The 10-0 Fighting Irish in a must win scenario against the Demon Deacons to keep the championship drive alive
In their final to last game in what has turned out to be a miracle season The Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-0) are back at home this Saturday in South Bend to host the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-5, 3-5 ACC). Kick off is at 3:30 PM EST and will be broadcast on your local ABC affiliate.
In retaining its unbeaten status Notre Dame got the better of its arch Catholic rival Boston College in Chestnut Hill last week 21-6. The Demon Deacons of Wake Forest were drubbed by its ACC rival North Carolina State Wolfpack 37-6 by. The Fighting Irish and the Demon Deacons met for the first time last year in Winston-Salem in week 9 in a closely contested 24-17 Notre Dame victory. Fighting Irish QB Tommy Reese threw for 188 yards and two touchdowns on that day including one to terrific TE Tyler Eifert
This week’s rematch marks Wake Forest’s first visit to South Bend. The Demon Deacons should get comfortable with their new surroundings, as the Fighting Irish will see them more often on their schedule as a new member of the ACC. This game is important to Wake Forest who need only one more win to become bowl eligible this season.
Notre Dame has a chance to finish undefeated at home for the first time since 1998. The blue and gold’s last home loss came against their long-time west Coast nemesis and final team standing in their way of possible national championship aspirations this season, USC, 31-17 on October 22, 2011.
Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly is not satisfied with the recent wild Fighting Irish success. He hopes to build a South Bend legacy like that of coach Bob Stoops’ in Oklahoma who boasts a robust 80-5 home record. (The fifth loss coming earlier this season to Notre Dame)
"We want to have that kind of legacy. We want to build that kind of dominance at home. The first step is winning all your games at home, which hasn't happened in a long time," Kelly said. "So we actually talked about that yesterday, how important it is for us to finish the season undefeated at home. Our guys know that as a real goal."
Here’s a look at how both Notre Dame and Wake Forest stack up this week:
Notre Dame Offense
QB Everett Golson led Notre Dame over Boston College with 200 plus yards passing (his consecutive 200-yard game) finding WR John Goodman and Sophomore Troy Niklas for touchdowns. He did reliably rush for a score as well, but his arm strength and his improvement in checking runs to passes is making him a more dependable pocket quarterback for the Fighting Irish. Golson should have no trouble scoring on a Wake Forest defense that has given up over 28 points and 400 total yards of offense per game to its opponents this season.
Theo Riddick led the dependable and volatile rushing attack with 104 yards on 18 carries in last week’s Holy War win. He, along with RBs Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III, are averaging 176 yards combined a game making it the 33rd-ranked attack in the country. The Notre Dame offensive line, particularly LT Zack Martin and LG Chris Watt, has ensured the team’s rushing success and solid pass protection for Golson
All-American TE Tyler Eifert will look to repeat last year’s 60-yard receiving, one touchdown performance against the Deamon Deacons in Notre Dame stadium. Eifert can become the most decorated Notre Dame Tight End of all-time with five receptions on Saturday, bringing his total to 128 for his career, breaking the record of Ken MacAfee set in 1977.
Notre Dame Defense
Though ranked third in the nation, the Notre Dame defense is still tops in points scored against (11.1 ppg). Also, No other team has allowed nine TDs besides the Fighting Irish. The center of the defense and the team, Manti T’eo, will “have to make this game count” being the last time he will play in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus being a senior.
His career may be ending but his legend has just begun. Te’o’s six interceptions in 2012 tie him for second in the FBS (and most for any linebacker in 11 years) and place him first in Notre Dame history. He will end his career as only the second to wear the blue and gold and record three 100-tackle seasons (tied with Bob Crabble). The Hawaiian’s eight turnovers (6 interceptions, two fumble recoveries) ties him for second in the FBS. And his two quarterback hurries have also led to two interceptions.
Te’o is still remains a strong Heisman favorite after QB Klein on Kansas State and was recently nominated as a Bronko Ngurski Trophy Finalst awarded to the best defensive college player in the nation as decided by the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club. The last Notre Dame player nominated for this honor was CB Shane Walton in 2002.
Wake Forest Offense
The Demon Deacon offense is one of the worst in the country, ranking only 108th (of 124) in the nation averaging only 20.1 ppg. They have only managed to score more than 14 points twice in the past five games.
The head of the “Weak” Forest offense is QB Tanner Price. Price averages 196.5 ypg passing and has thrown for 12 touchdowns on the year with an efficiency of 111.9. The QB is not afraid to move out of the pocket having rushed for two scores.
Junior WR Michael Campanaro poses a threat to the Irish secondary having accumulated 618 yards and 6 TDs. He recently set a ACC record for receptions in a game with 16 against Boston College. On three occasions Campanaro has caught 10 passes for 100 yards.
FB Tommy Bohanon is also a playmaker at his position. He has 16 receptions over the past six games, including six against Boston College.
Wake Forest Defense
A weak offense is not helped by a lame defense ranked 72nd in the nation in points against. The team has been tough against the run, however. On the season it is giving up 157 ypg rushing and has held three of its last three opponents to fewer than 56 yards on the ground while forcing six fumbles in the past five games. Notre Dame’s backs may be in for a long a day.
LB Justin Jackson is a Demon Deacon defensive stalwart. He leads the squad with 75 tackles and has also racked up 8.5 tackles for a loss and 4 sacks. Jackson will be called upon to try his best to bottle up Golson, Riddick, Wood, and GAIII.
Jackson can count on defensive safety net in the backfield in Junior Safety A.J. Marshall. Besides being Wake Forest’s third leading tackler, the playmaker has two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), 4 pass break ups, and 3 tackles for a loss. Marshall is an usually effective coverage back for a safety.
Prediction: Notre Dame 31 – Wake Forest 10