Blue and Gold Illustrated

June July 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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36 JUNE/JULY 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED Notable Stat Virginia Tech has been to a bowl game 25 straight years, the second lon- gest current streak to Florida State's 36. Georgia is third at 21. The second longest among 2018 Irish opponents is Stanford with nine. Summary Because Virginia Tech and the regular-season finale at USC are on the road, those two outings might be considered one-two (in no particular order) for most challenging games on the 2018 Notre Dame slate. If the de- fense can jell, Virginia Tech could win its second ACC Coastal Division title in three seasons. Pittsburgh (5-7) — Oct. 13 Top Three Items Since January • After third-year defensive coordi- nator Josh Conklin accepted the head coaching position at Wofford, Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi hired Randy Bates. Bates will enter his 37th season in the profession, the past 12 as the linebackers coach at Northwestern. • Bates inherits a veteran defense that returns its starting front seven from last season, led by linebacker Oluwaseun Idowu. • Sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett will be counted on to uplift the offense. His first career start helped re- sult in the 24-14 upset of No. 2 Miami in last year's finale when he passed for 193 yards and one score, plus rushed for 60 yards and two touchdowns. Notable Stat In the 12 meetings between Notre Dame and Pitt since 2002, all but two were determined by one score or less, with one of them a 42-30 Irish victory in the most recent encounter (2015). Summary Fourth-year head coach Narduzzi, who thrived as the defensive coordi- nator for Marc Dantonio at Michigan State, needs to see his program make a move after 8-5, 8-5 and 5-7 campaigns. He has a veteran defense that returns nine starters and a quarterback in Pickett who should help improve last year's scoring average of 23.9 points per game (101st in the country and worst at Pitt since 2007). Pitt has often played to the level of its competition, including losses to 4-8 Syracuse and 3-9 North Carolina last year. Navy (7-6) — Oct. 27 Top Three Items Since January • Different packages will be incor- porated for the quarterback tandem of Malcolm Perry and Zach Abey. Perry, who has also played the slot, shined at QB when Abey was injured. Perry ran for 1,182 yards with an average of 8.6 yards per carry, while Abey amassed 1,413 yards on the ground with 19 touchdowns. • Only four starters return on de- fense, a unit that finished strong at the end of last season, highlighted by a 49-7 destruction of Virginia in the Military Bowl. • Last year 's six defeats marked only the second time since 2003 the Midshipmen had more than five losses (5-7 in 2011 was the other). They are 18-6 in the American Athletic Con- ference since joining in 2015. Notable Stat Notre Dame had only six posses- sions against Navy during its loss in 2016 and seven in its 24-17 victory last year. A team will usually average 12 possessions per game (three per quar- ter). Summary The Irish have a bye the week prior, which might help before facing the confounding triple option. There is enormous disparity in NFL talent level between the two teams, but the Navy scheme keeps it competitive and makes it a tough out for just about everyone. Northwestern (10-3) — Nov. 3 Top Three Items Since January • Quarterback Clayton Thorson (7,548 career passing yards, 44 touch- downs) suffered a torn ACL in the Music City Bowl win versus Kentucky, and how ready or functional he can be by the time the season opener at Purdue Aug. 30 arrives is uncertain. • Although the Wildcats hired three new position coaches this winter, 13th- year head coach Pat Fitzgerald (87-65 overall) still has continuity on his staff with offensive coordinator Mike Mc- Call and defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz each entering their 11th sea- sons under him. • Six starters return on both offense (including Thorson) and defense, with the defensive end unit possibly the top strength. Junior Joe Gaziano led the Big Ten in sacks last season with nine, while Samdup Miller added 5.5 as a true freshman. Virginia Tech quarterback Josh Jackson threw for 2,991 yards and 20 touchdowns as a redshirt fresh- man last year while helping the Hokies to a 9-4 mark. PHOTO BY DAVE KNACHEL/COURTESY VIRGINIA TECH ATHLETICS

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