If you would’ve told me before the season opened that the Irish would beat Michigan and yet be more worried about Wake Forest, I probably would have laughed at you. But four weeks into the season, and Notre Dame looks to be facing its toughest test so far.
Wake Forest isn’t an emotional game like Michigan. And it’s on the road. Despite a freshman quarterback in Sam Hartman, the Demon Deacons have an offense that has both the ability and the tempo to match Notre Dame’s defensive experience and depth. Ultimately, this looks to be the first time this season where the onus is entirely on the Irish offense. Produce, especially in the second half, and the Irish are heading home undefeated to host Stanford. But lose, and things might start to snowball. I’m usually an optimist, but Notre Dame’s offense has done little over three weeks to convince me of the coming responsibility.
Hurricane Florence may be over, but this looks like the perfect storm.
FINAL: Wake Forest 27, Notre Dame 20
Elizabeth Greason — Assistant Managing Editor
Here we are. Week 4. Undefeated. And yet, I’m not all that excited about Notre Dame’s prospects or performance so far, or hopeful for what’s to come. I really thought last weekend the Irish were going to come out strong and blow the Commodores out of the water. And yet, it was another one-score win.
So, this week, I’m not convinced the Irish have what it takes to scrap out a win against Wake Forest, something I never thought I would say. Ultimately, I think it will happen, as Notre Dame’s strong defense and solid strength and conditioning should have what it takes to take on the Demon Deacons’ up-tempo offense, but ultimately it’s going to come down to whether or not the Irish can get into the end zone. Because that’s something they certainly have not been able to locate this season, especially through the air. Field goals just aren’t going to do it in this one.
FINAL: Notre Dame 27, Wake Forest 17
Joe Everett — Sports Editor
Well, it’s been an interesting first three weekends for Notre Dame football, which has yet to beat an opponent by more than eight points this season and yet is still undefeated and ranked as a top-10 team in college football. On the road for the first time this year against Wake Forest, I expect those trends to continue.
The Demon Deacons will present a tough challenge for the Irish, especially with their offensive tempo. Wake Forest averages 93 plays per game (second in the nation), and is the top-ranked total offense (15th) on the entire Irish schedule. I think Wake Forest tests the Irish defensive depth and is able to put a good amount of points on the board, but I see the Irish offense outpacing it by a touchdown.
FINAL: Notre Dame 34, Wake Forest 27
Charlotte Edmonds — Associate Sports Editor
All I want is for one game to shake out the way things are supposed — no surprises, no upsets. That said, I don’t think this weekend will be the stress-free weekend I’m looking for as a Notre Dame fan. Although the Irish have all the capability to dominate the Demon Deacons — a team that’s yet to earn a convincing win, even suffering a home loss to Boston College — Brian Kelly’s team has failed to demonstrate the same urgency they opened the Michigan game with. As some of the bigger matchups quickly approach, Wake Forest is the last opportunity for the Irish to show their capable of showing up, regardless of the opponent.
Although their pure talent will likely earn the Irish their first home win, until they give me a reason to believe otherwise, I’m not convinced they’ll give us anything show stopping in the second half, a move that could prove fatal against next week’s opponent, Stanford.
FINAL: Notre Dame 27, Wake Forest 21
Connor Mulvena — Associate Sports Editor
I’m still wiping the sweat off my sunburnt forehead from Saturday’s game.
Hand up, my predictions have been woefully poor so far this season. I picked Michigan, which missed much to my excitement, I picked the Irish by about 40 against Ball State, and I chose another blowout for the Irish last weekend against Vanderbilt. The trend in these picks, beyond the trend of them being laughably far off, is that most were driven by faith in Notre Dame’s talent despite evidence which pointed in the opposite direction. So this week, I’m going off purely what we’ve seen on the field in these first three weeks, and to me, that is a confused offense, a lackluster defense, an ailing special teams unit, and a disoriented coaching staff.
Wake Forest is coming off a rough ACC loss to Boston College, which has got to sting, and a close call against Ball State failed to whip the Irish back into shape against Vanderbilt. The Deacons will be the straw that broke the camel’s back.