We have finally reached that point in the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football offseason where we can talk about this year’s opponents without thinking about it all as an event still months away. The conference media days are underway (lol conference things) and camp is just right around the corner. So, we’re dedicating each day (other than Chick-fil-A Day) to Notre Dame’s 2021 opponents, and starting off those days with a quick look preview. Join the conversation in the preview and the editorial in their respective comment section, and/or use the FanPost/FanShot feature to share something more in depth.
Game 10 — Notre Dame Vs. Virginia Cavaliers
Where: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Virginia
When: November 13th time TBD
How to Watch: TBD
Bronco Mendenhall leads the Cavaliers after a very ‘meh’ 2020 season. They finished 5-5, though finished the season strong after dropping 4 out of their first 5. They replaced long time starter in Bryce Hall at QB with Brennan Armstrong, who quietly put up a very solid year as a captain. He will look to be one of the leaders heading into the upcoming season, along with some veterans along the offensive line. They need much more production in the run game, but they have some threats on the outside that could challenge the Irish.
Mendenhall is a very good coach who (people forget) is 2 years removed from taking the Cavaliers to the Orange Bowl. They look for 2021 to be a reset after the disappointment of 2020. With veterans returning and a solid coach at the helm....this definitely isn’t a team to sleep on.
Notre Dame — Virginia All-Time
Not tons to talk through here as there is not tons of storied history, but the games sure have been memorable. The game in 2015 single handedly launched the career of Deshone Kizer after the ankle injury to Malik Zaire. It also generated an incredible meme of a dead Virginia fan....murdered in cold blood by Will Fuller. The game in 2019 solidified Julian Okwara as one of the nations premiere pass rushers. If anyone needs a fun reminder of those two games.....see below.
Fun fact....This was the first game my (now) wife watched with me. She saw my soul both leave and reenter my body......and stuck with me despite me being a psycho fan.
Also, Julian Okwara.....I miss you.
(there wasn’t actually an updated hype video on youtube....so here is one from last year)
The Top 3 Players
- Joey Blount, Safety - A leader in the secondary who will surpass 200 career tackles this year and is a former All-ACC player. He is a strong athlete and the leader of the defense.
- Billy Kemp, WR - Kemp led all WRs with an impressive 67 receptions, but only 1 score a year ago. At only 5’9 170, he could give the Irish some problems from the slot as well as in the return game.
- Brennan Armstrong, QB - The offense goes as Armstrong goes. The running game was very mild last year, and Armstrong was a lone bright spot, rushing for over 500 yards. He is scrappy (hate that word but in this case, it fits), and a fierce competitor. Notre Dame needs to keep him in the pocket and force him to throw it. He had 11 ints last year, and looks to drastically reduce that number in 2021.
This is the definition of a sleeper game....and always will be. Virginia will most likely be a 2-3 loss team by the time the Irish play them...which is dangerous late in the season. Their defense is normally disciplined and their entire team will be hyped up for this home game. They return 4/5 starters on the O-line and by this point in the season should be an incredibly seasoned group. My biggest question is around their running game, which if not efficient will be their achilles heal against the Irish.
I see this one starting slow for the Irish....but a slew of turnovers will be the difference. Armstrong will make some plays, but ultimately, he will try and do too much by hanging or scrambling in the pocket. Look for Marist Liufau to have a strong game blitzing and the combination of Isaiah Foskey and Jordan Botelho to have strong games off the edge. The Irish will comfortably pull away in the second half despite a fiery first half effort by the Cavaliers.
Difficulty 1-10: 5
Early win or loss prediction: Irish win