Sons of Game Picks: Week 6 - #14 Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech
And we are back.
The Hokies are finally back in action after a long bye-week that saw the entire ACC continue to be a dumpster fire each and every week. That being said, Virginia Tech is STILL in the driver's seat for the Coastal considering they have only played one conference game, which they won against UNC. In contrast, UNC will be playing their sixth conference game next weekend, when Tech plays their second against Pitt.
However, this Saturday Tech welcomes the one-time ACC member, Notre Dame, into Blacksburg for a 7:30pm night game that will be broadcast on... the ACC Network sadly. You'd think a national brand like Notre Dame would always get primetime viewing when it's an option, given they have their own contract with NBC, but this game will be restricted to viewers who have the ACC network. Speaking of providers, Xfinity, a large cable provider in Virginia, still does not have the ACCN. But that's an issue for another day.
The best part of each team is their defense. The Hokies and Fighting Irish each have elite talent on the defensive side of the ball, and considering each offense is terrible, this game is setting up to be a messy slog. Rain may play a factor as well, but at the time of this article being written the forecast looks cool and clear with rain clearing out before kickoff.
Finally, Brian Kelly and Justin Fuente have complete opposite records when a bye-week is involved. Kelly and the Irish are 10-1 since 2017 when they play a team that is coming off an idle week, with their lone loss occurring last weekend against Cincinnati. Meanwhile, Fuente is atrocious coming off an idle week. Since 2018, Fuente is 0-5 off an idle week... not what you want to hear as a Hokie fan.
This is how we see the game going:
Adam Rothe - Notre Dame - 27-17
Unless I see some form of improvement from the Virginia Tech offense I will most likely be picking their opponent to win going forward. This game will be a big "where are we as a team" type of game. The Hokies have all the non-gameplay elements on their side; home night game, full bye-week of prep, and Notre Dame coming off an emotional loss. However, Justin Fuente's record in a game after a bye-week is horrible. Let us not forget that the shellacking Duke handed the Hokies in 2019 was after a Hokie bye-week.
This game will be a big test for the Hokies to see if they can keep pace with another top-15 team. Notre Dame's season so far includes barely beating FSU and Toledo... and then blowing the doors off Wisconsin, so similar to the Hokies, this Irish team has a lot of questions. This isn't the best Notre Dame team the Hokies have faced in Fuente's tenure, but it is still coached by Brian Kelly and for that I am giving Notre Dame the win. He's a vastly superior coach to Fuente and will have his team ready to go after losing to Cincinnati the week prior.
Grant Mitchell - 20-17 - Notre Dame
I don't believe that either team will score a ton in this game, though I do believe that Notre Dame is the more likely to if it is to happen. Virginia Tech's offensive line has not been as strong as it was last year, which should play a huge role against a talented front line of Irish defense and in a game in which the Hokies will be hoping to control the clock like they did against UNC. That being said, Notre Dame's passing attack looked anemic against Cincinnati last weekend, and they will probably try to muddy up the game. If Justin Hamilton's defense is ready to play like they were in week one and the second half against West Virginia, they will be the Hokies' best hope to win them the game. Do not be surprised if either team wins, but be shocked if the final score exceeds 50 total points.
Konnor Kilgore - 20-13 - Notre Dame
Given how vulnerable Notre Dame has looked at times this year, I would love to pick Tech in an upset here. However, our offense is not good enough to capitalize on a solid but inconsistent Notre Dame defense. The Irish offense probably won't light up the scoreboard against Tech's defense, so I do expect a close game. Our offense is just too limited at this point to take advantage of the opportunities our defense will present them. I expect a close, ugly game that Tech comes up short in.
Justin Cates - Virginia Tech - 24-20
I can’t be the only person who has no idea how this game will turn out. Neither team has distinguished itself to this point on offense, while the defenses have proven to be quite strong. We may set a record for quarterbacks used in this game if Notre Dame continues its three-man rotation and Tech throws a wild Connor Blumrick package into the mix. Nothing would surprise me as both teams look for answers on that side of the ball. It’s looking like it will rain for at least part of the game giving added importance to the ground game. Believe it or not, that actually favors the Hokies on paper at least (88th in rushing offense vs. 124). For Tech this game matters more for perception and fan sentiment than it does to the season. It won’t affect the ACC race, so the Hokies are playing with house money in their own house. I’m told the house always wins.
Evan Norris - Notre Dame - 31-27
I can see this split going either way. However, the Hokies have been in this spot one too many times for me to select them. First off, the offensive scheme the Hokies have rolled out this season has gotten them to a dead end in terms of point production. And I am not confident in saying that I have any hope that the offense fixed their woes over a single bye week. This means I expect the game to be laid upon the defense's back, in which they can only bend so much until they break. My counter argument: I don't think Notre Dame has fixed this issue either. The Notre Dame squad seems to be struggling badly with quarterback Jack Coan. I see this being a low-scoring affair at first, until the defenses of both squads get tired. If the Hokies truly want that needed surge before conference-play and a boost in their recruiting, they need to make a statement at home this weekend.
Brett Smith - Virginia Tech - 17-10
I have kept my mouth shut for these for 4 weeks because I really didn't know an identity to this team at all. I'll make it short and sweet…..there is a path for the Hokies to win this game. Notre Dame's OL is bad (even worse than our situation) and they don't have a passing game. The same goes for VT: suspect OL and no apparent passing game. In my eyes, you're going to see a similar game plan to the UNC game. Control the clock and just GRIND every drive….yes it's going to suck to watch but that's the path to win. I stand by this prediction as well: the team with the most sacks and TFLs will win this game. With that being said, I like VT in the trenches this game more than ND which leads me to think there's a path to victory.