Virginia Cavaliers vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Pick 9/28/19
Virginia Cavaliers (4-0 SU, 2-1-1 ATS) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-1 SU, 2-1 ATS)
Date/Time: Saturday, September 28th, 3:30 PM
Where: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN
Point Spread: UVA +11.5/ ND -11.5 (BetNow)
Over/Under Total: 50
In this weekend’s only matchup of top 20 teams, Notre Dame welcomes the Virginia Cavaliers to South Bend for a Saturday afternoon showdown on NBC. The teams have met just twice before, with the Irish having won both including a 34-27 last-second victory back in 2015.
POISED TO SUCCEED
Virginia enters the game with an undefeated 4-0 record after winning at Pittsburgh to start the season followed by home wins against William and Mary, Florida State and Old Dominion. They have only three games left where they could conceivably be underdogs, this week against Notre Dame followed by a game at Miami and their season finale against rival Virginia Tech. With that in mind, they could possibly reach double-digit wins for just the second time in program history, though that final game versus the Hokies is always a tough one for them considering they have lost fifteen in a row in the series.
Senior quarterback Bryce Perkins continues to lead the way for the Cavaliers offense. Perkins finished last season with an impressive 25/9 TD-INT ratio but hasn’t fared as well this season with six touchdowns compared to four interceptions. The dual-threat has also rushed for two additional scores so far with 193 yards on the ground, and the team is now 7-1 when he rushes for a touchdown. They are also 7-1 when he throws an interception, so these stats only mean so much. Perkins has three main options when it comes to their passing attack; Joe Reed, Hasise Dubois and Terrell Jana. Reed is his clear top target, leading the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns, while Dubois and Terrell are the only other players on the team with more than seven catches or 80 yards receiving.
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The Cavaliers were expected to start PK Kier as their lead running back to begin the year, but Kier has struggled, and in his place, Wayne Taulapapa has taken over the reins with 152 yards and five touchdowns to start his sophomore season. Statistically, the weakest part of the Notre Dame defense is their ability to stop the run, ranking 110th in the country in rushing yards allowed per game, but how much Virginia is able to take advantage of this remains to be seen as they are currently just 94th in rushing offense.
After beginning the season with easy wins against Louisville and New Mexico, Notre Dame went into Georgia as a two-touchdown underdog but ended up falling 23-17. They had the ball past midfield with under two minutes remaining, but eventually, their last-ditch attempt sputtered out, and they went home with a hard-fought defeat. Unfortunately, this marked yet another loss for the Irish against top tier talent, and have now gone 1-10 in their last eleven road games against ranked opponents and 1-17 in their last 18 games versus teams in the top six.
Ian Book has had a strong start to his Notre Dame career, but last Saturday against Georgia had one of his worst games, throwing two interceptions and seeming to fear throwing the ball downfield. He will look to get things back on track this weekend but could find that a difficult transition as the Virginia defense is one of the best they will play all season. The Cavaliers rank 28th in points allowed and an impressive 14th in total defense. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, Virginia is also 12th against the run, which is something that the Irish have had an issue with all season due to injuries to their backfield.
STUCK IN NEUTRAL
To begin the season the Irish were expected to have a backfield attack made up primarily of Jafar Armstrong and Tony Jones Jr., but Armstrong has been injured since the Louisville game and is not expected to return until mid-October. Backup Jahir Smith looked effective early before injuring a toe, which has left Jones Jr. as the main rushing option. Jones Jr. has struggled over their last two games, rushing for just 38 yards combined on 15 carries, and the prognosis doesn’t look great for improving those numbers on Saturday against that daunting Virginia defense.
THE FINAL DECISION
The Cavaliers come into the game riding some disappointing trends when it comes to their play away from home. Virginia is 6-31 in their last 37 road games and the last time they beat a Top 15 on the road was way back in 1984. They have also struggled against quality opponents, going 2-12 in their previous fourteen games against ranked teams. I think Notre Dame will get the win on Saturday, but I am not sure they will be able to cover the line and could see them winning by a touchdown in a lower than expected scoring game. The clear strength of the Virginia team is their defense. Neither squad has an offense that has necessarily been clicking on all cylinders, and because of this, I will be picking the total of the game to go under 50.
Mike’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: UNDER 50
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