Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:57 AM
Virginia at Notre Dame
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Virginia Cavaliers at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Venue/Location: Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, IN
Time/TV: Saturday, Sept. 28, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: Notre Dame -11.5, Total 48.5
Notre Dame might have lost for the first time this year at Georgia last week, but there’s no doubt that the Fighting Irish earned the respect of many across the country in defeat.
At least they did with this scribe. I had obviously undervalued Brian Kelly’s team, who I moved up from No. 15 to No. 11 in my Power Rankings after dropping a 23-17 decision in Athens.
Notre Dame (2-1 straight up, 2-1 against the spread) returns to South Bend on Saturday to host unbeaten Virginia. As of Friday afternoon, most betting shops had the Fighting Irish installed as a 11-point home favorite with a total of 48.5. The Cavaliers were +350 on the money line (risk $100 to win $350).
Kelly’s team easily covered the spread as a 15.5-point road underdog against UGA in Athens. After a scoreless first quarter, Notre Dame drew first blood on a one-yard touchdown pass from Ian Book to Cole Kmet. UGA answered to knot the game at 7-7 on a three-yard TD run by D’Andre Swift with 2:27 left in the second quarter.
The Fighting Irish went to halftime with a 10-7 advantage, though, thanks to Jonathan Doerer’s 27-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship tied the game with a 40-yard field goal for the Bulldogs with 8:31 left in the third quarter. Blankenship added a 31-yarder with 4:21 remaining in the third to give UGA its first lead of the game.
Kirby Smart’s club went ahead 20-10 on a Jake Fromm TD pass early in the third quarter, and the Bulldogs took a 13-point lead on Blankenship’s 43-yard FG with 6:54 left. Book found Chase Claypool for a four-yard TD pass with 3:12 remaining to cut the deficit to 23-17.
UGA held on to preserve the victory. The Bulldogs held Notre Dame on a pair of fourth-down attempts and intercepted Book twice. The Fighting Irish were flagged 12 times for 85 yards.
Notre Dame opened the year with a 35-17 win at Louisville as a 19-point road favorite. After an open date, the Fighting Irish destroyed New Mexico 66-14 as a 34.5-point home favorite.
Book has connected on 61.7 percent of his passes for 828 yards with an 8/2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The junior signal caller has also run for 145 yards and two TDs, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
Tony Jones has run for a team-best 148 yards and one TD, averaging 4.9 YPC. Jones has carried a heavier load since RB Jafar Armstrong went down with a groin injury in the opener. Armstrong isn’t expected back for another week or two. He had seven rushing TDs and a 5.3 YPC average in 2018.
Claypool has a team-high 15 receptions for 256 yards and two TDs. Javon McKinley also has a pair of TD grabs, while Kmet has nine catches for 108 yards and one TD.
Notre Dame is ranked 24th in the country in scoring, averaging 39.3 points per game. The Fighting Irish is holding opponents to an 18.0 PPG average to rank 29th in the nation in scoring ‘D.’
Virginia (4-0 SU, 2-1-1 ATS) was my favorite season win total over the summer. I backed the Cavs to go ‘over’ 7.5 victories and to make the program’s first appearance in the ACC Championship Game. All is well on that front to date, but there are some questions lingering from UVA’s last two results.
Bronco Mendenhall’s squad opened the season in extremely impressive fashion, downing Pittsburgh (where UCF just lost this past Saturday) 30-14 as a 2.5-point road favorite. Then in Week 2, Virginia trounced William & Mary by a 52-17 count and took the cash as a 32-point home ‘chalk.’
However, UVA’s last two wins have been a little shaky. First, the Cavs trailed Florida State 14-10 at intermission when hosting the Seminoles two weeks ago. They needed a two-yard touchdown run from Wayne Taulapapa with 2:34 remaining to take the lead. QB Bryce Perkins’s three-yard run for the two-point conversion gave UVA a 31-24 advantage, and the lead stuck when the defense held off FSU’s last-gasp drive.
The two-point conversion run by Mitchell was critical for bettors on the total, as it sent the 55 combined points ‘over’ the 54-point total. The 31-24 win resulted in a push with UVA closing as a seven-point home favorite.
Mitchell completed 30-of-40 passes for 295 yards and one TD against the ‘Noles, but he was intercepted twice. He rushed for 46 yards on 12 attempts, while Taulapapa ran for 53 yards and three TDs on 18 carries. Joe Reed had eight receptions for 83 yards and one TD.
Mendenhall’s bunch fell in a vintage look-ahead scenario last week at home against Old Dominion. Maybe bettors will chalk up UVA’s lackluster effort to the look-ahead factor, but maybe not after considering some of the following factoids.
ODU jumped out to a 17-0 lead and took a 17-7 advantage into halftime. With the ball and a 10-point lead, the Monarchs lost all momentum when Virginia’s Zane Zandier intercepted Stone Smartt and returned the pick 22 yards for a touchdown.
UVA took its first lead at 21-17 on a seven-yard TD run by Taulapapa with 10:16 remaining. Perkins found Reed on a 25-yard scoring strike with 7:33 left to provide the final scoring in a 28-17 victory, but ODU easily covered the number as a 27-point road underdog.
ODU had more first downs (16-14) and total offense (270-244) than the Cavs. Perkins completed 15-of-24 throws for 175 yards and one TD without an interception. He had 35 rushing yards and one TD on 14 carries, while Taulapapa was limited to 33 rushing yards on 11 attempts.
For the season, Perkins has completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 843 yards with a 6/4 TD-INT ratio. He’s also rushed for a team-best 193 yards and two TDs. Taulapapa has 152 rushing yards and five TDs, but he’s been limited to 3.9 YPC.
Reed has been Perkins’s favorite target, hauling in 23 catches for 215 yards and three TDs. Hasise Dubois has 16 receptions for 191 yards and one TD, while Terrell Jana has 15 grabs for 174 yards. Reed is also a factor on special teams, returning eight kicks for 302 yards and one TD.
Virginia returned eight starters from a 2018 defense that gave up only 20.1 PPG. This unit is currently ranked 14th in the nation in total defense, 11th at defending the run, 34th in pass defense and 30th in scoring ‘D’ (18.0 PPG). Zandier leads this group with a team-high 29 tackles.
As a road underdog during Mendenhall’s four-year tenure, UVA has compiled an 8-7 spread record. The Cavs are 4-5 ATS with one outright win (42-23 at Boise State as 13-point ‘dogs) in nine games as double-digit ‘dogs on Mendenhall’s watch. This is UVA first double-digit underdog spot since taking the money in a 44-28 loss at second-ranked Miami as a 19.5-point puppy in its next-to-last regular season game in 2017.
Totals have been an overall wash (2-2) for UVA to date, but the 44 combined points dipped ‘under’ the 46-point tally in its lone road assignment at Pitt.
The ‘under’ is 2-1 for Notre Dame, but the ‘over’ hit in its only home game vs. UNM when the 80 combined points went North of the 64-point total.
Notre Dame is 22-24-3 ATS in 49 games as home favorite during Kelly’s 10-year tenure. The Irish have won 12 consecutive home games since losing to Georgia in Week 2 of the 2017 campaign.
These schools haven’t met since 2015 when Notre Dame captured a 34-27 win at UVA on Sept. 12 of 2015, but the Cavs covered the spread as 13.5-point home underdogs. The only other meeting was in 1989 when the Irish won 35-13 as an 18.5-point home favorite.
Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Eastern on NBC.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
Note: All spreads mentioned were as of late Friday afternoon.
-- Virginia is looking to become 5-0 for the first time since 2004.
-- Stanford QB K.J. Costello is ‘out’ at Oregon State due to an undisclosed injury.
-- East Carolina, a three-point underdog at Old Dominion, is mired in a 3-13-1 ATS slump in its 17 games as a road underdog since 2016. The Pirates have won outright just once in their last 18 road assignments.
-- Washington State owns a 16-5 spread record in its past 21 games as a road underdog. The Cougars, who are looking to bounce back from a stunning 67-63 loss to UCLA, are catching six points at Utah. The Utes had their star QB Tyler Huntley (5/0 TD-INT) upgraded to ‘probable’ on Wednesday, while RB Zack Moss was downgraded to ‘doubtful’ after leaving last week’s 30-23 loss at USC with a first-half injury. Washington State has won four games in a row over Utah.
-- Northwestern, a 24.5-point underdog at Wisconsin for a noon Eastern kick on ABC, is 24-10 ATS in 34 games as a road underdog since 2009. However, I’m endorsing a play on the Badgers -7 in the first quarter if you can find one.
-- Northwestern QB Hunter Johnson might be the country’s most disappointing player. The former 5-star recruit to Clemson has completed only 48.5 percent of his passes for the Wildcats. Johnson has 308 passing yards and an abysmal ¼ TD-INT ratio.
-- As of late Friday afternoon, several QBs remained ‘questionable’ for Saturday’s games, including Purdue’s Elijah Sindelar, Indiana’s Michael Pinix, Ole Miss’s Matt Corral, FSU’s James Blackman and Mississippi State’s Tommy Stevens.
-- Kentucky has won five games in a row over South Carolina, which is a three-point home favorite against the Wildcats for a 7:30 p.m. Eastern kick on the SEC Network. Both team’s QBs – Ryan Hilinski and Sawyer Smith – were upgraded to ‘probable’ earlier this week.
-- Colorado State has already lost QB Collin Hill, who had an 8/2 TD-INT ratio in the Rams’ first three games, to a season-ending injury. Now CSU will probably be without two of its other best offensive players for its Mountain West Conference opener Saturday at Utah State. RB Marvin Kinsey and WR Warren Jackson are both listed as ‘doubtful.’ Kinsey is second in the nation in rushing yards (556) with three TDs and an 8.2 YPC average. He also has 11 receptions for 165 yards and two TDs. Jackson has 31 catches for 327 yards and three TDs.
-- Arkansas State lost starting QB Logan Bonner to season-ending thumb surgery on Wednesday. Bonner had thrown for 1,052 yards with a 10/1 TD-INT ratio for the Red Wolves, who are seven-point underdogs Saturday at Troy. They’ve limped to a 4-8 ATS record in their past 12 games as road underdogs.
-- Similar to my first-quarter bet on Wisconsin, I’m ok with laying -10 on Alabamas vs. Ole Miss in the opening stanza.
-- Tua Tagovailoa remains the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy at around a +180 price at most books. The next-shortest odds in the +350 neighborhood belong to LSU’s Joe Burrow, who had 75/1 Heisman odds at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi (an MGM Resorts property) when I was there in August. Burrow has completed 80.6 percent of his passes for 1,520 yards with a 17/2 TD-INT ratio.
-- Boise State lost its leading tackler in last Friday’s 31-19 home win over Air Force. Sophomore LB Ezekiel Noa suffered a broken wrist and tore his ACL against the Falcons. Noa had a team-best 28 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and one QB hurry in four games.
-- Kansas State owns an incredible 24-8 spread record as a road underdog since 2010. The unbeaten Wildcats have had two weeks to prepare for Saturday’s game at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are 31-21-2 ATS as home ‘chalk’ since 2009. Most spots had Mike Gundy’s team as a 4.5-point favorite Friday afternoon.
-- West Virginia offensive guard Josh Sills is out for the year with a shoulder injury. Sills was a second-team All-Big-12 selection in 2018.
-- Norhtern Illinois senior MLB Kyle Pugh is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Pugh was a second-team All-MAC choice last year when he had 106 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 3.5 TFL’s. The Huskies are 6.5-point underdogs Saturday at winless Vanderbilt. They collide in Nashville at noon Eastern on the SEC Network.
-- Extra non-CFB Nugget: I LOVE Khalil Rountree as a -120 favorite (at Westgate SuperBook as of Friday afternoon) vs. Ion Cutelaba at Saturday’s UFC Copenhagen show!
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.