SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The 500th game in Notre Dame Stadium history will be Sam Hartman’s sixth and final, as well as fifth-year linebacker JD Bertrand’s 21st and quite likely also his final. The No. 19 Irish (7-3) are hefty favorites against Wake Forest (4-6), setting up Hartman for something of a narrative conclusion, positioned to beat his former team.
But Hartman’s time at Notre Dame goes far beyond that.
The Irish offense has struggled the last six games, and rectifying that will be a challenge against an underrated Demon Deacons defense, but all the same, imagine if Notre Dame did not have the services of one of the most prolific passers in college football history.
“He’s been so consistent in terms of his approach to the game,” Irish head coach Marcus Freeman said Thursday. “He has done some really great things for our football program in terms of not just on the field, but off the field.
“He has really elevated the preparation and the play of the quarterback room. His ability to meet with the wide receivers to make sure everybody’s on the same page. He’s just brought a lot of things to our program that sometimes you don’t always see on Saturday.”
Part of that was buying in on Notre Dame entirely. But more on that in a moment, this article is supposed to mention what time and channel today’s game is on.
TV: NBC will begin coverage at 3:00 ET with the College Countdown pregame show before throwing to Notre Dame Stadium at 3:30. Maria Taylor will host the pregame show from Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisc.
Beforehand, the Irish women’s basketball team will face Illinois at 1 ET in Washington, D.C., also on NBC.
Jac Collinsworth will lead the NBC booth at Notre Dame with Jason Garrett as his analyst and Lewis Johnson reporting from the sideline.
Back to Hartman.
After Notre Dame routed USC on Oct. 14, Hartman relished the crowd storming the field, the packed tunnel, the all-around college football-ness of the moment. It was a feeling he hoped to hold onto for as long as he could.
“It’ll be a special moment for me, and I’m excited to get back in the locker room,” he said. “Just to see the fans and the support we get continuously and just the football culture here, I hope it never changes.
“If I’m blessed to have kids, I hope I can bring them back and they play a highlight.”
This was not a transfer going through the motions to finish a collegiate career. Hartman bought in, far from a sure thing and inarguably part of why the Irish may yet still win 10 games this season. A couple losses did not dampen the meaning of that win against Notre Dame’s biggest rival, a fact Hartman grasped in his only year in South Bend.
“I know the magnitude,” he said. “I’ll be training in California for the pro stuff, and I’ll have that little — I can walk a little bit higher and taller out there.”
Oh, that’s right, this afternoon’s timing.
Center Zeke Correll remains in concussion protocol, remains questionable for this weekend.
Hate to see a three-year starter miss his Senior Day, but that seems very much possible now.
— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer) November 16, 2023
TIME: The midafternoon kickoff should be a delightful afternoon for mid-November, temperatures reaching as high as 51 degrees and the sun out until it sets at 5:22. Some winds will swirl, but coming from the southwest, they are part of why the afternoon will be nearly tropical.
This will be the 11th game of Notre Dame’s season, so all 11 games, that has been a sellout. That streak should snap at Stanford next weekend.
Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson on Notre Dame: "We certainly have a lot of respect for their quarterback and know what he's capable of."
— Les Johns (@Les_Johns) November 14, 2023
Anyway, Hartman’s impact will go beyond lingering in that USC victory or even this season.
All due respect to Jack Coan and his rather impressive 2021, reeling in Hartman and finding some success and buy-in with him should prove something to future transfer prospects. Coan committed to the Irish before name, image and likeness rights had been granted to student-athletes. Hartman’s choice came in this newfound market, one still evolving.
But his success in the space — endorsements with Beats by Dre, Dollar Shave Club, Under Armour and others — explicitly shows that engaging players can make a good amount of money at Notre Dame, something the Irish need to be known as they prepare to reenter the transfer market for a quarterback this offseason, a fourth passer to compete with current sophomore Steve Angeli, current freshman Kenny Minchey and incoming recruit CJ Carr.
And that thought brings us to today …
Last time Wake Forest and Notre Dame played, Sam Hartman started at QB and the other team had a first-game starter.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Across the Beat with @TJamesND on the Irish:
— Deacons Illustrated (@WakeRivals) November 16, 2023
PREVIEW: The Irish have won their last two Senior Day tests by a combined score of 99-0, wins against overmatched ACC opponents somewhat similar to Wake Forest today. The Demon Deacons are 0-5 when they score fewer than 20 points, a mark most notable for how often they fail to score 20 points. It is far from a lofty tally in modern college football.
Thus, a few Hartman touchdowns would not only propel him into a tie for No. 4 all-time in NCAA history, joining Colt Brennan (Hawaii, 2005-07), Rakeem Cato (Marshall, 2011-14) and Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma, 2013-17), but would also create an opportunity for Angeli and/or Minchey to shine for a bit.
Proving themselves would help dictate how aggressive Notre Dame will be in that transfer market, a viability because of Hartman’s on- and off-field success in South Bend, although also a necessity because Hartman has kept Angeli and Minchey in the shadows.
.@ConorONeill_DI on new WF starting QB Michael Kern: "He’s at least shown, in limited work, that he can deliver the ball where it needs to go. Maybe not always accurately, but incompletions are better than taking sacks."@insideNDsports opponent outlook:https://t.co/G4ttkhgi6E
— Tyler James (@TJamesND) November 17, 2023
PREDICTION: Wake Forest is also 4-1 when it scores at least 20 points, putting an emphasis today on the Irish defense, one led by Bertrand.
The two-time captain is on the verge of becoming just the third Notre Dame player in the last 50 years to lead the team in tackles for three straight seasons. If the Irish keep the Deacons hemmed in today, some credit will assuredly go to the defense’s signalman, a leap from when Freeman first met Bertrand.
“When I got here as defensive coordinator in 2021, JD Bertrand was the third-string linebacker,” Freeman said. “... He was one of the first guys that reached out to me and asked to meet.
“At first you’re able to meet with them, you’re new, and then over time, you’re like, ‘Man, every day this guy wants to meet,’ and you don’t have a lot of time as you’re trying to install a defense. No matter what time I told JD Bertrand I could meet with him, he was there.”
Bertrand may not score today, but he will play a key part in keeping Wake Forest from enjoying more than a single trip to the end zone. The Deacons struggle mightily where it matters most, ranked No. 128 in points per quality possession, undone in part by a bottom-30 passing attack. Take Wake Forest’s frequency of scoring opportunities (41.1 percent) and points per such drive (2.6), and the math says the Deacons would need 19 possessions to reach 20 points today.
Obviously, that is not how football is played, but it gives something of an idea of the margin for error Bertrand & Co. will enjoy against an offensive line in the bottom three in the country in both sacks and tackles for loss allowed. And that may yield a deserved highlight for Bertrand.
“He will always be the standard for me in terms of how to prepare, how to improve and how to work,” Freeman said. “Off the field, he is such a selfless person who gives back to the community.”
If Notre Dame’s defense matches Wake Forest’s offense for points or even simply adds to the 10 turnovers forced in the last two Irish home games, then Notre Dame should have little trouble covering the spread of 24.5-points, as of early Saturday morning, though topping the pregame combined point total Over/Under of 46.5 may hinge on Angeli and/or Minchey excelling a bit on Senior Day.
Notre Dame 38, Wake Forest 7.
Predictions record straight-up: 6-4; Against the spread: 5-5; Over/Under: 4-6.
Notre Dame record straight-up: 7-3; Against the spread: 7-3; Over/Under: 7-3.
2.6 points per quality drive? It's almost impossible to have a number below 3.
Even when Wake Forest finds offensive success, it usually ends up failing. https://t.co/pEiU1ZDc6Q
— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer) November 16, 2023
A FEW OTHER NUMBERS
— Only seven of Notre Dame’s 31 recognized seniors and graduate students have used up their eligibility: Hartman, sixth-year receiver Matt Salerno, Ohio State transfer defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste and sixth-year safety DJ Brown the most notable among them.
— Today will also be Jack Swarbrick’s last home game as the Notre Dame director of athletics, the 101st in his tenure since 2008, the Irish 78-22 to date.
— And Fr. John Jenkins’s final home game as the University President, his 121st, the Irish 89-31 to date.
INSIDE THE IRISH
— Things To Learn: Now or never for ND wide receivers, even amid offensive line injuries
— The Wake Forest Demon Deacons need to find an upset to reach their eighth straight bowl
— Injury report adds RG Rocco Spindler out for year, C Zeke Correll in concussion protocols
— Revisiting 40 predictions from 2023 preseason, highlighting an offense struggling as expected
— The 2021 coaching carousel’s highlights remain largely uncertain, Notre Dame not alone
— Wake Forest vs Notre Dame odds, picks and predictions: Irish lean on seniors, shut down Deacons
— Billy Schrauth attacks preparation for Notre Dame football starting role
— Notre Dame’s JD Bertrand focusing on slow mesh & leading over future
— Opponent Outlook: What Notre Dame football should expect from Wake Forest
— Across the Beat: Getting to know Notre Dame
— Highest-graded players at every position through Week 11
— Of course Jimbo Fisher’s buyout is insane. But so is college football.