Notre Dame will look to rebound from its first loss of the season when it visits Virginia Tech on Saturday.
The No. 14 Irish dropped five spots in the Associated Press top 25 ranking after losing 24-13 to now No. 5 Cincinnati. Notre Dame (4-1) has won 35 consecutive games against unranked opponents and 20 straight in the regular season against ACC opponents. The Irish will face a tough environment in primetime at Lane Stadium against a rested Virginia Tech (3-1) team that had a bye last week.
Here are three things to watch for from the Irish perspective.
Who Starts at QB for Irish?
Jack Coan has started all five games for Notre Dame, but he didn’t finish the Irish’s last two games because of an injury and performance. Irish coach Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees have used three quarterbacks – Coan, Drew Pyne, and Tyler Buchner – the past two games. Buchner, a freshman, is the most mobile of the three but hasn’t developed enough to take the reins. Pyne could start Saturday after helping the Irish pull within 17-14 in the fourth quarter against the Bearcats last week. Kelly hasn’t revealed which QB will start in Blacksburg.
Mayer’s Injury Status
Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer was limited last week because of a groin/adductor injury in the fourth quarter. Kelly mentioned the Irish added to Mayer’s workload this week, hinting the star sophomore was somewhat limited this week. If Mayer is limited in the game, the Irish will turn to George Takacs at tight end with Joe Wilkins (MCL) out for the season. Takacs hasn’t been targeted this season and is used more in run blocking. Mayer’s status could lead to more targets for wide receivers, including Avery Davis, who is the only player with double-digit targets other than Mayer.
More Pressure by Defense
Notre Dame has nine interceptions this season, which is tied for third in the country, but didn’t record one last week against Cincinnati. Whether it was not getting enough pressure on Desmond Ridder or making a play in the secondary, the Irish came up empty. This came after a three-interception game against Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz, albeit a far inferior signal-caller to Ridder.
Virginia Tech’s Braxton Burmeister has only thrown one pick this year – in the season opener against North Carolina – and boasts a 61 percent completion percentage in three of his four games. Much like Notre Dame, the Hokies’ QB play has been shaky, at best, with Burmeister behind an offensive line that’s being shuffled around like a deck of cards. The inconsistency offensively overall has them ranked 100th in scoring offense (23.5 points per game), with only five 30-yard completions this season.
Notre Dame is 2-1 against Virginia Tech since the two teams started playing each other in 2016. The Hokies won the first game, 34-31, then the Irish took the next two 45-23 in 2018 at Virginia Tech and 21-20 at home in 2019.
Monday Line: -110
How to Watch
What: No. 14 Notre Dame at Virginia Tech
When: 6:30 PM CT, Saturday
Where: Lane Stadium; Blacksburg, Virginia
TV: ACC Network