Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Virginia Tech Hokies
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-0 SU, 4-1 ATS) vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS)
Date/Time: Saturday, October 6th, 8:00 PM
Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA
By Mike Mann., NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Spread: ND -5/ VT +5
Notre Dame heads south to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech in a primetime Saturday night showdown on ABC. This is just the second all time meeting between the teams, with the Hokies having won the only prior matchup 34-31 back in 2016 as 2 point road underdog.
After a disastrous loss to Old Dominion, Va. Tech was able to rebound with a road win against a ranked Duke squad. There was great concern considering that starting quarterback Josh Jackson was out for the game due to injury, but backup Ryan Willis threw three touchdowns in his place and looked poised in the pocket throughout. With Jackson likely out for the season with a broken fibula, the team will need Willis to continue playing at a high level with another ranked team awaiting them on the schedule.
Two players continue to lead the stats page amongst the Virginia Tech skill position players, and both will certainly draw plenty of attention from the Irish defense on Saturday. Senior running back Steven Peoples has five rushing touchdowns, half of the team total of ten, while also leading them in yards with 302 on the season so far. Amongst the wide receivers Damon Hazelton tops out in receptions, yards and touchdowns and regardless of who was playing quarterback was the clear favorite target for either of their signal callers.
One area for concern in Blacksburg is the long term effect of the recent loss of defensive lineman Trevon Hill, who was dismissed from the team a week ago. The Hokies already had lost a handful of expected starters along the way, which makes the dismissal of a legit NFL prospect a possible issue going forward for Tech. They were able to offset it well enough against Duke with Ricky Walker and Houshun Gaines both pulling extra weight, but how they are able to counter the ramifications of Hill’s departure will be a big factor toward the Hokies defensive success going forward.
SET UP FOR SUCCESS
Despite the loss to Old Dominion, Virginia Tech is set up for a strong run to end their season. They are already 2-0 in conference play with road wins at Florida State and Duke and now just face two more away contests the rest of way, both ones in which they will be favored against North Carolina and Pittsburgh. That will likely be a theme for all of their remaining games, with a home matchup against Miami in mid-November the only possible contest left that they wouldn’t find themselves expected to win by the sportsbooks.
For Notre Dame the switch to Ian Book at quarterback continued to pay great dividends as he helped again lead them to a dominant, double digit win, this time at home against 7th ranked Stanford. The sophomore Book now has 7 touchdown passes, 3 rushing score and zero interceptions on the season and has looked succinct and precise throughout his eight quarter players of play thus far. The Irish have now outscored opponents by 50 points since Book was inserted into the lineup as starter.
The emergence of Book has helped all facets of the offense, especially to wake up the sleeping giant that is wide receiver Miles Boykin, who is arguably the best of their skill position players. Boykin had 11 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown against Stanford and with NFL caliber receiving skills should continue to remain the favorite reliable target of Ian Book.
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There was some concern for the Irish running game when it was announced that Jafar Armstrong would miss the game against the Cardinal, but the return of previously suspended Dexter Williams showed there was little reason to worry. The expected starter to begin the season, Williams scored on his first carry of the year before finishing with 161 yards and a touchdown against Stanford. With Armstrong expected back and Tony Jones Jr. another relevant aspect of the backfield, the Notre Dame rushing attack appears to be getting even stronger as the season moves on.
While Ian Book and of the offense garner a lot of the attention, the Notre Dame defense continues to play at a near dominant level. They allowed just 31 second half yards of offense to Bryce Love and Stanford and threw the first month of the year have been at their best when it matters most. Highlighted by Jerry Tillery, who had four sacks against Stanford, and Te’Von Coney, the team leader in tackles, the Irish defense could very well be the strength of the team and will need to keep playing at such a high level if they plan on keeping their playoff hopes alive.
THE FINAL DECISION
Blacksburg has a well earned reputation as one of the toughest environments to play in, and throw in a nighttime atmosphere and it brings it to a whole other level. Despite that, I am still backing the Irish this week, as after watching their new found offense with Book at the helm combined with an already strong defense, I think they have a special team in the making in South Bend that has a good chance of running the table all the way to the BCS Playoffs. By games end you can count on Notre Dame to get the win and cover against Virginia Tech on Saturday night.
Mike’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Notre Dame -5