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THE COLUMN: Virginia at Notre Dame Complete Preview

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TIME: 3:30 PM (EST)

DATE: September 28th, 2019

LOCATION: Notre Dame Stadium | South Bend, IN

HOW TO WATCH: NBC


The Lowdown

Well, last week was interesting. After promptly going down 17-0, Virginia put up 28 unanswered points to put away Old Dominion. It wasn’t exactly the showing that Virginia fans wanted to see but, nevertheless, the Cavaliers are 4-0 for the first time since 2004. Now ranked No. 18, Virginia looks ahead to its biggest game in the Mendenhall era: a date with the No. 10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend.

Last week, the Fighting Irish tried valiantly to stage a fourth quarter comeback against No. 3 Georgia but failed in the last minutes. Helmed by Head Coach Brian Kelly, Notre Dame is once again pegged as a contender for the College Football Playoffs this year. Offensively, Notre Dame is led by returning quarterback Ian Book, who helped the Irish go 12-0 last year while eventually losing in the CFP. Defensively, the Fighting Irish return a stout group including safety Alohi Gilman as well as defensive ends Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara.

Virginia has things it needs to iron out on offense and defense. Bryce Perkins has avoided some injury scares and will have all eyes on him come Saturday. The Cavaliers need to turn in a good (probably great) offensive performance in order to best Notre Dame. Going down 17-0 and still winning isn’t exactly an option on the table this Saturday. On defense, Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall has mentioned aiming to keep his opponents to under 3.5 yards a carry. Teams that have done so, according to him, have won 85% of their games. So far, Virginia rushing defense has held their opponents to just 2.2 yards per carry...it’s certainly a stat to watch.

Undoubtedly, as evident in its two gritty performances against Florida State and Old Dominion, Virginia has found creative ways to win games. Most Virginia fans would agree that these types of performances, though stressful, have signaled positive winds of change in the football program and culture. Still, many years have still passed since Virginia has produced a real statement win. With national coverage and real CFP implications on the line, make no mistake, this is the biggest game for Virginia in recent history. It could also prove the biggest win for Virginia in recent history.


The Statistics

A fitting ranked matchup

Category UVA Category ND
Category UVA Category ND
Rushing Defense 12th (75) Rushing Offense 85th (144.3)
Rushing Offense 94th (133.5) Rushing Defense 110th (204.3)
Passing Offense 76th (236.5) Passing Defense 17th (157.3)
Passing Defense 34th (188.8) Passing Offense 25th (300.7)
3rd Down Defense 54th (42.3%) 3rd Down Offense 112th (28.6%)
Penalties Per Game 37th (5.5) Penalties Per Game 104th (7.67)

from Danny Neckel


Hoo’s Hoo?

Virginia Cavaliers

Bryce Perkins, QB

It has to be Bryce Perkins, obviously. For the Cavaliers to have a shot at beating Notre Dame, Perkins will likely have to put on a performance to remember. Running the ball has been an issue for the Hoos and Perkins will have to try to establish something early on to keep Notre Dame’s defense honest. The dynamic quarterback will be the one to watch and hopefully this game will be the breakout game Virginia fans have been looking for this season.

Virginia Cavaliers

Tyler Fannin, C

Last week, Tyler Fannin started in place of the usual center, Olusegun Oluwatimi. However, Fannin also went out of the game which reshuffled the offensive line. Both centers have undisclosed injuries but both are listed on the depth chart for this week’s game. The O-line has been somewhat of an issue this season so far and, unfortunately, we’ll just have to wait to see who will be at center come Saturday.

Virginia Cavaliers

Brian Delaney, K

Second-year Brian Delaney could end up being a key for Virginia on Saturday. Last year, Delaney made 12-16 field goals last year and all 25 of his PATs. This year, Delaney has made only made 5-8 field goals. After being named Atlantic Coast Conference Specialist of the Week for the first week of the season, Delaney will have to step up again versus Notre Dame. If Virginia struggles in the red zone, Delaney could be a real difference maker for the Hoos.


Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Ian Book, QB

Coach Bronco Mendenhall had high praises for Notre Dame’s redshirt junior quarterback Ian Book. He commented on Book’s ability as a mobile quarterback and also his quickness in reading opposing defenses. While Virginia’s secondary has been one of the more steady components of the team, they haven’t played a quarterback of Book’s abilities yet. This year, he has already thrown for 828 yards as well as eight touchdowns through only three games.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Chase Claypool, WR

Senior Chase Claypool has become Ian Book’s No. 1 go-to receiver after the departure of Miles Boykin (who got drafted to Baltimore Ravens in this year’s NFL Draft). Through three games, Claypool has amassed 15 receptions for 256 yards and two touchdowns. Look for him to be matched up against Bryce Hall in what could be one of the determining factors of Notre Dame’s offensive success.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Julian Okwara, DE

Last year, Senior Julian Okwara led the Fighting Irish in tackles for loss (12.5) and tied for first in sacks (8). The defensive end has become an elite pass rusher and will look to build his resumé in his final season. Some mock drafts already are pegging Okwara as a possible first round pick. Alongside another stellar senior defensive end, Khalid Kareem, Okwara will look to wreak havok against a shaky Virginia offensive line all day.


Poll

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Notre Dame beat Virginia 36-13 in 1989 at Giants Stadium
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