5 keys for Notre Dame against Wake Forest: Could this be Claypool's turning point?
HANDLE THE QB SITUATION
The in-and-out Ian Book strategy has been a head-scratcher, especially in the red zone. It has worked so far but in a limited sample size. Quarterback Brandon Wimbush excelled in the red zone last season. The Irish scored on all but two trips — with one being a Wimbush kneel-down against N.C. State. Wimbush adds another dimension with his elite rushing ability. Should Book earn the nod as starter, the Irish would be wise to favor the hot hand and/or ride Wimbush inside the 20.
CLAYPOOL BREAKOUT GAME
Claypool’s only career game with more than 60 receiving yards came against Wake in 2017. The 6-4, 225-pounder finished with nine catches for 180 yards and a touchdown. Saturday presents another breakout game opportunity and a chance for Claypool to establish confidence going forward. As Notre Dame’s field receiver, Claypool could terrorize a secondary that allows 310 passing yards per game (118th). Wake is susceptible to the big play, yielding five passing touchdowns beyond 25 yards last week. Sustained success from the Irish offensive line and running back Tony Jones Jr. remain important. A big day from Claypool, though, could unlock another level to this offense.
PREVENT WEAR AND TEAR
Wake could overextend a Notre Dame defense that saw the field for 97 plays against Ball State. Ranking second nationally with 93 plays per game, the Demon Deacons registered a season-high 105 plays last week against Boston College. Notre Dame, which faced Wake’s attack for 88 plays in 2017, already lost Shaun Crawford and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa to injury. Controlling the clock and sustaining drives with a ground-and-pound attack would help mitigate wear and tear. A heavy dose of Claypool would keep the Demon Deacons honest, which would open up the ground game for a consecutive week.
LIMIT GREG DORTSCH
Wake’s top receiver ranks No. 4 in receptions (28) and No. 2 in receptions per game (9.3). Dortsch has 336 receiving yards and a touchdown across three games as well. Winston Salem-Journal’s Conor O’Neill, who covers the Demon Deacons, counted only one catch for Dortsch until the end of the third quarter against Boston College. O’Neill told the Tribune that Wake’s lack of creativity, along with blanket coverage, limited Dortsch. Freshman Houston Griffith continues to earn more snaps and has the athleticism to bracket and blanket Dortsch. Cornerback Julian Love could help limit deep balls on the boundary, too. Vanderbilt’s Kalija Lipscomb found a way to amass 89 yards on 11 catches. It will take more than one player to stop Dortsch.
BE PREPARED FOR HINTON
Don’t be surprised if backup quarterback Kendall Hinton sees the field against the Irish. Hinton comes off a three-game suspension for violation of team rules and played spot duty in the last three seasons. Some expected Hinton to retain the starting job, but Sam Hartman impressed with his 1,027 total yards and seven touchdowns through three games. Notre Dame poses a bigger threat defensively than Wake’s three previous opponents — Tulane, Towson and Boston College. Should the freshman crack under pressure, Notre Dame must be prepared for a Hinton entrance.
At BB&T Field (31,500), Winston-Salem, N.C.
Kickoff: Noon EDT | TV: NBC
Series history: Notre Dame, 3-0
Betting line: Notre Dame by 7½