The Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Saturday. The Irish are heavy favorites, coming into the game as a 24.5 point favorite. Surely the Irish will easily handle the Deacs in South Bend? Maybe not.
The Irish have struggled putting away opponents all season. Notre Dame allowed various opponents such as Purdue and Michigan to hang around in games they did not belong in, and they did not exactly step on Boston College's throat in a way you would have expected them to. And that's been when they have been able to get early leads in the first place.
Wake Forest upset heavily favored UNC earlier in the season, but any hope for a conference title went up in smoke the very next week in a flurry of Florida State touchdowns. Three of Wake's losses have been lopsided losses to FSU, Clemson and North Carolina State.
However, the one thing all those schools have in common is an ability to throw the ball down the field with consistency. Notre Dame's passing attack has been feast or famine all year. Notre Dame has rarely shown an ability to consistently throw the ball, and has had to instead rely on the bomb. The bomb may be there against Wake's aggressive defense, but as we've seen, it isn't a consistent weapon in this offense.
Wake Forest is especially adept at stopping the run, which is bad news for Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are especially reliant on their ground game to chew up the field and move the chains. If Wake Forest can maintain that 3.69 yards per carry they've allowed thus far, Notre Dame could be in for another low scoring defensive struggle.
Wake's offense relies almost entirely on short controlled passes. Their running game is non-existent. So Wake is unlikely to even test it much against Notre Dame's sturdy run defense. Instead they are going to force Notre Dame to tackle receivers in space all day. Notre Dame has proven themselves adept at this in the Oklahoma game, but its still not the type of game Notre Dame would like to be playing.
Everett Golson is going to get tested today. Wake's defense uses a variety of formations and can blitz almost anyone from any place on the field at any time. What Wake lacks in athleticism they try to make up for with aggressiveness and confusion. For a freshman quarterback, this could make for a confusing day and a lot of sacks.
All this adds up to another game where Notre Dame could struggle to move the ball for long periods of time. Wake will be very unlikely to score many points against the sturdy Notre Dame defense, but they could manage to hold onto the ball for long periods of time.
Or Notre Dame could finally put it all together and finally blow out one of these cruddy teams instead of playing around with them. But at this point, ten games into the season, we're no longer going to expect that.
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