The Fighting Irish are coming off another single digit win against the Vanderbilt Commodores. Notre Dame is hitting the road for the first time this season to play a familiar opponent in the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Last fall, the Demon Deacons gave the Irish all they could handle. As the Irish struggle to find an identity on offense they will be tested in Winston Salem, North Carolina for a noon kickoff.
Essential Game Info:
- Game Time: September 22nd at 12:00 p.m. ET on ABC
- Location: BB & T Field, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
- Matchup: Notre Dame leads the all-time series 4-0 (Last Meeting: Notre Dame beat Wake Forest 48-37 last season)
- Current Odds: Notre Dame -8.0
South Bend Weather Forecast
The current forecast for GameDay shows a 50 % chance of rain with a high of 85 degrees and a low of 66. Below is a look at the next 5 days leading up to the game (this will automatically update to be the most recent 5 days throughout the week).
Wake Forest Details:
- Conference: ACC
- Head Coach: Dave Clawson
- 2018 Record: 2-1
- 2017 Record: 8-5
Wake Forest Storylines:
Familiar Opponent. This will be the 5th meeting between the Demon Deacons and Fighting Irish in the last 8 seasons. Both programs are quite familiar with one another, and the Demon Deacons are hungry for their first win in this series
Last fall, Wake Forest took Notre Dame down to the wire and exposed weaknesses on the defensive side of the ball. However, Wake Forest has replaced John Wolford who had 28 completions, 331 yards passing yards, and 2 passing touchdowns against the Irish a season ago. Wolford also ran for 59 yards and a touchdown last year on Mike Elko’s Defense.
Inexperienced Quarterback for Demon Deacons. Replacing John Wolford from a season ago is true freshman quarterback Sam Hartman. The 6’1” Quarterback is 68 for 123 on the season (55.3%), with 6 passing touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. He is a dual threat with 193 rushing yards and 1 rushing touchdown.
The Key matchup for this game will be the Irish Defense against Sam Hartman. The major advantage is with the experienced Notre Dame Defense. But a season ago the Wake Forest Offense put up 38 points at Notre Dame Stadium. If the Irish Defense is on the field the whole game, Sam Hartman’s running ability and up-tempo offense of Wake Forest could wear the Irish down.
Key Players for the Demon Deacons. The running backs are headlined by Cade Carney and Matt Colburn. Carney has 53 carries for 300 yards and 2 touchdowns. Colburn has 48 attempts for 196 yards and a single touchdown. Wake Forest’s two main receiving targets are Greg Dortch and Sage Surratt. Dortch is leading the way with 28 receptions, 446 yards, and1 touchdown. While Surratt has 18 receptions, 263 yards, and 1 touchdown.
Home Field Advantage? Notre Dame will be heading on the road for the first time all season and will not have the support of crowd noise. Nevertheless, BB & T Field is not exactly a hostile environment like the Irish are accustomed to facing. The Stadium only holds 31,500 fans (closer to 40,000 with standing room) and expect a decent contingent of Notre Dame fans. Although it’s not a hostile environment, the level of difficulty will be higher than previous weeks.
Notre Dame Storylines:
Running Game improved tremendously. The Fighting Irish tallied 245 yards and 5.1 yards per carry against an SEC Defense last weekend. This was a major improvement from the 2.9 yards per carry against Ball State. Tony Jones Jr. had an outstanding performance with 17 carries and 118 yards.
Brandon Wimbush was second on the team with 19 carries for 84 yards, a running attack that was clearly missing against Ball State. Jafar Armstrong continued to improve as he makes the transition from wide receiver to running back, Armstrong had 46 yards.
Offense struggles in red zone. The running game clearly improved last weekend, while Ian Book and Brandon Wimbush combined for 16 of 26 in the passing game. The main issue was red zone execution. Last season, the Irish scored on almost every single red zone trip, but this past weekend Notre Dame really struggled.
Once the Notre Dame Offense got into Vanderbilt territory they seemed to slow down. Yoon attempted 4 field goals and made three. Settling for field goals almost cost the Irish the game and will not help the Irish beat better competition moving forward.
Irish Defense gives up 326 yards through air. For the 3rd straight week the Fighting Irish Defense was matched up against a veteran quarterback. Kyle Shurmur torched the Notre Dame Secondary for 26 completions and 326 yards. Clark Lea was clearly playing bend but don’t break defense for most of the game, but 326 is still not good for the defense.
Both the Irish Secondary and pass rush need to take responsibility. Notre Dame has only had a total of 2 sacks the last two weeks. Even though the Irish Defensive Line has been held constantly the past two weeks, there is still no excuse for that production.
Notre Dame will be matched up against true freshman quarterback, Sam Hartman. He already has 5 interceptions on the season, and the Irish Defense has already forced 7 turnovers this year. The turnover battle will decide this game.
Head to Head Matchups:
Notre Dame Offense vs. Wake Forest Defense. The Fighting Irish Offense has averaged 23.3 points per game. Last week alone, the Demon Deacons gave up 41 points to Boston College. The Boston College Eagles put up 220 yards rushing and 304 passing yards on the Wake Forest Defense.
If there is any game that Notre Dame will have an offensive explosion, it would be this one. It appeared last week they showed tremendous improvements in the running game with 245 yards on the ground. Although Notre Dame hasn’t put up much points on offense, I’m giving them the slight edge in this week 4 matchup.
Advantage Notre Dame
Wake Forest Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense. The Wake Forest Offense has been dynamic through the first 3 weeks, it’s the defense who lost the Demon Deacons the game last week. Sam Hartman had 214 yards passing and 65 rushing yards against the Boston College Eagles but threw for 2 interceptions.
The dual threat of Sam Hartman and the up-tempo style that the Demon Deacons play with can cause trouble for the Irish Defense. I’m interested to see how they play on the road as well. Nevertheless, Hartman has 5 interceptions in 3 games and is a true freshman; I give the advantage to the veteran Notre Dame Defense.
Advantage Notre Dame
Special Teams. The Notre Dame Special Teams showed tremendous improvement last weekend. Every single kickoff was in-bounds, and most were touchbacks. Tyler Newsom averaged 59.6 yards on his punts and came up with a clutch punt at the end of the game that totaled 63 yards. Justin Yoon also went 3 for 4 on field goals.
Wake Forest is headlined by punter Dom Maggio who averaged 44.3 yards per punt, and kicker Nick Sciba who is 6 for 7 on the season. For the first time this season I give the Irish the advantage in the special teams department.
Well I just gave Notre Dame the advantage in every single category, even though they haven’t beaten an opponent by more than 8 points all season. The Irish Offense looked good on the ground last week. The only problem was putting up touchdowns on the board instead of field goals. I believe this week they will be more efficient in the red zone and score the most points they have all season.
Wake Forest has a true freshman quarterback that has struggled throwing interceptions. But most quarterbacks seem to have their best games against the Irish. His dual threat will present many challenges for the Irish. But I think the Notre Dame Defense will force 2/3 turnovers in this matchup.
Yes, Notre Dame is the better team all around the board. However, this game is being played on the road and right before a monumental matchup against Stanford. If the Irish are looking ahead, they will lose this game. I have the Irish winning by a touchdown this weekend.
Prediction: Notre Dame 31 Wake Forest 24