WHO? No. 10 Notre Dame (2-1) vs. No. 18 Virginia (4-0).
WHAT? As this regular season approached, it was undeniable the Irish had a weak home schedule. Consider it from a ratings perspective: Only USC would capture the attention of the casual college football fan.
In that respect, appreciate the Cavaliers’ early-season successes as a blessing. This goes beyond broadcast metrics; Notre Dame’s loss last week means its résumé now carries an abundance of pertinence. This afternoon marks arguably the toughest game on the Irish home slate, and if not that, the most dangerous game thanks to the circumstances with Notre Dame coming off last week’s 23-17 fall in what Irish head coach Brian Kelly considered “probably one of the most physical games that I’ve coached.”
Kelly would not grant the worry that Notre Dame may be banged up after the trip to Georgia, citing the early date in the calendar, despite that physicality.
“We’re only three weeks in the season, we had a bye week,” he said Monday. “It is not like we’re begging for a week off. We came out of it pretty good.”
Kelly would, however, grant the premise of needing a mental rebound, of sorts, indicating how the Irish handle the defeat will (obviously) dictate the direction of the season.
“I think our team will define who they are this week because they’re coming off a game in which they were disappointed in their performance,” Kelly said. “So they have a chance to do something about it.
“This is an opportunity to define who you are.”
WHEN? 3:30 p.m. ET, with kickoff coming 12 minutes later. That latter notation is made as deference to a man known as Corey in these parts, who sends a weekly text asking for the exact time of kickoff so he can try to squeeze in his lawn mowing beforehand. This shall serve as a litmus test to ascertain if he does his daily reading Saturday mornings. (Spoiler: He does not.)
WHERE? Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.
NBC will have the national broadcast, with the game streaming online.
As always, NBC Sports Gold is available to international fans.
WHY? Rather than once again go down the rabbit hole of explaining the Irish relationship with the ACC, let’s point out two all-time records of note that would take significant leaps this weekend with a Notre Dame victory.
And Virginia’s all-time record? 580-579-37. In other words, the Cavaliers have been effectively mediocre in their 129 years of football, with one 10-win season in their history.
BY HOW MUCH? The most intriguing aspect of this may be the “how much” rather than the “by.” Two stout defensive fronts, both with strong secondaries, in a day with weather concerns means the combined point total over/under is a paltry 48.5. Notre Dame is favored by 11.5, as of early Saturday a.m., meaning the basic math points to a 30-19 final.
A week ago, the Irish scored 17 points against a defense more comparable to Virginia’s than not, albeit better. The Bulldogs and Cavaliers place similar emphases on stopping the run, both undeniably effective at such.
Meanwhile, Virginia has needed to come from behind in each of its three FBS-level wins. With that in mind, let’s expect Notre Dame to score first — it is Kelly’s habit to choose to receive off a winning coin flip, after all — and then slow things down. The Irish might not blow out the Cavaliers, but simply beating a top-20 opponent should be enough for all involved.
Notre Dame 24, Virginia 17.
(3-0 in pick; 1-2 against the spread, 1-2 point total.)
P.S. ABOUT THAT WEATHER
While it rains on Notre Dame Stadium at 1 a.m. — turns head to the left, literally confirms the downpour first-hand — and most, if not all, local high school games were pushed to Saturday morning/early afternoon due to lightning, current forecasts expect the rain to slow in South Bend by early afternoon. There might be some precipitation during the game, but only mild winds and 70-degree temperatures should not much effect play.
INSIDE THE IRISH READING:
— On Notre Dame’s injuries, both known and speculated
— Notre Dame’s need to ‘keep pushing and fighting’ against No. 18 Virginia
— Notre Dame’s Opponents: Irish schedule continues slide toward mediocrity
— And In That Corner … The No. 18 Virginia Cavaliers stand as Notre Dame’s toughest challenge
— Things To Learn: Notre Dame’s receivers may find depth, while Irish defense faces new challenge
— Friday at 4: Reasons for Notre Dame’s rushing struggles go back years
— NBC audibles into a revised approach with its SkyCam for future Notre Dame telecasts
— ‘Until we meet again’: Chase Claypool honors his sister’s memory with his play at Notre Dame
— How Bronco Mendenhall built an unlikely winner at Virginia
— Bob Davie confirms return after season-opening health scare
— Georgia’s smash-mouth win over Notre Dame had the look and feel of a Playoff game