Notre Dame Football Primer: Wake Forest ’17

Notre Dame is coming off another convincing win against a top 15 team last weekend that has them ranked 3rd in the first CFP rankings. Mike Elko’s former team, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons visit South Bend this weekend. While, they are not currently ranked, they present a formidable challenge for the Irish. This week is yet another step closer towards the playoffs for the Irish.

What you Need to Know

  • Game Time: November 4th, 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC
  • Location: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana
  • Matchup: Notre Dame leads the all-time series 3-0 (Last Meeting 2015; Notre Dame won 28-7)
  • Current Odds: Notre Dame -14.0
  • GameDay Events: The Pep Rally will be held at 6:00 p.m. at the Compton Family Ice Arena. For more details on weekend events visit http://gameday.nd.edu/events/calendar/2017-wakeforest/

Game Day Weather

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Wake Forest Details

  • Conference: ACC
  • Head Coach: Dave Clawson
  • 2017 Record: 5-3
  • 2016 Record: 7-6

Wake Forest Storylines

Familiarity for Clawson-Elko. Dave Clawson brings his Wake Forest team into Notre Dame Stadium, where the Irish have been playing their best football in years. He will be facing off against his former defensive coordinator, Mike Elko. Elko helped to get the most out of his players while at Wake Forest, and the Demon Deacons would like nothing more than to upset his Irish this weekend.

Wake Without Their Star.  Standout freshman receiver Greg Dortch will miss Saturday’s game, as well as the remainder of the season due to abdominal surgery. Dortch set a Wake Forest record last week with 4 touchdown receptions to go along with his 167 yards. Dortch had 53 receptions for 722 yards, and 9 touchdowns. This is a major setback for a Demon Deacon Offense that was really started to heat up.

Another Accurate QB for the Irish Secondary.  Wake Forest Quarterback John Wolford is having an impressive year both through the air and on the ground. Wolford has a 65.7% completion percentage, 15 touchdowns, and only 2 interceptions. He has been extremely good at protecting the football, similar to NC State’s Finley, who the Irish faced last week.

John Wolford also has 74 carries for 341 yards along with 6 more rushing touchdowns. He remarkably is the leading rusher for the Demon Deacons.

Notre Dame Storylines

Notre Dame defense rolling.  I’m going to talk about defense first this week. All the credit has been given to the offensive line, as well as it should, but this has caused some people to overlook this defense. The Irish have still only allowed 1 rushing touchdown! Just one through 8 games, who predicted that heading into this season?

Can the D keep the streak alive? Notre Dame is the only team in the country to not allow over 20 points in a single game. Yes, even the Alabama Crimson Tide gave up 23 points to Colorado State. This defense has gotten pressure on the quarterback, stopped the run, tackled well, and the secondary has shown up in a big way. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a Notre Dame secondary play that aggressive against an elite opponent. Cornerbacks and even linebackers such as Drue Tranquill were jumping routes, shutting down pass attempts.

Look for this defense only to improve as this is only year one with Mike Elko.

Will the Notre Dame OL continue opening massive holes? Okay, now I’ll talk about the Irish offensive line. The Irish faced the #6 ranked rushing defense last week.  No opponent had rushed for over 100 yards against the Wolfpack. At the end of the game, Josh Adams alone had over 200 yards. If the Irish want to win this game, as well as the remaining four games on the schedule, the offensive line has to continue to dominate opponents.

Is this the week Kevin Stepherson explodes?  Stepherson is here to stay! After sitting out almost the entire first half of the season, Kevin Stepherson has scored a touchdown in each of the last two games. His speed is something that can’t be taught. I still believe Stepherson is due for a few more big plays on offense. If the Irish want to become a great team, Wimbush is going to have to hit Stepherson or St. Brown down field, to keep defenses from loading up against the run when the Irish face top notch competition.

Head to Head Matchups

Notre Dame Offense vs. Wake Forest Defense – Advantage Irish- This Notre Dame OL has dominated opponents since the loss to Georgia. This team is extremely physical. Even tight ends and wide receivers are getting pancake blocks against competition.

Wimbush and the passing game continues to develop each week. Along with Wimbush’s ability to run the ball, this makes it extremely difficult for opposing defenses to stop. Wake Forest comes in allowing only 21 points per game, but the Irish have a clear advantage in this matchup.

Wake Forest Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense – Advantage Notre Dame- For the second straight week the Irish will be facing a top tier quarterback who rarely turns the ball over. The Irish were able to force NC State to turn the ball over once last week (although it was because the quarterback thought Notre Dame was offsides and it was a free play). Wake Forest may struggle this week without their top target, Dortch, who is a key factor in their offense.

If Wake Forest wants to move the ball it will have to be through the air, because the Irish have shown that they can stop the run.

Special Teams – Even- Notre Dame was caught sleeping last week when the Wolfpack had 5 guys lined up against Notre Dame’s 3 blockers on the right side of the line. There was a jail break and Tyler Newsome had no chance. Look for the Irish to punt blocking up this week at practice.

Notre Dame hasn’t seen much of Justin Yoon beyond extra points this season, which is a good thing. His counterpart, Mike Weaver is 11 for 13 on field goals this season, which is a solid season.

The Irish have yet to return a kickoff or punt back for a touchdown this season, and are long overdue. Unfortunately for Wake Forst Greg Dortch was also their punt returner and kick returner. There is no real distinction in the special teams department, both teams are even.

My Prediction

Last week I predicted the Irish to win 35 to 17, they won 35 to 14. This week it will be a little tougher game to predict. The Irish are favored by 14, but I expect them to blow past the mark. If the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets could score 38 points and rush for 427 yards against the Demon Deacon Defense, what makes anyone think the Irish can’t do the same?

I don’t think this is a trap game for Notre Dame, they are too determined this year. It may be a two-score game at halftime, but it will be up to Kelly on how much Notre Dame wants to score in the second half. I have the Irish winning by 29 points this week.

My Prediction: Notre Dame 42 Wake Forest 13

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3 Comments

  1. Michael, your prediction is to bloated. Think the Irish will keep a comfy two td margin. Then put in reserves to coast home like last week. Remember these are college kids and the Elko connection, “we’ll show Elko” mentality. WF will play like Navy teams. They have nothing to lose, even Bowl bound themselves. They will do the unexpected and get 20+ before they depart Notre Dame Stadium.

  2. Nice summary. I have to say that I wasn’t seeing improvement in the passing game early in the season but… I was wrong! I really noticed it last week. I think it was in the third quarter when Wimbush was flushed out of the pocket to his left. There was plenty of room for him to take off but he didn’t. Instead he settled in nicely and spotted a receiver. I am realyl liking this newfound patience. Bravo Wimbush and bravo Chip Long. There is real evidence of coaching – and as an early blog noted – evidence of player development.

    I am with you on the Wake Forest side of things. I cannot see them putting up more than 13 or 14 points against this defence. Elko has this group hungry and very, very team oriented. It’s notoo often that you see a solo tackle, i.e., it’s usually a gang tackle.

    I am also with you on special teams. Time for them to start making a difference.

    Go Irish!!!!

  3. Good piece. I agree that this is not a “trap” game because the Irish are too focused. Having just been named to a playoff position, they are going to work hard to justify that judgment. No let up for the Irish this week-end. They will bring it all and Wimbush and Adams will not play most of the fourth quarter.

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