#16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs Virginia Tech Hokies Game Preview

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish Head Coach Brian Kelly met the media today for his weekly Monday news conference and he had a lot to say, big picture about the season and what’s left of it. ND didn’t have much of a shot at the college football playoff heading into the Michigan blowout, but the sliver of CFP hopes got washed away in the Ann Arbor monsoon Saturday night.

“We got what we deserved and Michigan outplayed us,” Kelly said. “They out-hustled us. They were more physical. They out-coached us. And, you know, those things unfortunately are the realities of it.”

Now the Fighting Irish welcome a solid Virginia Tech team to South Bend on Saturday in a contest that begins “the rest of the season.”

Kelly said weeks like this aren’t about bowl games (the Fighting Irish are probably out of the New Year’s Six running now too) and the playoff:

“This is so much more about who you are as a person…What’s your why?”

We’ll find out starting Saturday, in a game where his side is favored by 17 1/2. If you’re going to be making college football picks against the spread during the run-in this season, take a look at Notre Dame, who should be favored by at least double digits in every game that they have left. It’s very possible the Irish will finish the season 10-2, but their signature wins would only be over unranked Virginia and USC. Don’t see them making a New Year’s Six bowl with that resume.

Virginia Tech (5-2) at No. 16 Notre Dame (5-2)
Saturday, Nov. 2 | 2:41 p.m. ET (NBC)
Notre Dame Stadium (77,622) | Notre Dame, IN
Last meeting: 2016, when Notre Dame closed the home slate with a 34-31 loss to the Hokies. That was the last ACC team to beat the Irish in South Bend.

#16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview 

After an early 2017 season loss to Georgia the Irish began a 15 game home winning streak that’s currently active.

Injury wise, Kelly gave some updates on Monday, and those are follows: leading rusher Tony Jones suffered an upper body injury but he is expected to play. Wide receiver Michael Young has entered the transfer portal. Offensive lineman Tommy Kraemer suffered an MCL sprain, and he’s out indefinitely. The good news is that his injury won’t require surgical repair, but could be out 4-6 weeks.

In other words, his season might be over at this point. His unit was abysmal in Ann Arbor this past weekend, as they suffered nine drives of three and out. Given that no-show performance, there is a lot of heat on quarterback Ian Book.

Kelly faced a lot of queries about Book on Monday, but maybe that’s the recency effect taking over. No, he is not as effective in 2019 as he was in 2018, and yes that last game was atrocious, but let’s remember the full body of work, and all that he has accomplished.

He was just setting school records, earlier this month, in the Bowling Green Massacre. Maybe the key to getting the offense going again could be the full return of Jafar Armstrong? Maybe now he’s ready to be the feature back? He did enter the season as the primary ball-carrier, but since suffering an injury early on in the season opener, he was out until the three snaps he played against USC.

The Irish could finish with a 10-2 record, yet end up with better than the Camping World Bowl for their holiday destination. That is due to schedule strength, and it is certainly not the fault of Notre Dame that USC, Stanford and Va Tech are far below the standard of their recent histories.

Virginia Tech Hokies Preview

Take a look at the ESPN screen grab/graphic above- the ACC Coastal Division is the new Big Ten West. It has lots of parity and mediocrity. Notre Dame could finish 10-2, with 60% of those wins coming from teams in this division, plus New Mexico, Navy and Bowling Green.

The Coastal is a strange division where the balance of power is more or less equally shared. UVA and UNC are 3-2, Va Tech and Pitt are 2-2 while Duke and Miami are 2-3. Georgia Tech is the outlier at 1-3. No one in the division is ranked, and the winner will be awarded the chance to get housed by Clemson in the ACC title game.

Overall, every team other than Georgia Tech is either 5-3, 5-2 or 4-4. Yes, Virginia is for lovers, but the ACC Coastal is for mediocrity and parity.

hokies cheerleaders

The Hokies bring a lot to South Bend on Saturday, in dual threat QB Hendon Hooker, legendary defensive coach Bud Foster and linebacker Rayshard Ashby.

“I think unquestionably the linebacker Ashby is one of the best we have seen,” said Kelly.

“A little undersized, people may say, but he’s all over the field. Athletic, can do a lot of things, just an outstanding player. So we’re going to have to know where he is. He lines up in a number of different positions. He’s blitzing. He can do a lot of different things.”

Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Virginia Tech 17

We’ll see what Notre Dame is made of here in terms of how they bounce back after a crushing loss. This happened before, and again the next week was a home game against a Virginia school. The came correct in that one, and I’m predicting they will in this one too.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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