Ah, that’s right, we still have a bunch more games to play.
What’s Their Deal?
The Hokies have been clicking offensively as of late, averaging 40 points over their last three contests. Recently anointed starting quarterback Hendon Hooker left the game against UNC two weeks ago with a knee injury, but is a decent bet to start on Saturday. Any lingering stiffness could limit his considerable scrambling ability and slow down the offensive attack. It’s worth noting that backup QB Quincy Patterson ran for over 100 yards against the Tar Heels, but would materially limit the scope of the offensive playbook.
This team is hard to get a read on because, as we know, college football is weird and growth and results aren’t linear. They lost to Boston College, scraped by Furman, got obliterated by Duke, went up 28-0 against Miami and barely escaped with a win, and emerged victorious in a very weird one against Carolina. They boast a talented secondary that ranks in the top five nationally in disrupting the passing game (uh-oh), even while allowing 30 PPG in defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s farewell tour. Three quarterbacks have played meaningful minutes (and they all threw for touchdowns against UNC). Receivers are talented but have arguably under-performed (wonder why), while defensive line and corner have perhaps looked better than expected. Who knows!
One Scary Man: DB Chamarri Conner
After totaling as many tackles as games played last year, the sophomore safety has been a bruiser both in pass coverage and around the line of scrimmage. He actually leads the defense with four sacks while playing a sort of hybrid safety-nickel position that the Hokies call “whip” on the wide side of the field. His ability to blend coverage skills with a knack for disrupting plays at the point of attack is reminiscent of what we have in Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, although Conner moved from Rover to Whip over the offseason. Pencil this guy in for all-ACC honors in the near future, if not this year.
A Few Things I Hate About You
What to Expect
The Hokies have been abysmal coming off bye weeks in the recent past, losing to Old Dominion, Georgia Tech, and Duke, all the while allowing nearly 50 points per game in doing so. However, since the Blue Devils blew them out, Tech has won three straight, taking down Miami and North Carolina (the latter went six overtimes and featured some pretty potent #collegekickers juju). Obviously, it would be smart to not tempt fate and mess with whatever magic VT relied on there.
Notre Dame needs to get back to what worked offensively against USC, but injuries to Tony Jones (questionable) and Tommy Kraemer (out) complicate things. Holding out hope for Jafar Armstrong’s full return is mildly exhausting, so I figure we might be in for a heavy dose of Jahmir Smith. It’s make or break time for Ian Book, who missed several big opportunities against VT last year but played well on the whole. Being back home in (hopefully) dry weather is helpful, but there’s no real reason for Foster to respect Book’s ability to beat them in the passing game. I’d bet on a reversion to the mean (up and down, but not the nadir that we saw in Ann Arbor).
If the Irish don’t capitalize on their talent edge along both lines, things could get dicey. It’s hard to figure out what exactly the ND offense reliably does well other than Chase Claypool and Cole Kmet making big plays, so now would be a good time to find some sort of identity, wouldn’t it? Even with Kraemer lost for the final month of the season, that starts with the five up front (and hopefully bleeds into quarterback play, but hey). On the flip side, Clark Lea’s defense has no excuse but to respond and lock down the VT running game, which relies on a mildly shaky o-line and two shifty running backs (both measure under six feet and two hundred pounds). The defense was aggressive to the point of being wildly undisciplined against Michigan, but I wouldn’t bet on that happening twice in a row.
Notre Dame has not lost a home game since September of 2017. Since then, they’ve beaten unranked teams that enter Notre Dame Stadium by an average of 38-17, which dovetails somewhat nicely with the SP+ prediction of 36-22. Nothing about the current situation feels simple, though, and these Irish are on high letdown alert, just like when they escaped Navy by a touchdown after the Miami debacle.
It’s on the captains to lead by example. Virginia Tech starts one senior. The Irish start twelve. A loss at this juncture would trigger a full-on fanbase meltdown and almost certainly knock the team out of the top 25. Let’s not do that, please. ND bounces back, but not necessarily in resounding fashion— let’s say 24-14.
Play ’em Out
Every time I think about the game last week I let out one of Pusha’s signature YEUGGHHHHs, just immeasurably sadder and less cool.