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And in that corner… The Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Nov 14, 2012, 11:53 AM EDT

Tanner Price

A year after surviving a battle in Winston-Salem, Notre Dame returns the favor, hosting Wake Forest in South Bend, the final home game of the season. For the Irish, every game is must-see TV, with an undefeated season on the line and a home record that’s included nothing but nail-biters. For the Demon Deacons, it an opportunity to play well against a good team, something that hasn’t happened yet this year for Jim Grobe’s squad.

At 5-5, Wake finds itself needing a win against either the Irish or Vanderbilt to become bowl eligible. As a three-touchdown underdog on Saturday, the Deacs will need to play their best game of the season to keep things interesting. Getting us up to speed on the state of Wake Forest football is Martin Rickman, editor of Blogger So Dear.

Can Wake Forest looking to stage one of college football’s more improbable upsets this Saturday? Martin was kind enough to give us a closer look at the Demon Deacons’ chances to steal a victory.

***

1) As you’d expect from a team with a 5-5 record, Wake Forest has had an up and down season. At its best, what is this Demon Deacon team? At its worse, how bad does it get?

At its best, this team is a .500 team. Honestly. The defense is inconsistent and gives too much of a cushion in the secondary. It doesn’t limit big plays. The offensive line is a disaster. Tanner Price doesn’t trust his receivers aside from Michael Campanaro. The running game is unreliable. The playcalling is suspect. The coaching is conservative to a maddening level. Jim Grobe doesn’t trust his players this year, and the schedule is so weak, somehow with all the wounded on the offensive line, the suspensions and the injury to Campanaro in the middle of the season, the team is 5-5 and a win away from bowl eligibility. Funny how that works sometimes.

At its worst, this team lost to Maryland, almost lost to Army, got blasted by Florida State and was embarrassed by N.C. State and Clemson.

2) Last season, Brian Kelly was incredibly complimentary about the personnel Jim Grobe had on the field, and the Deacs played the Irish really tough. He said similar things in his weekly press conference, particularly about the defensive personnel. For someone that’s only seen highlights and box scores, is Kelly just offering coaching flattery or is there some good talent on Jim Grobe’s defense?

There is good talent on the defense, and that is one of the more frustrating issues this season. The defense was supposed to be the strong point. Nikita Whitlock was coming off a spectacular season a year ago, the linebacking corps was retooled and the secondary had some truly gifted athletes. But aside from some nice stretches here and there, the defense has been a huge disappointment. Part of that is from being on the field so much due to the ineptitude of the offense, but some of it is straight getting beat in coverage. A unit that was supposed to be a huge strength is just another representation of a lackluster year overall.

3) How much of the team’s inconsistency can be put on the offensive and defensive lines? What has been the problem there?

The offensive line has been decimated by injuries, but has been better than I expected knowing how patchwork it all was. Honestly, the lack of a consistent No. 2 receiver is one of the biggest issues on the offensive side of the ball. It completely messed with Tanner Price’s psyche.

The defensive line, I don’t know. It was supposed to be solid. But when you go with a scheme that emphasizes speed over size, you have to get to the quarterback and bring pressure. This team does not do a very good job of that.

4) In Tanner Price, Josh Harris, and Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest has three top-flight talents on offense. If the Demon Deacons are going to pull off the upset, what do you expect from them?

It’s going to have to be perfection for the trio. Notre Dame’s defense is second-to-none this season. Wake’s offense has its work cut out for it. But, I’ll play this game. Price needs to make throws in tight windows when he has the opportunity to take shots. Harris needs to fight for yards after contact and break a couple runs into the second level. Campanaro needs to catch everything thrown his way and break tackles. The entire team needs to take care of the football. Let’s start there.

5) A lot of Notre Dame fans are struggling to understand how Kansas State is ranked ahead of the Irish, especially when you look at common opponents and strength of schedule. As someone without a dog in this fight, how do you rank the three remaining undefeated teams? Where does Notre Dame fall on the spectrum of title contender-to-lucky to be there for you?

I actually wrote about this with Mark Ennis of East Coast Bias and Louisville’s ESPN 680 on Saturday when we were trying to put together our top 10. Notre Dame came in third for both of us, behind Oregon and Kansas State, and I realize that’s a bit of a sore subject for Irish fans, but we looked at how defense-heavy Notre Dame is and the recent struggles at times. But it’s really not far off.

I expect one of the three undefeateds to lose in the next two weeks anyway, so this won’t be an issue. Bottom line: Notre Dame takes care of business in the next two games, it’s all but assured the Fighting Irish will be playing for the National Championship.

6) Obviously, last year’s game was a tight contest and Wake Forest was in it until the end. What do you expect on Saturday?

Pain.

This game is not going to be close. But fans in South Bend are good hosts, so Wake fans making the trip will have a great time. And it’s always fun to play a night game against a Top 5 team.

If we’re making a prediction, let’s say 34-10. I honestly don’t know if it will even be that close.

***

For more leading up to the game, follow Martin on Twitter @MartinRickman and check out the other great stuff going at Blogger So Dear, where haiku game recaps are the norm.

  1. canadianirish - Nov 14, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    “This game is not going to be close. But fans in South Bend are good hosts, so Wake fans making the trip will have a great time. And it’s always fun to play a night game against a Top 5 team.”

    Huh…..night game? Did I miss something??

    • dickasman - Nov 14, 2012 at 12:31 PM

      What he meant to say was that notre dame stadium should have a jumbo tron and notre dame should be playing home games at prime time 730 pm like a true big time program it is.

    • 808raiderinparadise - Nov 14, 2012 at 3:29 PM

      EVERYONE WAKE FOREST BEAT BC BY 2 TD’S.

      With how we struggle at home, poor kicking game and bad red-zone offense, no game should be chalked up as a blowout win.

      Defense is ELITE … but the offense is not the type to just blow teams out.

      • stedward - Nov 15, 2012 at 2:56 PM

        The “Wake beat BC by two TDs” argument doesn’t really hold up. BC also was closer to Miami. By that same transitive property, Purdue would be at the top of the Big 10. I don’t think we will beat the 24 point spread but lets not start with a bad foundation for the argument.

    • papadec - Nov 14, 2012 at 11:57 PM

      canadian – that caught my attention too. So I double-checked, and the game is 3:30 pm (ET).

  2. glorygreyhound - Nov 14, 2012 at 12:15 PM

    Wow. A grounded and honest opinion. How refreshing. Go Irish!

  3. irishadrian - Nov 14, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    Ok, it’s a 3:30 EST kickoff, he just made a mistake. ND 41-9

    • seadomer - Nov 14, 2012 at 1:00 PM

      I know game has to be played. WF lost to Florida state 52-0.

      I don’t think ND sets out to embarrass but we should not do the bend and don’t break D on teams like this, we should strive for 38-3.

      • bernhtp - Nov 14, 2012 at 4:40 PM

        If we get ahead by 25, we should put in the 2 and 3 deep to rest/protect everyone for USC. Let’s give the likes of Hendrix, Cam McDaniel and Josh Atkinson some good reps.

  4. irishadrian - Nov 14, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    I do agree with the guy Keith interviewed and ND needs to take care of business with WF and USC. I think Stanford will beat a very banged up Oregon team this weekend and KSU has to beat a Texas team that is much improved. I think if we win out we’re in the Championship game, Oregon has a long way to go to get there even if they did beat Stanford they will still have to beat OSU and the PAC 12 South winner in the Pac 12 Championship game.

  5. dudeacow - Nov 14, 2012 at 12:39 PM

    Did I just hear terrible offensive line???

    *drool*

    Wake Forest had nothing to do with Shembo’s missing bike seat but I don’t think he cares.
    I’m calling for 7+ team sacks, with at least two people having at least two sacks.
    HAHAHA I love QB pressure…

  6. rrussellndfan - Nov 14, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    It should pretty much be called a night game it will be getting dark by 430. It will be under the lights that’s for sure.

  7. oldestguard - Nov 14, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    Shut down Campanaro, shut down the Deacs.

    This will be a throw-back style game in the punishing style of those great Nick Eddy / Larry Conjar teams circa1966.

    …and a big Salute to this great, program-changing, Senior Class !!

  8. nudeman - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    One of two possibilities here, neither of which include a loss for ND:

    1. Stanford, UM and Pitt redux: An ugly game where ND gains a little over 300 yards, wins 16-9, Mayock makes comments about ND’s “lack of verticality, offensively speaking”, and you’re left scratching your head saying “Huh? That was Wake Godda** Forest who we just beat by a single TD on senior day at ND Stadium on national tv”

    or

    2. The ND team that smoked OK, Navy and Miami shows up, the game is practically decided in the 2nd qtr, all the seniors play, Golson singlehandedly generates 330 yards of O, T’eo makes 20 tackles and ND wins 44-7.

    • ndgoldandblue - Nov 14, 2012 at 3:43 PM

      nude, I think it’s going to be more of the former than the latter, although I’m sticking with my 20-10 prediction. I think Mr. Rickman is trying to be honest, but he’s probably being a bit too glass-half-empty toward his Demon Deacons. After all, they did beat Boston College with nearly the same margin as the Irish did last week. They must be doing something right. No blowout, but a win for the Irish, nonetheless.

    • 808raiderinparadise - Nov 14, 2012 at 3:50 PM

      “lack of verticality” nice Mayock quote. SO TRUEEEE! He is strange at times.

      The PITT pass interference call on Eifert 4th down, he kept talking about it wayyyyyyy after saying how bad a call it was and was requesting to go back to the video.

      It was funny because the game had completely moved on and they wouldn;t replay the footage for him.

    • papadec - Nov 15, 2012 at 12:01 AM

      nude – I vote for #2.

  9. flandersst1 - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    Prediction?
    “Pain”

    Keith, this is definitely the best interview article of this year. It is an undeniable fact that we CANNOT get enough Rocky quotes into this blog.

    Go Irish.
    ~Steve in Pittsburgh

  10. irish4me - Nov 14, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    I think the Irish put it together this week 35 -0. I believe the Style points for ND is ZERO touchdowns let up by the stellar ND defense. Important NOT to let up a TD. The BCS thing is completely hosed. not only with the Irish the odd man out so far (I believe that will NOT be the case come BCS Championship game) BUT also look at the potential matchups for the all the BCS bowl games: Because of the maddening love affair with the SEC, there are currently 5 teams in the top ten rankings from the SEC. The problem that this causes is the BCS Bowl games are setup for Conference champs to play other Conference champs which means other than 1 vs 2, there will likely be no other games pitting two top ten teams against each other. complete nonsense, the bowl games have become less interesting due to this constraint. CHANGE IT. I believe Oregon is less than it appears, I believe that Stanfords shocks them this week, because they will play a defense for the first time and won’t know what hit them. Oregon’s own defense is absolute crap, it almost seems like Charlie Wiess coaches their defense – it’s that bad. Go Irish, and thanks to Stanford for the helping hand.

    • papadec - Nov 15, 2012 at 12:12 AM

      I think there is a side of Coach Kelly that says – style points? You want style points? I’ll show you style points! However, the important thing is to WIN this game, come out of it injury free, and ready to kick the living sh** out of usc the following week. I’d like to see this game in the bag by 1/2 time – and ALL senior reserves able to get in during the 2nd 1/2 (with TR having a turnover free appearance). GO IRISH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. ndfaithful - Nov 14, 2012 at 9:35 PM

    “This game is not going to be close. But fans in South Bend are good hosts…”

    It sounds like that C4Dude is writing their article.

  12. norcalirish - Nov 15, 2012 at 6:38 AM

    Best case scenario:

    UCLA beats up usc, takes them to 3 ots, and loses.
    We have a comfortable lead at half and play our 3rds, resting for sc.
    Stanford crushes Oregon.

    JUST BEAT WAKE

  13. martinrickman - Nov 15, 2012 at 11:05 AM

    Hey I’m a northerner too. When it’s dark at 4:30, a 3:30 game is a night game in November.

  14. getsome99 - Nov 16, 2012 at 4:42 PM

    Anyone out there still missing Aaron Lynch? Lol.

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