Virginia Tech vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Pick 11/2/19
Virginia Tech (5-2 SU, 2-5 ATS) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-2 SU, 4-3 ATS)
Date/Time: Saturday, November 2nd, 2:30 PM
Where: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN
Point Spread: VT +17.5 / ND -17.5 (Bovada)
Over/Under Total: 58
The Virginia Tech Hokies travel to South Bend to take on Notre Dame in a Saturday afternoon showdown of teams with a 5-2 record. The Irish and Hokies have only played twice before, with Virginia Tech winning 34-31 in 2016 and ND taking home the victory last season 45-27.
KELLY BEING KELLY
For Notre Dame fans, it was déjà vu all over again last Saturday with an embarrassing 45-14 loss against Michigan, watching as their team dropped yet another important game under head coach Brian Kelly. It was their 11th true road loss in a row against a top 20 opponent and with the defeat, killed any chance of making a run at the BCS Playoffs this season. There is zero chance Notre Dame will ever win a national championship with Kelly as their head coach, as even with two weeks to prepare his team, was utterly unprepared and yet again overwhelmed and humiliated when it mattered most.
There were problems all over the offense, with the team running for just 47 yards on 31 carries and no receiver recording over two catches as quarterback Ian Book struggled mightily, completing only 8 of 26 passes for 73 yards. Book’s TD-INT ratio for the year is an impressive 15/2, but a bit of shine is taken off that stat when you considered he recorded ten of those touchdown passes in cakewalk blowout wins against lowly Bowling Green and New Mexico. On the season Book is completing less than 60 percent of his passes, and as Michigan players pointed out postgame last week, his effectiveness drops substantially if you can rattle him in any way whatsoever.
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RUNNING ON EMPTY
The running game was even worse than the passing game, with lead back Tony Jones Jr. struggling again against ranked opponents and through his career has now scored in just one game out of twelve versus teams in the top 25. Getting into the end zone isn’t just an issue against top teams for Jones, as he has scored in only two of his last fifteen games, and with Jafar Armstrong still struggling to come back from injury, the team will need Jones to step up his game if they want to at the least salvage their season with a respectable bowl berth.
Receiver Chase Claypool remains Book’s top threat, leading the team in yards, receptions, and tied for touchdowns at four with both tight end Cole Kmet and wide receiver Javon McKinley. The tight end Kmet has been effective in every game since coming back from injury, while McKinley has made the most of limited opportunities (4 scores on just ten receptions) and may get more looks in the future with expected starter Chris Finke continuing to struggle.
TURNING THINGS AROUND
While Notre Dame’s season lost all of its momentum after last weeks no show against Michigan, the Hokies come into this week riding a three-game win streak highlighted by a six-overtime 45-43 victory against North Carolina their last time out. After getting blown out by Duke 45-10, Virginia Tech made a much-needed change at the quarterback position from Ryan Willis to sophomore Hendon Hooker and it has had an instant impact on the offense, winning three straight games and averaging over 40 points per. Hooker may not have the best completion percentage in the world (57.4%), but he has offset that with not only accuracy when it matters most (7/0 TD-INT ratio) while also throwing in the added benefit of being able to make plays with his feet (156 yards rushing and a touchdown). The biggest variable going into this week’s game is the health of Hooker, though, as he was forced to leave the UNC game due to a knee injury, and while the odds of him playing appear more positive than negative, he remains questionable as of Tuesday.
HOKIE SKILL SET
At running back, Virginia Tech features Deshawn McClease as their lead back, and McClease has played exceptionally well of late, with touchdowns in his last three games and on the season posting 475 yards and a 4.9 yards per carry average. The running back is not the only player to benefit from the recent change at quarterback, with wide receiver Damon Hazelton scoring four touchdowns over the past two weeks and joining Tayvion Robinson, Tre Turner, and Dalton Keene as Hooker’s primary options through the air.
The recent wins against Miami and North Carolina brought some credibility to the Hokies season. Their only other victories came against Old Dominion, and FCS level teams Furman and Rhode Island while losing games they were favored to win against Boston College and Duke. After this week, it doesn’t get much easier, as they still have on their schedule Wake Forest (6-1), Pittsburgh (5-3), Virginia (5-3), along with a Georgia Tech squad that they have lost three in a row against. They will undoubtedly gain bowl eligibility needing just one win in their final five. Still, for a program attempting to get back to at least respectable prominence, they will need to run the table against conferences foes if they have any chance of winning the ACC Coastal.
THE FINAL DECISION
It will be interesting to see how Notre Dame reacts to last week’s colossal failure against Michigan with the only real goal of the season (BCS Playoffs) now eliminated from contention. They at least can look to rebound at home where they have won 15 straight games, and as an 18 point favorite, even a bigger hangover should theoretically be able to be offset as they have a clear upper hand. I do believe that Notre Dame will win the game, but the 18 point head start is too much to pass up with Virginia Tech playing as a new team under quarterback Hendon Hooker. As long as Hooker is in line to make the start, I will be backing Virginia Tech to get the road cover in South Bend against the Irish on Saturday afternoon.
Mike’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Virginia Tech +17.5
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