Predictions: Notre Dame vs. Wake Forest


The Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team will play its final home game of the 2015 season tomorrow, hosting Wake Forest on Senior Day. The Demon Deacons will stumble into Notre Dame Stadium with a 3-6 record, losers of their last 3 games. The Irish, meanwhile, sit at 8-1 on the year, and have moved into the number 4 spot in the College Football Playoff Rankings. For ND, this game stands as another stepping stone on the road to Stanford and a possible berth in the College Football Playoff.

Wake Forest’s offense has been, for the most part, pretty abysmal this season, ranked 112th in total offense (340 yards per game) and 116th in scoring (18.7 points per game). And while their rushing attack is among the worst in the country (just 110 yards per game), they are actually fairly mediocre passing the ball, putting up about 230 yards through the air each game. That passing attack is led by a pair of quarterbacks, John Wolford and Kendall Hinton. Wolford has thrown for 1143 yards at a 59.5% clip, tossing 7 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Hinton, who also leads the team in rushing with 316 yards and 6 touchdowns, has thrown for 907 yards of his own to go along with 3 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.

These numbers certainly aren’t intimidating, but at the same time, the Notre Dame secondary has constantly let inferior teams convert big plays over the top. Look for Wake Forest receivers Cortez Lewis (36 receptions, 468 yards, 2 TD, and a long reception of 78 yards), Cam Serigne (38 catches, 410 yards, 3 TD), and K.J. Brent (31 catches, 408 yards, 1 TD, and a long catch of 51 yards) to attempt to catch the Irish defensive backs napping and break open some big gains behind the secondary.

Editor Andrew HallNotre Dame 34, Wake Forest 17
Editor Joshua VowlesNotre Dame 45, Wake Forest 13
Staff Writer Walt KosinNotre Dame 38, Wake Forest 14
Staff Writer Chase EyrichNotre Dame 38, Wake Forest 17
Staff Writer Manny De JesusNotre Dame 41, Wake Forest 13
Staff Writer Pat SullivanNotre Dame 44, Wake Forest 16

Meanwhile, the running game for Wake Forest shouldn’t scare Irish fans one bit. Hinton is their best runner, and certainly capable of breaking off a big run (long run on the season of 69 yards). However, his 3.9 yards per carry is the best among the Demon Deacon ball carriers, as RBs Tyler Bell and Matt Colburn, their next two leading rushers, average 3.2 and 3.6 yards per carry, respectively. The Wake Forest offensive line is going to struggle to block Sheldon Day and Isaac Rochell, allowing Jaylon Smith and Joe Schmidt to fill open gaps and make tackles. I expect Wake Forest to be forced to try to make plays through the air, and hopefully with a decent pass rush from Day and senior Romeo Okwara and co., some pressure will force a few turnovers.

The Wake Forest defense actually rates pretty well compared to the rest of the country, as they are tied with Florida State at 32nd in total defense (344 yards per game) and tied with Ole Miss at 42nd in scoring defense, allowing just 23 points per game. Especially stout against the pass (184.2 yards per game, 20th in the country), the Demon Deacons look like a tough test, at least at first glance. However, they have been torched by all of the proficient offenses they have faced, and considering how well ND performed offensively against Pittsburgh last week, expect no difference in how this game plays out. Wake will be without starting DT Josh Banks, who has been suspended for the final 3 games of the season for a violation of team rules. The brunt of the defensive load will be thrust onto the shoulders of LB Brandon Chubb (team-leading 78 tackles, 6.5 TFL), DB Brad Watson (51 tackles, 1 INT, 10 pass break-ups, 1 forced fumble), LB Marquel Lee (49 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3 sacks), and LB Hunter Williams (47 tackles, 6 TFL, 2 sacks). The pass rushing abilities of DL Duke Ejiofor (4.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks) will also come into play, as Wake will need him to get to Kizer to stand any sort of chance of stopping the Irish passing attack.

More from Slap the Sign

Nov 7, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Josh Adams (33) scores a on five yard touchdown pass against Pittsburgh Panthers defensive backs Pat Amara Jr. (25) and Jordan Whitehead (9) during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Notre Dame won 42-30. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With C.J. Prosise nursing shoulder and head injuries after last week, expect the Irish to rely heavily on freshman RB Josh Adams (147 yards vs. Pitt), QB DeShone Kizer, and probably also freshman RB Dexter Williams to move the ball on the ground behind that rock-solid offensive line. Once the run is established, Kizer will certainly throw a few deep balls to WR Will Fuller and open it up a bit with WRs Chris Brown and Torii Hunter Jr., but the main strategy will likely be to control the game on the ground and dominate Wake Forest at the line of scrimmage, minimizing injuries all the while.

I don’t see this game being close, and think it could end up being similar to 2012, when Notre Dame also hosted Senior Day against Wake Forest and won 38-0 in a rout. Kizer, Fuller, Adams, and the rest should put up plenty of points essentially at-will, and the Irish defense should be able to, at least for the most part (factoring in the occasional brain fart from the secondary), shut down the Demon Deacons offense. By the end of the 3rd quarter, freshman QB Brandon Wimbush and the rest of the 2nd string should be in the game and earning some experience, along with any seniors who aren’t everyday players. I think Notre Dame takes care of this one easily and moves on to face Boston College at Fenway Park with a 9-1 record and College Football Playoff dreams still intact.