After suffering a brutal loss on the road last week, the no. 16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish return home this week to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies. Game time is at 2:30 EST on Saturday, November 2 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. The game will be televised nationally on NBC.
The Fighting Irish are currently listed as 17.5-point favorites at home. There is also an over/under of 58 points. Click here to see the complete Week 10 college football schedule and betting odds for every game.
Last week, Notre Dame faced a ranked team on the road for the second time this season, and for the second time, the Irish went down. Notre Dame battled rainy conditions while facing Michigan, making it tough for the Irish to play their game. They had the deficit cut to 17-7 late in the third quarter. But the flood gates opened from there with the Irish losing to their longtime rivals 45-14.
That loss likely took away any chance Notre Dame had of playing in the College Football Playoff. However, a 10-win season, a major bowl game, and even a top-10 ranking are all goals that are still within reach for the Irish. Plus, after last week’s loss, the last thing Brian Kelly wants is to allow one loss to turn into two, especially in front of the home fans.
Meanwhile, Justin Fuente and Virginia Tech are trying to seize the momentum the Hokies have generated from a three-game winning streak. Some of that momentum might have dissipated after the Hokies had last weekend off. Of course, the extra time was probably good for Virginia Tech after a six-overtime marathon win over North Carolina in their last game.
The Hokies are still a couple of wins shy of extending their bowl streak, but they’ve come a long way since an embarrassing 45-10 loss at home to Duke at the end of September. Virginia Tech actually has a chance to win the ACC Coastal division, as all seven teams in the division have either two or three losses in league play. Obviously, Saturday’s game against Notre Dame won’t affect their conference record. But a win can get the Hokies closer to a bowl bid and give them another confidence boost heading down the stretch.
This will be the third time these two teams have met in the last four years. The Hokies escaped South Bend with a 34-31 win in 2016 in the first-ever game between Notre Dame and Virginia Tech. However, the Irish got some redemption in Blacksburg last year, beating the Hokies 45-23.
The weather got to Notre Dame last week. But things should come a little easier to the Irish this week at home, regardless of the forecast. Against a Virginia Tech team that has plenty of flaws, I expect the Irish to get back on track and take care of business. Despite the high spread, I’ll eat the points and lean toward Notre Dame to cover.
The Hokies are facing some uncertainty at quarterback heading into this week’s game. Hendon Hooker, who took over the starting job from Ryan Willis a month ago, left the game against North Carolina with an injury. However, Fuente appears optimistic that he’ll be able to play against the Irish. Hooker gives Virginia Tech more of a running threat at quarterback, something they didn’t have with Willis. He’s helped to jumpstart a rushing attack that had struggled to get going early in the season.
However, I’m still not sold on Hooker as a passer. While he’s willing to take chances down the field and is yet to throw an interception, his completion percentage is just 57%. Even against FCS opponent Rhode Island a few weeks ago, he completed less than 60% of his passes. Those accuracy issues could be problematic against a Notre Dame defense that’s far more talented than any defense Hooker has faced this season.
Meanwhile, I’m actually far more concerned with the Virginia Tech defense. Even during their recent winning streak, the Hokies are getting shredded through the air. North Carolina freshman Sam Howell had nearly 350 yards and five touchdowns against the Hokies two weeks ago. When Virginia Tech won at Miami to start their winning streak, they picked off starter Darren Williams three times, only to have backup Miami backup N’Kosi Perry come off the bench to throw for 422 yards and nearly win a game that Virginia Tech once led 28-0.
Those kinds of performances from the VTU defense make me think Ian Book could have a big game against the Hokies. Admittedly, Book had a rough game against the Michigan defense in the rain last week. But he’s still having a fine season and hasn’t thrown an interception this year outside of the two against Georgia. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Book surpass 400 passing yards with three or four touchdown passes against the Hokies. He’s that good and the Hokies are that bad defensively against the pass.
Ultimately, I think the Irish will have a positive response after last week’s loss. In fairness, the Hokies have turned their season around with a few nice wins. But Virginia Tech’s defense can’t seem to stop anybody, especially through the air. I also think the talent of the Notre Dame defense will keep the VTU offense in check. I like Book to have a big game, which will ultimately allow the Irish to win comfortably and cover the spread.