Virginia Tech is 3-1. Like half the teams on Notre Dame’s schedule, the Hokies had last week off to help prepare. They own a win over North Carolina 17-10 in week one and their loss came to West Virginia 27-21. In their last game they defeated Richmond 21-10.
Justin Fuente is in his 5th season in Blacksburg. He led the Hokies to a 5-6 record a year ago. The last time these teams met was in 2019 in South Bend when Ian Book led a last-minute drive into the endzone to save the day for the Irish 21-20.
This year’s Hokie team has struggled to produce points on offense but has played very good defense.
6-1, 205, dual threat Junior Braxton Burmeister is the triggerman for the Hokie offense. He is completing 61% of his passes and has thrown 5 TDs and 1 interception. Burmeister will run, as he has 44 times this year gaining a net of 140 yards against 10 sacks.
Jalen Holston and Raheem Blacksheer share the load in the backfield. Brian Kelly singled out Blacksheer this week as being impressive. He is averaging 3.8 yards per carry, has also caught 10 passes and has scored 3 times.
Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson are the top options at receiver. Turner has earned the nickname “big play Tre”. He has 16 catches good for 250 yards and a score. Robinson has 14 catches and 2 scores and also has a 60 yard punt return TD to his credit. Look for both of these guys to get involved in the rushing game as well. They have combined for 9 carries and 51 yards on the ground.
Overall the Hokie offense has done a good job of protecting the football and their quarterback. Just 2 interceptions and 1 fumble lost and they have given up 10 sacks. However, they are only producing 329.5 yards of offense per game which ranks 115th nationally, and scoring 23.5 points per game, 100th in the nation.
The Hokies historically have a reputation for playing good defense and this year has been no exception. They still run the 4-2-5 scheme made famous for years by now retired defensive coordinator Bud Foster. And it is still working. To this point of the season they are allowing just 15.2 points per game. That number is 11th best nationally. They also have been excellent at stopping 3rd down conversions, they have gotten after the quarterback with 13 sacks so far and they have totaled 27 tackles for loss.
Junior Linebacker Dax Hollifield has been outstanding with 30 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. Also keep an eye on cornerback Jermaine Waller who has 3 interceptions on the year and 2 passes defended.
The intangibles would seem to be about even in this game. Lane Stadium in Blacksburg has a reputation for being a very difficult place to play and that will amp up the pressure on the struggling ND offense, particularly on Drew Pyne likely in his first start, as he will be dealing with silent counts and other communication issues. The Irish however are likely to bounce back from last week’s loss and play with a sense of urgency.
The Hokies may well get the better of ND’s struggling offensive line. Look for the Irish to counter by playing to Drew Pyne’s strength and establishing a ball control passing game. Michael Mayer and the ND RBs should create more match up problems than usual against a group of linebackers that have not covered well. The young QB may particularly struggle in the red zone when the crowd really gets into things, and that means Jonathan Doerer will need to be accurate. Defensively the Irish should match up well and could see success, so long as they can keep Burmeister bottled up in the pocket, something they were effective at last week against Desmond Ridder.
TV coverage on the ACC network starts at 7:30 PM. Notre Dame is a 1 point favorite and the over/under is 47.
The Fighting Irish Preview Pick: ND 19 Virginia Tech 14