NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Any hopes that Notre Dame had of getting back into the College Football Playoff race melted in the rain last week and the 16th-ranked Fighting Irish will try to find their top form again when they host well-rested Virginia Tech on Saturday afternoon. Notre Dame was roughed up 45-14 at rival Michigan last Saturday, managing just 180 yards overall while giving up 303 on the ground as the Wolverines dominated the line of scrimmage.
TV: 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Notre Dame -17.5
“We got what we deserved,” Irish coach Brian Kelly told reporters. “. … They outhustled us. They were more physical. They outcoached us. … I think that we got away from our identity and our identity is to be gritty, our identity is to play smart, our identity is to be locked in, and we were not. We got to get back to our identity.” Notre Dame will have redemption on its mind and Virginia Tech, which had last week off after a 43-41 six-overtime victory over North Carolina, expects to get a different version of the Irish on Saturday. “Just watching the (Michigan) game, I know that we will see the Notre Dame team that we saw in all the weeks before that,” Hokies coach Justin Fuente told reporters. “Just reading their comments. … they’ll be ready to respond after that game.” Virginia Tech has won three straight following a 2-2 start to the season and sophomore quarterback Hendon Hooker (seven touchdown passes, zero interceptions) should be back behind center after leaving the North Carolina game with a leg injury.
ABOUT VIRGINIA TECH (5-2)
Freshman Quincy Patterson, the third quarterback who threw for the winning score against North Carolina, took more reps during practices and Fuente said he and senior Ryan Willis all need to be ready to play behind center. Junior Damon Hazelton has rebounded from a slow start, due mostly to a hamstring injury, to haul in eight passes for 136 yards and four touchdowns over the last two games. Junior linebacker Rayshard Ashby leads the ACC in tackles per contest (10.3) while recording three of the teams 25 sacks and sophomore Jermaine Waller boasts three interceptions along with 28 tackles for a defense allowing 29.6 points per outing.
ABOUT NOTRE DAME (5-2)
The Irish could not get anything going on offense last week in the wet conditions and Kelly told reporters: “It wasn’t necessarily that they threw anything at us that we weren’t ready for. We just didn’t hit our standard of offense.” Senior Ian Book was held to 83 yards through the air on 8-of-25 passes and junior Tony Jones Jr., the team’s leading rusher (571 yards, four TDs), was held to just 14 on eight carries. Book hopes to reconnect with his top three targets in senior Chase Claypool (29 receptions, 436 yards), senior Javon McKinley (10, 242) and junior tight end Cole Kmet (23, 290), who have each caught four touchdown passes.
1. Notre Dame senior OL Tommy Kraemer is expected to miss 4-6 weeks after suffering an MCL sprain against Michigan.
2. Virginia Tech junior RB Deshawn McClease rushed for a touchdown in each of the last three games and boasts 196 yards on the ground in the last two.
3. The Irish won 45-23 at Virginia Tech last season and the Hokies won the first meeting 34-31 at Notre Dame in 2016.
PREDICTION: Notre Dame 34, Virginia Tech 24