- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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Jonas Gray said Brian Kelly told Notre Dame at the beginning of the week to go out and win the ACC. Foreshadowing? Let's not get even started ...
The Irish travel to Winston-Salem, N.C., this weekend for the first of three straight games against ACC opponents. Wake Forest is -- by far -- the most formidable of the bunch. Some people not too long ago even thought the Demon Deacons could knock off Notre Dame. (Though, to be fair, said writer did warn about a potential flip-flop.)
I would not expect the Irish to overlook their opposition this week, not with the loss to USC and the ensuing chaos that took place off-the-field having happened just two weeks earlier. But Wake Forest does have its strong points; namely, its passing attack, which ranks 30th nationally. The Deacs also made this a night game, and the atmosphere inside the 31,000-plus seat BB&T Field should be a hostile and intimate one.
But Notre Dame is too strong and too deep. Wake Forest, as ACC blogger Heather Dinich pointed out, has a small defensive line, one facing an Irish front that has not allowed a sack since September. On the other side, the Deacs may be down to just one healthy running back, possibly forcing coach Jim Grobe to burn the redshirt of freshman Orville Reynolds nine games into the season. Their rushing offense is only 106th in the nation to begin with.
The wear and tear has shown in the second half, during which Wake Forest has been outscored 141-101 this season. Taking that a step further, the Deacs have been outscored 93-37 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Don't be surprised if this is close at halftime, but Notre Dame will simply overpower its hosts in the final 30 minutes.
Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Wake Forest 17
5dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information