game, and I expect the Hokies to hand the Irish their second straight loss in this one. There is also rain in the forecast for the entirety of Saturday, which will hurt the Irish because of their inability to run the football with any consistency at all.
Notre Dame 13, Virginia Tech 24
Emily DeFazio – Associate Sports Editor
Cincinnati hurt. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the campus that dead, that quiet, with that many people not knowing what to do with themselves. It was just plain eerie. No one in the student body had ever suffered a loss at home before, and it was as if everyone was stunned into confusion, myself included.
Notre Dame 21, Virginia Tech 17
Colin Capece – Assistant Managing Editor
Losing to Cincinnati at home last week was a crusher for Notre Dame’s playoff hopes, but the Irish can still put themselves firmly in the conversation for a New Year’s Six bowl if they win out. The schedule doesn’t get much easier, however, especially against a quality opponent in Virginia Tech coming off a bye in Blacksburg, one of the most raucous environments in all of college football. The Hokies have been mediocre on offense this year, averaging 23 points a game with just 3.6 yards-per-carry, and the Irish shouldn’t have a problem putting Virginia Tech behind the chains. Notre Dame did play uncharacteristically bad in pass coverage against Cincinnati. The Irish linebackers were torched all afternoon by tight end Leonard Taylor, and Kyle Hamilton made the first mistake of his season when he turned the wrong way on an underthrown ball that led to the Bearcat’s second touchdown.
The Hokies don’t have the same kind of weapons in the passing game, and I expect Marcus Freeman to make the necessary adjustments on seam and underneath routes to get a much stronger performance out of the Notre Dame secondary on Saturday. The Irish offense is of course the question mark on everyone’s mind after an abysmal showing in the first half against the Bearcats. If Jack Coan is head-scratchingly named the starter, it will be more of the same for the Irish. A guy that lacks mobility with dwindling confidence just isn’t the same fit for the Irish offense like he was earlier in the year. Drew Pyne should be the quarterback of this team, and he’s shown he has the poise and the swagger to go into Hokie house and lead the Irish to a big-time road win.
This may seem irrational, but for some reason, I’m going to trust that Brian Kelly makes the right call and puts his best quarterback under center. This game’s going to be lower scoring, but Pyne gives a gritty performance with the help of a few Virginia Tech turnovers to show why he’s the signal-caller of the future.
Notre Dame 23 – Virginia Tech 17
Jimmy Ward – Associate Sports Editor
To quote our fearless leader Mannion McGinley, “This weekend sucked.” It wasn’t fun to watch from the stands and I’m sure it wasn’t an enjoyable experience for anyone wearing a gold helmet. And I’m sure the practices the Irish held this week weren’t much fun either.