For the first time in school history, the Virginia Tech Hokies head to South Bend on Saturday to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. It’s been a disappointing season, to say the least, for the Irish. At 4-6, the Hokies and a hot USC team stand in the way of the Golden-Domers becoming bowl eligible.
The Hokies, meanwhile, hope to bounce back from a frustrating home loss to Georgia Tech. If the Hokies had defeated the Yellow Jackets, they would’ve clinched the ACC’s Coastal Division. That will have to wait another week, as Tech’s focus is clearly on the Fighting Irish this weekend.
So, why is Notre Dame 4-6 on the season after being ranked No. 10 in the preseason AP top 25?
Despite having a talented quarterback in DeShone Kizer, this team doesn’t do anything particularly well. The Irish rank No. 80 in rushing offense, No. 30 in pass-efficiency offense and No. 57 in total offense. Notre Dame ranks 43rd in third-down conversions at 43 percent.
Turnovers have plagued the Fighting Irish, too. On the season they’ve turned ball over 16 times and are at -5 in the turnover margin. Kizer has been picked off 8 times and also sacked 18 times. Despite being a tremendous athlete, sometimes Kizer holds onto the ball just a bit too long waiting for the big play. It leads to negative plays for ND’s offense. He’s been pretty efficient the last three weeks, completing almost 67 percent of his passes for almost 700 yards with eight touchdowns versus only one interception. He’s also rushed for 155 yards in that stretch.
The biggest problem for Notre Dame is its leaky defense. While the Irish rank No. 37 in total defense, they are 76th against the run. Opponents average over four yards per rush and this could be a game where VT coach Justin Fuente chooses to get his running game going.
Notre Dame’s secondary is young, but that group is actually holding up very well. The Fighting Irish have only given up 10 touchdowns through the air, although it’s important to note they’ve faced two triple-option teams and played one game in a monsoon.
Entering the season, Virginia Tech fans probably thought this game would be a loss. Notre Dame, of course, is a perennial power and traveling to South Bend is never easy for any team. However, like in many years prior to this one, the Fighting Irish were probably overrated by the media. A closer look at this team and you could see some potential issues.
This team won a lot of close battles last fall, hiding the fact that the Irish’s 10-3 record may have been a bit inflated. Notre Dame also lost some talented players from last season’s squad, including C.J. Prosise, Ronnie Stanley, Sheldon Day, KeiVarae Russell and Will Fuller.
With all of that being said, this team has plenty of talent. Notre Dame recruits well on an annual basis. And Kizer is a potential future No. 1 overall pick. Add to the mystique of playing in South Bend, defeating the Irish won’t be easy for the Hokies. All six of Notre Dame’s losses are by eight points or less, setting up a potential last-minute showdown on Saturday afternoon.