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Virginia Football Opponent Preview: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Hoos host Irish in big November matchup.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Football 2021 schedule winds down with an absolutely brutal final four contests. After a bye the weekend of November 6, the Hoos host the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on November 13. The No. 9 Irish are the highest ranked team on Virginia’s schedule, but this may be the easiest game of the stretch run. Road games at BYU and Pitt along with hosting the Hokies are all very tough games.

2020 Recap

Record: 10-2
Postseason: CFP Semifinal, 31-14 loss to Alabama

The Irish finished the regular season 10-0 (9-0 ACC) and were ranked fourth in both polls and the playoff rankings. That won them a matchup with Clemson in the ACC Championship, followed by a matchup with Alabama in the CFP semifinals. Neither went well for the Irish. Still, it was a strong season for Notre Dame, which included a win over Clemson (without Trevor Lawrence and in double-OT, but still). The Irish finished 10-2 and fifth in the AP Poll.

Ian Book started every game at QB and threw for over 2800 yards with 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He also rushed for 485 yards and nine touchdowns. The running game was led by Kyren Williams with 1125 yards and 13 touchdowns. Their offense ranked 26th nationally in yards and 30th in points. The Irish put up big numbers in a few games, but also struggled to score against Louisville (12-7), Duke (27-13), and barely got anything going in the final two games against Clemson (34-10) and Alabama (31-14).

The defense was legit though, ranking 25th overall but 14th in scoring. They allowed just 113 yards rushing per game (13th), and though they allowed over 230 yards per game in the air (61st), they ranked 34th in pass efficiency defense. Bear in mind that those numbers are all skewed by two games against Clemson and one against Alabama. One quarter of their games came against two of the top three offenses in the nation and they still ranked 25th.

2021 Outlook

Key Returners: RB Kyren Williams, TE Michael Mayer, C Jarrett Patterson, DE Isaiah Foskey, S Kyle Hamilton
Key Departures: QB Ian Book, WR Javon McKinley, LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, DE Adetokunbo Ogundeji
Key New Faces: QB Jack Coan (Wisconsin), OT Cain Madden (Marshall)

The Irish open the season in the top ten in both national polls. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t question marks. There’s two QBs vying for the starting gig, though chances are both will get an opportunity. The Irish had three offensive linemen drafted this year, meaning the line will have to be rebuilt somewhat.

Kyle Hamilton returns to lead the defense again. He is one of the top defenders in the country and a likely top ten NFL draft pick. But the Irish will have to replace their leader in sacks ( Ogundeji with 7) and TLFs (Owusu-Koramoah with 11).

Coan started 18 games for the Badgers, completing 68% of his passes for over 3000 yards and 23 TDs against 8 INTs. He does not have Book’s mobility, but he should be able improve the Irish’ 58th ranked pass attack. He will need help from a very inexperienced WR corps. Other than Mayer, their leading returning pass catcher is Avery Jones with 24 catches in 12 games. They’re going to need a couple of guys to step up there.

The Irish have loads of talent, but may see a drop off this year as they incorporate a lot of new pieces (they had nine players drafted this year). Too bad this game is in November. Getting the Irish early could be a big advantage.

Series History

All-time Record vs. ND: 0-3
Last meeting: 2019, ND win 35-20

This will be the fourth all-time meeting between Virginia and Notre Dame, and the Hoos are winless thus far. The Cavaliers held strong for a half in South Bend the last time the two met, and the last time the Irish came to Charlottesville, the Hoos almost pulled off the upset. Winning this game would be a huge outcome for this team, but it will be tough. Notre Dame is likely the best team on the schedule.