No. 14 Notre Dame had a setback last weekend with its upset loss at home to No. 5 Cincinnati, but Saturday the Fighting Irish have the opportunity to get back on track when they travel to Blacksburg, Virginia, to take on Virginia Tech. The Lane Stadium environment in primetime promises to be rocking as the Fighting Irish prepare to face the Hokies for the fourth time under coach Brian Kelly, who is 2-1 against Justin Fuente.
Notre Dame is also putting a 20-game winning streak against ACC opponents in the regular season on the line, a run that includes its one season as a full conference member in 2020.
Virginia Tech's 3-1 record is powered by a huge season opening win against North Carolina that put it in first place in the ACC Coastal Division standings. However, the rest of the non-conference slate has left something to be desired with a loss at West Virginia, as well as wins against Middle Tennessee and Richmond. Virginia Tech had last week off to prepare for this game, which kickstarts a huge month for the program that will determine whether the Hokies are an ACC championship contender heading into the season's final weeks.
Notre Dame at Virginia Tech: Need to know
Notre Dame unsettled at quarterback: Jack Coan has started all five games for the Fighting Irish, but he didn't finish the win against Wisconsin because of injury or the loss to Cincinnati because of performance. Kelly actually played three quarterbacks against the Bearcats with freshman Tyler Buchner taking over before halftime and Drew Pyne playing in the second half. Pyne had the most success of the trio, leading a late push that had a 17-0 halftime deficit at 17-13 in the fourth quarter, but Kelly chose not to name a starter during his game week availability. He said the decision had been made but he wasn't prepared to share it with the media.
Kelly, for one, doesn't seem too concerned with using the mystery as an edge in the matchup.
"I'm more interested in what we do than trying to hide something from Virginia Tech," Kelly said early in the week. "They've seen all three play. They're pretty smart. They can figure it out."
Lane Stadium environment will play a factor: One of the many takeaways from Virginia Tech's season-opening win against North Carolina was a reminder of how Lane Stadium can rock with a big-time opponent in town. Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell did not play well and the offensive line struggled, too often hurting its own efforts with procedural penalties in big moments. That noise and energy should be keyed up again with Notre Dame in town, with fans knowing that a win is in reach with another ranked opponent in town as a short favorite.
Key stretch for Virginia Tech: The Hokies lacked the kind of runaway performance you might have expected against an FCS opponent in their win against Richmond, but the week off allowed for a reset on a disjointed season that has had some incredible highs and also disappointing stretches of football. If that reset comes back with the best version of Virginia Tech, then Justin Fuente is in for a special season.
Virginia Tech gets Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse all at home in the next three weeks. All of those games are potential wins for the Hokies, and if they can string together all three, they emerge as an ACC Championship contender.
How to watch Notre Dame at Virginia Tech live
Date: Saturday, Oct. 9 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Lane Stadium -- Blacksburg, Virginia
TV: ACC Network | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Team vs. Team prediction, picks
I don't like the chances of betting on an unstable Notre Dame quarterback situation going into Blacksburg with "Enter Sandman" and Hokie Nation all charged up. Virginia Tech may find it hard to score touchdowns against a good Notre Dame defense, but the way the Fighting Irish have struggled on offense I'm not expecting it all to click here in this spot. Prediction: Virginia Tech (+1)
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 6, and which national title contender will go down hard? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $3,400 in profit over the past five-plus seasons -- and find out.