It was right there forVirginia Tech's taking. With North Carolina’s loss toDuke on Thursday night, the Hokies knew that a victory over 5-4 Georgia Tech clinched the ACC Coastal Division and put them into the conference championship game in Orlando.
But Virginia Tech’s magic number is still one after the Yellow Jackets took advantage of several Hokie mistakes and came away with a 30-20 victory in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech now needs a win next week over Virginia or a North Carolina loss to NC State to claim the Coastal crown.
This week, though, the Hokies get a break from ACC action as they head north to play Notre Dame. The Irish improved to 4-6 with their most complete game of the season, a 44-6 blasting of Army in San Antonio.
This will be the first-ever meeting between the Hokies and the Fighting Irish.
Virginia Tech at Notre Dame
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Notre Dame -1
Three Things to Watch
1. Virginia Tech Miscues
It was an ugly offensive performance against Georgia Tech. There was a botched placement on a field goal, there was a huge dropped pass, and a key bad snap from center. But again, turnovers killed the Hokies. For the season, Virginia Tech is minus-1 in turnover margin. But in their three losses, the Hokies are minus-8. Notre Dame has just 11 takeaways on the year, but the Virginia Tech turnovers have been less about the opposition and more about the Hokies.
2. Notre Dame Offensive Line
The Irish pushed around Army and averaged more than six yards per carry on the ground. But Virginia Tech’s defensive front seven is a little better than Army’s. The Notre Dame running game hasn’t been great this year, but the Irish need to get something out of Josh Adams and Tarean Folston to keep Virginia Tech honest. Most importantly, the Notre Dame blockers need to protect quarterback DeShone Kizer. In Woody Baron, Ken Ekanem and Vinny Mihota, Virginia Tech has some real playmakers along the defensive line.
3. Virginia Tech Receivers vs. Notre Dame Secondary
It’s been a rough year for the Notre Dame defensive backfield. Injuries and suspensions have not helped, but simple poor play has been the biggest problem. Since the firing of defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, the performance of the secondary has improved, though it’s hardly been great. This week they will face a good quarterback in Jerod Evans and a group of big, talented receivers. Isaiah Ford (6-2) has 55 receptions, Cam Phillips (6-1) has 46, and the biggest target of all Bucky Hodges (6-7) has 36. After dealing with two option teams in consecutive weeks, the Irish now have the challenge of stopping perhaps the best receiving corps they’ve seen so far this year.
It is very hard to gauge either one of these teams. Notre Dame has talent, especially on offense. The question is, will it come together this week? The same question has been asked before each game this season and the majority of the time the answer has been no. Virginia Tech had a stretch early in the season where the Hokies looked like they may be able to challenge whoever came out of the Atlantic Division. Then they had a clunker against Syracuse. After getting back on track a bit, they crumbled again versus Georgia Tech at home. But Virginia Tech still has those receivers that can cause big problems for the Notre Dame secondary and a defensive front that will be hard for the Irish to handle. For those reasons, I think Virginia Tech gets a narrow win in South Bend.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 34, Notre Dame 30
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.