Virginia Tech Football vs. UNC

Players hype the crowd up before the start of Virginia Tech Football vs. UNC, Sept. 3, 2021.

Virginia Tech (3–1, 1–0 ACC) is coming off a 21–10 win against Football Championship Subdivision school Richmond, but the offense looked largely listless and nonproductive against a seemingly overmatched opponent. Coming off a much needed bye week, the Hokies will host No. 14 Notre Dame (4–1) at Lane Stadium on Saturday night, looking to notch another big upset win in a primetime atmosphere.

The Fighting Irish are coming off a 24–13 home loss to the No. 7 ranked Cincinnati Bearcats, which saw their 26-game home winning streak come to an unceremonious end. Notre Dame saw Cincinnati dominate in the first half, taking a 17–0 lead. The lack of stability at quarterback, three turnovers, and occasional big plays allowed on defense ultimately doomed the Fighting Irish, despite a second-half comeback attempt. If Notre Dame does not figure out a solution at quarterback in advance of this game, this could present a chance for the Hokies’ defensive line to rush the quarterback at will.

The Virginia Tech offense is led by quarterback Braxton Burmeister, who has completed around 61% of his passes for 746 yards. The running back tandem of Jalen Holston and Raheem Blackshear, along with the receiving duo of Tré Turner and Kaleb Smith, must work to offset the loss of tight end James Mitchell. So far, the offense has lacked explosive plays and variety in its playcalling.

The aforementioned quarterback controversy for Notre Dame has seen initial starter Jack Coan give time to Drew Pyne, who was instrumental in establishing a short-lived rhythm on offense for the Fighting Irish last week. Coan is more experienced and is a better downfield passer, but Pyne gives the Fighting Irish a dual-threat quarterback like they had with Ian Book, their former three-year starter. However, Notre Dame has its own talented duo of running backs, led by Chris Tyree and Kyren Williams, along with Michael Mayer, one of the nation’s best tight ends.

This is only the fourth meeting between these two teams, with Notre Dame leading 2–1. The two teams split games in South Bend, Indiana, in 2016 and 2019, but the Fighting Irish routed Virginia Tech 45–23 at Lane Stadium in 2018.

Concerning this game, both teams possess great defenses, but Notre Dame is obviously more talented offensively. If the Hokies’ defense can take advantage of Notre Dame’s struggling offensive line and get after the quarterback, expect a low-scoring game. However, if Notre Dame can find some clarity at quarterback and get the ball to its primary playmakers, it could be another long night in primetime for the Hokies. This should be a very close game that might come down to the final possession. The edge goes to the Fighting Irish, but the Hokies have a legitimate chance to pull off another big upset in front of a sold-out crowd.

Score Prediction: ND 27–24

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