This should be fun.
For the sixth and final time, the Irish play someone who had the previous week off. No other program has faced such a challenging, rested schedule, and Notre Dame is 4-1 against those opponents.
It did get the mutual luxury of being idle before playing rested USC, which served the Irish well in a victory over its national rival.
Now it’s nearly a touchdown favorite in the hostile den of a team that has averaged 584 yards of total offense over its past three games, No. 2 nationally to Wake Forest (643) over that span.
And Cavaliers quarterback Brennan Armstrong has been bettered by only Bailey Zappe, of Western Kentucky, as the nation’s top aerial threat.
We just don’t know the true nature of Armstrong’s fragile ribs, which were bumped and bruised toward the end of Virginia’s defeat at BYU two weeks ago. Fortunately, the bye week should have helped Armstrong.
Cavaliers coach Bronco Mendenhall says he isn’t certain about Armstrong’s status, either, and called his quarterback a game-time decision. A national ABC television audience wants Armstrong. We do, too.
Our Pick: Irish -5½ (-110)
No. 7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-1)
Like a typical roller-coaster, quarterback Jack Coan started the season in scorching fashion, throwing for 366 yards in a season-opening victory at Florida State. Then he went for 239 and 223, only getting 158 in that home defeat to Cincinnati.
He tweaked an ankle. He accumulated only 108 at Virginia Tech, but the Irish won. Since, he’s racked up 189, 213 and 269, last week at home against Navy. In those past four, Coan threw for four touchdowns and had none intercepted.
If that swing continues, he and Armstrong are about to stage an all-time duel under the Scott Stadium lights.
Irish coach Brian Kelly is one of the nation’s balance fiends, though; Notre Dame runs it 49.9% of the time, passes 50.1%.
Kyren Williams has been the ground force, averaging five yards on 160 runs, scoring nine times. He has also nabbed about four catches pre-game, averaging nearly nine yards per reception and scoring three TDs. He has also fumbled three times.
Notre Dame figures to thrive, though, passing and running. Virginia allows 502 yards a game, seventh-worst in the country. The 6.1 yards it yields per run are the fourth-worst in the nation.
In the Cavaliers’ past three games, they’ve allowed 543 average yards to the other guys. Only four other college football teams in the entire country have been worse over that stretch.
Coan, Williams, tight end Michael Mayer, and receivers Kevin Austin and Avery Davis, and one or two others, will have field days for the Irish.
Virginia Cavaliers (6-3)
The Cavaliers are 0-3 against Notre Dame. Their only previous meeting in Charlottesville, in 2015, was won by the Irish, 34-27.
Virginia, however, had nobody like Armstrong running any of those shows. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior from Shelby, Ohio, has thrown for 3,557 yards, and only Zappe (with 3,668) has racked up more.
Armstrong has 27 TDs and eight interceptions, the latter figure keeping his QB rating at 155.9, 26th in the game.
Only once all season has he thrown for fewer than 337 yards, with 268 at Miami, but the Cavaliers still beat the Hurricanes. At Louisville, he threw 60 passes. Virginia won. He threw a total of 113 in consecutive losses at North Carolina and against Wake Forest.
Even if Armstrong plays, however, it’s questionable how well he will play with those sore ribs. And, how long will he last?
Notre Dame redshirt freshman Isaiah Foskey (eight sacks, tied for eighth in the nation) and third-year sophomore middle linebacker JD Bertrand (T-15, 50 solo tackles) will menace the Cavs’ line.
Notre Dame At Virginia Sports Betting Odds
Sports Betting Recommendation
Notre Dame has won its last 37 games as a favorite, 39 in a row over unranked foes. Those stats arrive via professional bettor Brad Powers. All three of our models have the Irish winning.
Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong’s ability to start, and play well, is the X-factor. Even if he’s completely healthy, this would be a chore for the Cavaliers. Anything less than him starting and going the whole way means the Irish win in a rout.