The Virginia Tech Hokies host the No. 14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday evening at Lane Stadium. As any Virginia Tech fan knows, night games in Lane Stadium are the best. Unfortunately, the product on the field hasn’t lived up to the pomp and circumstance of Lane Stadium under the lights in recent years.
Notre Dame comes to Blacksburg for the second time in program history. The last time the Fighting Irish came to the New River Valley was in 2018. Lane Stadium was an amazing place to be that night. The crowd brought everything it had, Blacksburg was fired up, but the football team ran out of gas in the second half and Notre Dame cruised to easy win.
While this version of Notre Dame isn’t quite as good as the 2018 version, it’s still Notre Dame. A win over the Fighting Irish always matters.
Can the Hokies take down Notre Dame on Saturday?
Here is our official preview:
When: Saturday, Oct. 9. 2021
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Virginia
TV: ACC Network
Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial here)
Odds: The Fighting Irish are one-point favorites, via BetMGM
Virginia Tech and Notre Dame have met on the gridiron three times. All three meetings have taken place in the past five seasons, beginning in 2016. The Hokies won that first meeting in South Bend. It was not a good Notre Dame team, meanwhile that was Justin Fuente’s first season as head coach the Hokies were dynamic on offense with Jerod Evans, Isaiah Ford, Cam Phillips and Bucky Hodges.
The previous two meetings occurred in 2018 and 2019. We discussed the aforementioned 2018 meeting in Blacksburg. The 2019 meeting happened in South Bend and the Hokies started Quincy Patterson at quarterback and almost pulled off the upset. Notre Dame prevailed, 21-20, after scoring the decisive touchdown with under three minutes remaining.
When Notre Dame has the ball
This Notre Dame offense will not remind you of the previous version from two seasons ago. A big reason for that is the absence of quarterback Ian Book. Book was a tremendous college quarterback and the Fighting Irish have struggled to replace him. Jack Coan has been the guy, but he’s the polar opposite of Book. He’s more of a statue in the pocket. Head coach Brian Kelly hasn’t told anyone officially who will start on Saturday, but many believe it will be Coan.
Don’t be surprised if Tyler Buchner sees plenty of action, too.
Notre Dame has a pair of talented running backs in Chris Tyree and Kyren Williams. Neither have impressive stats this season, but don’t blame them. The offensive line, always a Notre Dame strength, has been a bit of a mess. The Fighting Irish lost multiple starters to the NFL and have yet to replace them.
Tyree is from Virginia and is the latest example of a top-rated player leaving the state. Tyree is a game-breaker and is always one play away from breaking one. Hokie fans will watch Tyree on Saturday and think of what could have been.
At wide receiver, the Fighting Irish have Kevin Austin, Avery Davis and Braden Lenzy. This is a good group, but the quarterback issues have prevented this trio from reaching its full potential.
Notre Dame has one of the best tight ends in the country in Michael Mayer. He’s been battling an injury but will play on Saturday. Will he be limited? He could be a big factor.
Virginia Tech’s defense has played well this season. This will be a test. The Hokies need to get pressure with the front four, something that has been hit or miss at times this fall. If that happens, that is good news for the Hokies.
When Virginia Tech has the ball
The Virginia Tech Hokies have looked like a mess offensively at times this season. Part of it is scheme, part of it is play-calling, part of it is offensive line play and another part is quarterback play.
Braxton Burmeister is a competitor. He is an outstanding athlete and one of the toughest players on the field. However, he is limited as a passer. That’s not his fault. That’s who he is. The Hokies need to create more RPOs for Burmeister, option plays and such, to create space for him to operate in the running game. He hasn’t ran enough this season, because the coaching staff is concerned about taking too many hits. It’s a legit concern. But one of the things Burmeister does best is run the football. It will loosen things up in the passing game.
The Hokies will struggle to run the football straight up against the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame is still good against the run. The Hokies should get creative with Raheem Blackshear and Keshawn King on Saturday. Jalen Holston can be used to run between the tackles, but Blackshear is Tech’s most versatile back, while King is the home-run guy.
Right tackle Silas Dzansi should be back for the Hokies at right tackle. That’s outstanding news.
Wide receivers Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson are two of the best wideouts in the ACC. Turner broke loose two weeks ago because he received more opportunities. That’s been the issue; a lack of opportunities.
The Hokies should make a concerted effort to get tight ends Nick Gallo and Drake Deluliis much more involved in the passing game. They are one of the keys to a Virginia Tech win.
Notre Dame’s defense continues to improve and has outstanding personnel. One player to watch is safety Kyle Hamilton. He is a future top-10 pick in the 2022 NFL draft.
This game will be close. The weather doesn’t appear to be a factor now. Earlier in the week, it looked like we could see a downpour in Blacksburg.
You have two similar teams here. Yes, Notre Dame is more talented, but the strengths and weaknesses of Notre Dame actually match up well with the Hokies. That is a positive. I believe the offense will have its issues, but I think the defense plays a strong game.
Keep an eye on our staff predictions today for each of our predictions.