Wake Forest (5-5) at (3) Notre Dame (10-0)|
Saturday, November 17, 3:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The third-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish continue their run at a
perfect season when they welcome the Wake Forest Demon Deacons to South Bend
for the first-time ever.
The Irish knocked off Boston College in Chestnut Hill last weekend, 21-6 to
move to 10-0 on the year. It marks the eighth time the team has started a
season with 10 straight wins. Five of those campaigns ended in a national
title. Still, sitting at third in the BCS rankings, the general thinking is
that Brian Kelly's team will need some help to earn one of the two spots in
Miami on January 7th.
Jim Grobe's Demon Deacons have no national title aspirations, but they are
still in the hunt to become bowl eligible. At 5-5 overall, a sixth win would
make Wake Forest bowl eligible for the fifth time in the last seven years. The
team's first bid at that elusive sixth victory has come and gone with last
weekend's 37-6 lopsided loss at NC State.
Grobe doesn't view Notre Dame's close games as a sign of weakness.
"I think what you find is that most good team find a way to win. It's not
always the prettiest win, but a win is a win and they've won them all. You
know that they know how to do it. I think if you have a chance late, you have
to make plays. We have a big challenge. This is a really good Notre Dame
Notre Dame won the first-ever meeting between the two schools, 24-17, last
year in Winston-Salem.
The Demon Deacons have been wildly inconsistent on the offensive side of the
football this year and come into this contest after managing a mere 185 yards
of total offense against the Wolfpack. That certainly isn't something to feel
good about heading into South Bend against one of the most dominant defenses
in the country.
On the season, the numbers have been mediocre at best, with the team averaging
just 309.7 yards of total offense.
Quarterback Tanner Price has struggled this season, connecting on just 55.4
percent of his throws, for 1,965 yards, with 12 touchdowns and six
interceptions. The team's top offensive threat, wideout Mike Campanaro, has
flourished despite missing time with an injury and having to deal with
inconsistent offensive play. He leads the team in receptions (65), receiving
yards (618) and TD catches (6). Tailback Josh Harris (607 yards, five TDs)
leads the Wake ground game, but has also struggled to produce on a regular
Still, Brian Kelly thinks highly of Wake's skilled players.
"Campanaro on offense gave us fits last year; Tanner Price is very elusive in
the pocket, can make plays, extend plays. Harris is the veteran running back.
You know the guys on offense."
Much like the offense, the Wake Forest defense has been vastly uninspiring.
The Demon Deacons are yielding just under 30 points per game (28.9), while
allowing 417.8 yards per game.
Linebacker Justin Jackson leads the team in tackles (75), TFLs (8.5) and is
tied with defensive end Zach Thompson (48 tackles) for the team lead in sacks
Notre Dame is averaging just over 400 yards of offense per game, but the team
is far from an offensive juggernaut.
Young quarterback Everett Golson has shown flashes of brilliant play, but does
seem to be getting better with each game. He has completed 58 percent of his
passes, for 1,572 yards, with eight TDs against four INTs. The Irish do call
on veteran QB Tommy Rees and he has also aided in a couple of wins.
Still, this is an offense predicated on the run and Notre Dame does that quite
effectively, averaging almost 200 yards per game (198.7). Instead of using a
workhorse in the backfield, the Irish have employed several rushers. Theo
Riddick (714 yards, 4.6 ypc, four TDs), Cierre Wood (570 yards, 6.3 ypc, three
TDs), George Atkinson III (312 yards, 7.4 ypc, four TDs) and Golson (258
yards, five TDs) have all made sizeable contributions on the ground.
Make no mistake about it, Notre Dame's success has been the result of stingy
defensive play. One of the top units in the country, Notre Dame is allowing a
meager 11.1 ppg (second nationally), while showing equal disdain for the run
(sixth nationally at 95.9 ypg) and the pass (24th nationally at 199.3 ypg).
There are a number of playmakers on the Notre Dame defense, but the undeniable
leader is two-time All-American Manti Te'o. The senior middle linebacker has
had an incredible season thus far, posting a team-high 92 tackles, with 5.5
TFLs, 1.5 sacks, six interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Prince Shembo
has been a bit overshadowed in the linebacking corps by Te'o, but has put up
big numbers himself (43 tackles, 10.0 TFLs, 7.0 sacks). The secondary features
standouts Bennett Jackson (52 tackles, four INTs) and Zeke Motta (52 tackles),
while Stephon Tuitt has been a monster along the defensive front (37 tackles,
12.0 TFLs, 11.0 sacks).
The Demon Deacons lack the offensive weapons to provide a stiff challenge to
the Irish, especially on their home field. Expect Notre Dame to dominate on
both sides of the ball, setting up a monumental showdown with USC to finish
off the regular season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Notre Dame 43, Wake Forest 10
11/14 10:47:55 ET