Following Flynt - Tradition Tuesday

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10.29.11 Gameday 6.jpg

For an opponent that Notre Dame has never faced in its illustrious history, it is difficult to write my weekly Tradition Tuesday blog. In the upcoming matchup against Wake Forest, there is no rivalry trophy, no string of last-second finishes, and no comparison between the universities' football accomplishments. Many sports fans probably do not know much about Wake Forest's athletic programs, maybe only that they have produced NBA stars Tim Duncan and Chris Paul.

While much of the nation will be focused on the showdown between #1 LSU and #2 Alabama on Saturday night, there is still a lot of intrigue surrounding Notre Dame's trip to Winston-Salem, N.C.

Both Notre Dame and Wake Forest are 5-3 and each team had a four-game winning streak earlier in the year. While both squads are aiming higher than simply reaching bowl eligibility, the winner of Saturday's game will qualify for the postseason. Though the Demon Deacons lack the historic success of the Fighting Irish, they began play in 1888 and are by no means a newcomer to college football.

Like Notre Dame, Wake Forest is a small private university. Wake Forest is just over half the size of Notre Dame, with an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 4,400. It is the third-smallest FBS school and the smallest in a BCS automatic-qualifier conference.

With a capacity of just 31,500, BB&T Field in Groves Stadium will be the smallest stadium the Irish will play in since 1945. To date, the record capacity for Wake Forest at BB&T Field is 37,623 against North Carolina in 2004. All five of the largest home crowds have been against fellow ACC programs and each of these games resulted in a loss for the Demon Deacons.

Notre Dame may not be accustomed to playing in front of smaller audiences, but the Irish have fared well against unfamiliar foes. They are 117-20-3 all-time when facing an opponent for the first time. Between the primetime ABC/ESPN2 broadcast, Notre Dame's national prominence and rich football history, it will be interesting to see Saturday's crowd at BB&T Field come alive for what is sure to be one of the biggest home games in years.

To many Irish fans, the addition of Wake Forest to Notre Dame's schedule seemed to come out of left field. However, there is in fact a connection between the two universities. Wake Forest University president Nathan O. Hatch joined the Notre Dame faculty in 1975 and also served as the provost from 1996-2005. After spending 30 years in South Bend, Dr. Hatch began his current appointment in Winston-Salem in Oct. 2005.

There are a few other unrelated, but interesting connections between the two universities. Notre Dame Vice President/Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick's oldest son is a 2011 Wake Forest graduate. Football equipment manager Ryan Grooms was a student manager for Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe while at Ohio University. Before coming to Notre Dame in 2006, assistant media relations director Michael Bertsch worked in a similar capacity at Wake Forest. After traveling to the east coast this year, the Irish will host the Demon Deacons at Notre Dame Stadium in 2012 and 2015.

It might not pack the same national punch as the SEC showdown, but Notre Dame's game against Wake Forest is still accompanied by several interesting storylines. You can find more about this weekend's matchup with Wake Forest on the game notes page.

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