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Initial Thoughts: Notre Dame Football

Wake Forest heads to South Bend to take on the vaunted Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday at 3:30 on NBC.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The good news is that Wake Forest had a bye week this past weekend to try to get over the sting of dropping three straight games at the hands of ACC opponents. The bad news is that the Demon Deacons play a murderous schedule of @ Notre Dame, @ Clemson, and Duke in Winston-Salem to end the year.

That is currently the No. 6 team in the country, the No. 1 team in the country, and a Duke team that could very well be in the top 25 again by the time they head east on I-40.

The Deacs will go up to South Bend for the first time since 2012, where they left with a 38-0 defeat against the No. 3 ranked Irish.

Needless to say I am not extremely high on our prospects for the rest of the year, but enough of the negativity, let's take a preliminary look at the Notre Dame Fighting Irish!

The Irish come into the game with an 8-1 record, and are currently ranked 6th in the S&P+ Rankings. They defeated Pittsburgh 42-30 this past Saturday, and come into the game this weekend with a 96% chance to win (at a projected 43-14 score).

It will be a tall task for the Demon Deacons to go into the Mecca of college football and win, especially against a team that has only one loss on the year, and that was in Death Valley against Clemson.

To make it even harder, Notre Dame is currently trying to do all they can to get into the top four of the College Football Playoff standings to compete for the National Championship. Any chance of the Irish looking past Wake to Boston College or Stanford will likely be negated by the need for flair and substantive victories.

After QB Malik Zaire was injured for the year earlier in the year, sophomore DeShone Kizer stepped in and has done a great job. He has thrown for 16 touchdowns and just 6 INTs, while completing 66% of his passes. He has taken 16 sacks, which is something that he likely needs to work on (6.9% sack rate), but has done a sensational job when called on unexpectedly.

He and Zaire have combined for the 6th best passing offense according to the S&P+ rankings.

At running back C.J. Promise has had a monster year as well, racking up 994 yards on 151 carries for 11 touchdowns. This has led the Notre Dame rushing attack to be 4th in the S&P+ rankings. At this point it bears noting that the defense is going to have its work out for it in a pretty ridiculous way.

The offense does a great job in accruing explosive plays, ranking 10th in the country. The good news is that defensively they are 113th in allowing explosive plays, so maybe the Deacs will be able to bust a couple of long plays early on to keep momentum on their side from the beginning.

The defense has been more pedestrian, but certainly by no means mediocre. They don't necessarily blitz a lot (ranking 53rd in Havoc rate), but do a good job of stopping teams when it matters, allowing 23.1 points per game on the year.

It is anchored by junior linebacker Jaylon Smith, who is the top rated OLB on the 2016 draft board (aside from Myles Jack at UCLA who is recovering from a season-ending injury). Smith has racked up 59 tackles, 6 TFL, and 3 passes broken up on the year.

On the inside is senior Joe Schmidt, who is also on a lot of draft boards and should be taken in the 3rd-5th round depending on team need. Senior defensive lineman Sheldon Day will also be drafted in the first two rounds and has already gotten into the backfield for 11 TFL's.

Overall the Irish are an extremely solid team and they are ranked 6th in the nation for a reason. The difficulty of the game is compounded by the fact that Notre Dame is in the national title picture and anything less than a resounding victory against Wake Forest will be considered a failure.

I expect this one to get ugly in a hurry, with Notre Dame being superior on all sides of the ball and a lot more to play for than a 3-6 Wake Forest team.