With the 49-14 drubbing last weekend of Southern Cal drifting away in the rear view mirror the next task is staring the #9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-1) smack dab in the face as the #14 North Carolina State Wolfpack (6-1) come into South Bend on Saturday in the next step of the potential rise of Brian Kelly’s Irish.
There are many story lines coming into this week as both teams are 6-1. First being last year these same two teams played amid hurricane conditions at NC State as the Wolfpack won 10-3. I’m figuring the Irish will be looking for revenge. Next is the fact that the winner of this game will be mentioned in the College Football Playoff talk and the other will most likely drop out of contention. Third, the Irish are coming off a big win at home against USC so hopefully that win isn’t a hangover and potentially overlook the Wolfpack. Fourth, NC State next week has Clemson coming up so will they look past the Irish and falter?
“Just be aware of your situation. You’ve gotten here because you have really stuck to what we have asked you to do,” Kelly stated. “The big picture stuff, they’re aware of it. But they know how they got here and they like where they’re at.”
Ball security is one aspect that has vaulted the Wolfpack to the #14 team in the rankings. Wolfpack quarterback Ryan Finley comes into this week without throwing an interception in 313 consecutive passes going back to last year and he has 11 TD’s on the season. Running back Nyheim Hines has totaled more than 100 yards in the last three games for the Wolfpack.
One of the strengths the Irish posses on defense is that they have taken the ball away 17 times, turning 13 of those into TDs and 1 into a field goal.
“We’re getting pressure on the quarterback,” Kelly said. “Flat out, we’re getting pressure in four man rush. These are the guys who developed within the program.”
The Irish are sixth in the nation running the ball averaging 317.2 yards per game and are led by running back Josh Adams 976 yards as he is seventh in the nation and loves running behind a highly physical offensive line. The Wolfpack defense on the other hand are sixth in the nation in rush defense giving up a measly 91.3 per game.
If the Wolfpack defense slows down Adams and the rushing attack, quarterback Brandon Wimbush will need to be precise and move the ball downfield. If the Irish defense is able to give Finley fits and force a few miscues and make some big stops then things will look good for the Irish.
Looking at this game and how well the Irish have played at home and the fact that they have five consecutive wins by 20 or more points, the trends are favoring the Irish. My prediction has the Irish winning 42-24 in a game that may seem closer than my final predictions says. Let’s see how things play out once again, 7-1 is a far distance away but attainable.