Tuesday night’s College Football Playoff rankings announcement, no matter how much it means nothing right now, was certainly a thrill for Notre Dame Fighting Irish football fans.
Just three weeks ago, a 5-1 Notre Dame team spent its bye week ranked 16th in the country, untested except for a loss to undefeated Georgia, and unproven as a real contender for the title. At the time, Irish fans still remained cautious that it might be just another Brian Kelly team that would get run over by real opponents when the time came late in the season.
84 points for and 28 points against later, Irish fans find their team ranked #3 in the only poll that actually matters, having accomplished enough to be considered “in” the College Football Playoff if the season were to end today (and only ranked behind SEC behemoths Georgia and Alabama). Despite the fact that there are still 5 weeks of college football left and an absurd amount of potential scenarios could play out, ND fans have a lot to be happy about right now.
Nevertheless, ND does, in fact, have to take on the final third of the season remaining, starting with a home tilt against a 5-3 Wake Forest squad that is not quite good enough (or healthy enough) to be considered a real threat, but also not bad enough to be considered a cakewalk. Irish fans are certainly curious, amid all the CFP hype and what-iffing, how Notre Dame follows up two straight physical, emotional wins over top-15 opponents against a more mediocre squad this weekend.
So, I talked to Cameron Lemons Debro over at Blogger So Dear, SB Nation’s one-stop shop for all things Demon Deacons. Cameron gives us some insight on Dave Clawson as a coach, what WR Greg Dortch’s injury means for the offense, the Demon Deacons players to watch out for on Saturday, and how Clawson would beat Brian Kelly in a dance-off, but probably lose in a karaoke contest.
Let’s do this.
1. We're in the 4th season of the Dave Clawson era at Wake Forest. How do Demon Deacon fans feel about where he's been able to take the program in that time, and do you think they’ll continue to improve in the coming years into a team that can regularly compete in the ACC?
During the 4 years Coach Clawson has been here, he has completely turned this team around. This team (at least defensively) can 100% compete against anyone in the country and can pose a problem going forward.
2. The Wake Forest offense has been pretty solid this season -- especially passing the ball -- but potential All-ACC WR Greg Dortch was just ruled out for the rest of the year with an abdominal injury.
How do you think the Demon Deacon offense will do against what has been an incredibly stingy Mike Elko defense (something you guys are certainly familiar with) without their best receiver? Who needs to step up in his stead?
The loss of Greg Dortch cannot be understated.
I can attack this question two ways:
- What I want to happen is for Clawson to open up the playbook and allow the guys to throw everything at the Fighting Irish, staying aggressive and putting the ball in the hands of Scotty Washington, Tabari Hines, and Cam Serigne.
- What I think will happen, though, is we go back to being conservative as the injuries are starting to pile up.
3. Wake Forest's rushing offense appears to be a run-by-committee system. Who are the names to know in the Demon Deacon backfield, and do you think they'll have success running the football this weekend? How does Wake's offensive line stack up against the ND defensive front?
Cade Carney, Matt Colburn, and Arkeem Byrd are the names you need to know. Cade will be out for the game, so the load goes to Colburn to weather the load.
I said going into the season that the offensive line was the X-factor for this team going forward, and they haven't disappointed. Phil Haynes has been named to the PFF ACC Team of the Week two weeks in a row. This is gonna be one of the hardest tests yet for the line.
4. The Demon Deacons are 89th in the country in rushing defense, giving up about 184 yards per game on the ground. Do you think the Wake front seven stands a chance of stopping the vaunted ND running attack that has the Irish 6th in the country in rushing yards per game (318 ypg)?
I would like to know what the stats would be without either the garbage time last week or without playing GT, who almost exclusively runs the ball.
Regardless, I think they will hold up fine as this is one of the better front sevens in the nation. Duke Ejiofor is an absolute monster and destroys almost anything in his path.
5. Who are the players to watch on the Wake Forest defense — what do they do best and how can they have a significant impact on Saturday?
The aforementioned Duke Ejiofor is one.
Another to look for would be Cameron Glenn. With Jessie Bates out for the game a lot of pressure falls on him to anchor the secondary.
Additionally, linebacker Jaboree Williams will be flying around the field, dreads ablaze.
6. Give me one X-factor each for Wake Forest's offense, defense, and special teams (if there is anyone), whose best performances on Saturday will be crucial for the Demon Deacons to have a chance at the road upset.
For offense, gotta go with the offensive line. If they aren't holding blocks and creating holes this could be a very long day.
Defense: the secondary. We can not let up big plays and let ourselves fall into too big of a hole. Be aggressive but don't play stupid.
Special Teams: Dom Maggio.* If he can flip the field and not let the ND offense have fantastic field position, it gives the defense a chance to get settled and not be pinned at their own end zone having to make a huge play.
*Pat Rick Note: I like to imagine his full name is Joseph Dominic Maggio, so that technically his name could be Joe Dom Maggio. I am an idiot.
7. Explain what a Demon Deacon is and how that became the Wake Forest athletics mascot.
Well, at first Wake teams were known as the "Baptists."
But in 1922 the editor of our school newspaper created "Demon Deacons" to describe a huge win over what is now Duke, and it just stuck.
In 1941, a student was dared to dress up as a Demon Deacon, and the rest is history.
8. Notre Dame has Equanimeous St. Brown and Greer Martini. What are the best/funniest/most ridiculous names on the Wake Forest roster?
Equanimeous St. Brown is one of my favorite names in all of college football. For me, I’d probably have to say Zander Zimmer, LaRonde' Liverpool and Tyriq Hardimon would be up there, but that is one area where we are lacking.*
*Pat Rick Note: Disagree completely...between Zander Zimmer’s alliteration with Z’s and LaRonde’ Liverpool’s ridiculous name and also L-based alliteration, the Demon Deacs are in good shape in the name department (especially if Dom Maggio’s legal first name is Joe)
9. Brian Kelly vs. Dave Clawson in a dance-off. What song does each coach dance to, and who wins?
Brian Kelly does his best Grayson Allen Impression to "Everytime We Touch," while Clawson goes with "Cruise" by Florida Georgia Line.
Clawson takes it.
10. Follow-up to question 9: same question, but karaoke contest instead of dance-off.
Clawson comes out with “Burning Down the House” by Talking Heads, but Kelly fires back with “Don't Stop Believin'.”
Tie ball game.
11. You have to pick two Wake Forest players to represent the Demon Deacons on the old Nickelodeon game show Legends of the Hidden Temple. Who do you choose and why?
Gotta go with the dynamic duo of Cameron Glenn and Kalin McNeil. Not only would it be absolutely hilarious, but they actually might make it through.
12. Prediction time - tell me who will win, what the score will be, and your reasoning behind that prediction.
Notre Dame 35, Wake Forest 17
I just think the injuries are going to be too much and that ND is red-hot. No one wants to play this team, especially missing 3 of your biggest playmakers.
13. Anything else ND fans should know about Wake Forest's team, coaches, program, traditions, fans, etc.?
Win The Tailgate. Go Deacs.
Shout out to Cameron for answering all my questions on a tight schedule, and make sure to check out his work, along with the rest of the team at Blogger So Dear, for all the Wake Forest team updates and analysis you could want leading up to Saturday’s game (and also on Twitter!!!).