No. 10 Notre Dame looks to bounce back from a difficult loss at Georgia last weekend when it hosts No. 18 Virginia on Saturday afternoon. While the moral victory of playing the No. 3 team in the country close is nice, it won’t get the Irish back into the College Football Playoff, so they need to start putting together some wins in a hurry.
The Cavaliers aren’t going to be a pushover for the Irish, as they come into the game with a perfect 4-0 mark. A seven-point victory over Florida State is the closest game Virginia has played this season, and the Cavaliers rank 14th in the country, allowing just 263.8 yards per game. The Irish are hoping their second-half surge against the Bulldogs can carry over to this one.
The moneyline for this game has the Virginia Cavaliers +350 and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish -440. Notre Dame is favored by 11.5 points, and the over/under is set at 48.5.
Bringing The Heat
If there’s one thing coach Bronco Mendenhall has made this Virginia team into, it’s a tough defensive unit. The Cavaliers are tied for tops in the nation in sacks with Florida with 20, with Jordan Mack leading all linebackers in the country with 5.0 sacks. Another Virginia linebacker, Charles Snowden, is coming off one of his best games as a collegian, racking up 15 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks in the win over Old Dominion.
Offensively, Virginia is averaging 35.3 points a game behind a balanced attack. Senior quarterback Bryce Perkins has 843 yards and six touchdowns passing, but he’s also a running threat, going for 193 yards and two scores on the ground. Problem is, Perkins is leading the Cavaliers in rushing, which means he’s susceptible to a lot of hits, which he does not want to take against the Notre Dame defense.
Versatile As Well
The Irish know all about dual-threat quarterbacks, as junior Ian Book ranks 14th in the country in total offense (342.3 yards per game). Book has thrown for 828 yards and eight touchdowns and is second on the team in rushing with 145 yards and two scores. The passing game got a big boost last week with the return of tight end Cole Kmet, who tied the school record for catches by a tight end with nine, going for a team-high 108 yards and a touchdown.
The Notre Dame defense has been able to hold teams in check for the most part for the last year-plus, holding opponents to 30 points or less in 17 consecutive games, tied for the longest active streak in the country. The Irish have allowed just one passing touchdown in three games this season and rank 10th in the nation in passing efficiency defense (95.12).
Notre Dame Wins A Close One
Virginia probably isn’t getting enough respect in this one, considering their unbeaten record and tough defense. Notre Dame has won 12 straight at Notre Dame Stadium, and I expect that streak to continue. But the Cavaliers are going to make this one close, staying within the 11.5-point margin. I’m taking Virginia +11.5 to lose but cover the spread.