Notre Dame closes out its home schedule Saturday with the first ever matchup with the Virginia Tech Hokies.
The Hokies, who were ranked in the top 15 entering last Saturday are 7-3 and lead the ACC Coastal division. Virginia Tech has exceeded expectations in the first year of the Justin Fuente regime, but have puzzling losses to Syracuse and Georgia Tech on the season.
The Hokies boast the best passing offense ND has faced since Syracuse. Fuente has brought the offense that helped Memphis become a national title contender a year ago and brought it to Blacksburg. Virginia Tech doesn’t quite have the personnel to compete on a national stage, but Fuente is a gifted recruiter and will return Va Tech to the form of the Beamer glory years.
The Irish found an offensive groove for the first time since September last week vs. Army. Before you roll your eyes, Army had a top 30 defense entering the game and kept opponents like Wake Forest and Temple at bay. Can they duplicate that performance this week against stiffer competition?
If there’s one thing that can be said about Notre Dame’s season is that the players have not quit on Brian Kelly. The season may be lost, but the team has recalibrated their expectations.
It could be just saying the right thing in the media, but every player has expressed a strong desire to win these final two games and get to a bowl game. At the beginning of the season, six wins and just getting to a bowl game would seem like a colossal underperformance, but if the Irish are able to beat the best two teams on their schedule to finish off the slate, there would be a much better taste in ND’s mouth.
Don’t expect to see any grandiose changes in the Notre Dame gameplan Saturday – they are who they are. They’ll be inconsistencies on offense and, while much-improved, the defense is play bend don’t break.
The real question mark is which Virginia Tech team will show up Saturday? The one that lost to Syracuse or the one that was able to vault itself into the top 15.
Typical South Bend weather in forecasted this weekend. 70 and sunny Friday and high 30s and some blustery snow Saturday. Those conditions could hinder the Hokies aerial attack and force a few turnovers. Virginia Tech leads the ACC is fumbles.
The game will be close and ugly at times – partly due to conditions, partly due to the Jekyll and Hyde nature of both teams.
Although this theory has not been proven correct too often this season, when in doubt, go with the team with the better quarterback.
In what could be his last game at Notre Dame Stadium, DeShone Kizer will make enough plays on the ground and through the air to lead the Irish to a win on Senior Day and keep their bowl hopes alive.
ND wins 23-20.