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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, November 04, 2017 12:30 pm

Pregame: Notre Dame (7-1) vs. Wake Forest (5-3)

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

SOUTH BEND — In the world of publicity storms, Notre Dame's home date with Wake Forest has all of the cliché markings of the trap game.

Notre Dame just faced two teams (Southern California and North Carolina State) that were ranked in the top 20. There was plenty of hype for those games. After a prime-time beatdown of USC on Oct. 21, a night with a lot of raw emotion, the Irish cruised a week later in another virtual must-win affair against N.C. State.

Fast-forward to today, and let's just say Notre Dame has some excuses not to get up for this one.

No one is picking the Demon Deacons to win. The College Football Playoff selection committee made the Irish the No. 3 team in its top-25 ranking this week. And the Deacons are down three starters, including their best wide receiver (freshman Greg Dortch) and arguably their best defensive player (Fort Wayne native Jessie Bates III).

"We've positioned ourselves after two-thirds of the season in a good position," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "Now it's up to us to finish it off. This isn't a time to look back and see where you are. This is a time to keep your eyes in front of you and keep driving towards the finish line."

With that, some things to keep an eye on:

Josh Adams' success. When the Irish and Demon Deacons played in 2015, the Notre Dame running back had 17 carries for 141 yards and a touchdown. Adams is a nightmare for any defense. Without their injured strong safety, Bates, Wake Forest needs to at least slow Adams a little bit.

"You have to stay in your gaps," Wake coach Dave Clawson said. "You have to fit runs correctly. You have to tackle well. It's not every week you face the caliber of an offensive line that Notre Dame is or the caliber of a back Adams is. They have a running back with close to 1,200 yards that averages 9 yards a carry, and this is up there as the most physical offensive line we've played in four years."

Can Mike McGlinchey handle Duke Ejiofor? Wake Forest's senior defensive end has seven sacks and has caught fire as a pass-rusher in the final two years of his college career. He surely has a ton of respect for McGlinchey, Notre Dame's star left tackle, but one considers this as tough a matchup as any McGlinchey will face.

"Duke Ejiofor (is) one of the best pass rushers that we've seen," Kelly said. "I think he's got 14 tackles for loss, very loose and very mobile in terms of pass-rush ability. Really like his ability to get to the quarterback. We'll have to keep an eye on him, whether we move a back over there or chip him. He's somebody that we've got to keep an eye on."

Finding themselves in the passing game. The Irish have shown they can line up, dominate and leave bruises as they did in a 54-carry, 318-yard rushing day in the win over N.C. State. What they could really use on the doorstep to their most important games is an ability to bust out a potent passing attack. It's a lot to ask to be all things to all people, but it's a certainty as they move into November that opposing defenses are going to bank on the idea Notre Dame isn't nearly as efficient going to Plan B in a game when Plan A doesn't work.