Pick: Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-0 SU, 1-2 ATS) vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-1 SU, 0-3 ATS)
Date/Time: Saturday, September 22nd, 12:00 PM
Where: BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, NC
By: Mike Mann., NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Spread: ND -7 / WAKE +7
Notre Dame heads south to take on Wake Forest in an early Saturday afternoon battle at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem. The teams have met four times since 2011 with Notre Dame winning all of the matchups, including a 48-37 victory in South Bend last season.
The Irish continued to have issues with consistency last week, starting off strong and than fading as the game went on and were borderline lucky to get the win considering how many points Vanderbilt cost themselves during the game. On the season Notre Dame has scored 44% of their points in the first quarter, but once the opposing team makes in game adjustments they have little to no answer from their sidelines. They also continue to struggle on third down, as they finished last week’s game on a 1 for 9 streak and for the year find themselves ranked near the bottom of the NCAA with a paltry 35% conversion rate.
If you remove two drives that were only used to run out the clock, the Irish have scored touchdowns on just two of their last seventeen second half possessions. One of those came this past week with Ian Book at the quarterback position. Book played a handful of snaps this past week, but with the shuffling of quarterbacks not helping much in the way of offensive consistency, it would likely be wise for coach Brian Kelly to pick one and stick with it. If Wimbush doesn’t work to correct his own lack of consistency, we could likely see the backup a lot more frequently going forward. On the season Wimbush is completing just 55 percent of his passes while throwing one touchdown compared to four interceptions. He is undoubtedly dangerous on his feet, he had another rushing score against Vandy, but has averaged just 2.8 yards per carry through three games. With a game against a surging Stanford team just around the corner, his progression will need come a lot sooner than later.
Even with their struggles, especially against the point spread the last two weeks, the Irish still sit undefeated on the year and ranked in the top ten. A future date against a suddenly terrible Florida State team doesn’t look so imposing, so as of now their toughest remaining opponents line up as the aforementioned Stanford, Virginia Tech and USC. They have quality skill position players on offense with Miles Boykin, Chase Claypool, Alize Mack and Chris Finke the top receiving targets and the duo of Tony Jones Jr. and Jafar Armstrong leading the backfield, but how much stability they can find at the quarterback position will likely be what defines their remaining season.
Thankfully for the Irish their opponent this week in Wake Forest also finds themselves with issues at quarterback, though at least for them it’s somewhat understandable considering theirs is a true freshman. Sam Hartman has the same 55% completion percentage as Wimbush while throwing 6 touchdowns compared to 5 interceptions. He is also a threat on the ground, rushing for 193 yards and a touchdown with a respectable 4.7 yards per carry average. Unfortunately in last week’s loss to Boston College he had his worst game thus far, and will look to improve on his turnover issues having thrown at least one interception in every game played this season.
Joining Hartman in the backfield are Cade Carney and Matt Colburn, with the junior Carney leading the way with 300 yards and 2 touchdowns on the season with an impressive 5.7 yards per carry average. Greg Dortch and Sage Surratt are the best of their receivers, though it’s Alex Bachman who didn’t even play in their last game that has three of their six touchdowns so far to lead the team. As a whole the Wake offense ranks 15th in yards per game and is averaging 36 points per.
After watching Notre Dame’s sluggish play I wasn’t expecting to pick them this week against Wake Forest, but with the line opening at just seven points it’s hard not to go with them. Brian Kelly is an angry fellow and he has to be furious after watching his team plod through the last two weeks against opponents that they were heavily favored to beat. Wake is no push over and traveling on the road is never easy in college football, but with the spread just a touchdown I will be backing Notre Dame to get the win and cover this week against Wake Forest in Winston-Salem.
Mike’s Pick: Notre Dame -7
Kevin West: “When I think NFL playoffs, I think New England Patriots. How can you not? They’ve been a mainstay in post-season play for as long as I can remember. Also in that picture in my mind, is Foxboro. The Pats seemingly always have home field advantage, don’t they? So leaves one to wonder how Belichick, Brady and Co. have fared away from home. The answer is somewhat shocking. They’re 3-4 both straight up and against the spread.” Does that make you think twice about backing the Pats? West gives his pick.