Whatever lingering doubts that might have existed a couple of weeks ago have long since disappeared as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish look to continue their offensive dominance Saturday night against host Virginia Tech. The Irish faced questions about their viability as a national title contender following narrow home wins over Ball State and Vanderbilt in back-to-back weeks, but Notre Dame responded with vigor, blowing out Wake Forest by 29 points before trouncing Stanford 38-17. The Hokies responded from an incomprehensible loss to Old Dominion with a 31-14 rout of host Duke last week.
The Irish have been difficult to handle in the first quarter of their past two games, racking up a combined 21 points in the victories over the Demon Deacons and Cardinal. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech has managed just 10 points in the opening quarter of its previous two games. And what’s more, Notre Dame has been a touchdown machine of late, reaching the end zone 13 times while kicking just one field goal over its previous two contests. Translation: Not only do we like the visitors to get on the scoreboard first, we like them to do it via the touchdown.
Prediction: First score: Notre Dame TD (+120)
Sometimes, you have to get a bit creative in order to maximize your return. And when it comes to this game, it couldn’t hurt to lay multiple bets on the most likely halftime outcome. Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book (74.3 percent completion rate, 616 yards, seven touchdowns) has been sensational in relief of Brandon Wimbush and should have the Irish offense firing against a Virginia Tech team still reeling from that loss to Old Dominion two weeks ago. That said, Virginia Tech has held three of four opponents below 17 points and is 11-2 SU in its last 13 home games. Take Notre Dame to lead by single digits at the break.
Prediction: Notre Dame 1-3 (+1,100), 4-6 (+1,200) and 7-9 first-half margins of victory (+650)
Plenty has been said about the Irish’s revamped offense under Book, but let’s not sleep on the defensive effort this team has put forth in 2018. Notre Dame is one of only 32 Division I teams allowing fewer than 20 points per game (18.8) and has limited foes to just 10 touchdowns and eight field goals. And of the 15 red-zone trips the opposition has made vs. the Fighting Irish, only seven have resulted in TDs compared to five leading to field goals. Virginia Tech has racked up 20 touchdowns against just four FGs, but if any team can limit them to three points on their first scoring play, it’s the Irish.
Prediction: Virginia Tech first score: Field goal (+300)
All the past trends suggest that this game is headed for the under. The Irish have gone below the number in seven of their previous nine games and have cashed the under seven times in their past nine non-conference encounters. Virginia Tech’s under lean is even more pronounced; the Hokies are 4-15 O/U in their last 19 October games and have converted the under eight times in their last nine meetings with teams above .500. We think the Fighting Irish will put up points, but we’re not sure we can say the same about the Hokies. We suggest you roll with the trends here.
Prediction: Under 55 (-110)
The Fighting Irish don’t often give a touchdown or more on the road, but they’ve fared well in those situations in recent history, covering three straight times – including twice last season, winning those games by a combined 52 points. And while the Hokies have covered in 11 of their previous 15 home games, they come into this one having allowed an average of more than 300 passing yards on the season and will likely struggle to contain a red-hot Book and a talented receiving corps that has already combined for 13 scores. It’s a steep line, but we like the Irish to cover.
Prediction: Notre Dame -7 (-105)