Sports
Football team faces challenging second half of season
Photo courtesy of Wake Forest athletic communications
By
Online Managing Editor
Thursday, September 7, 2017

Wake Forest has a relatively simple six-game stretch to start the season, but their bowl dreams will be decided in the season’s second half.

Oct. 21: Wake Forest at Georgia Tech

The Deacons will get a slight reprieve from the bruising powerhouses of Florida State and Clemson when they take on the Yellow Jackets on the road, but the formidable rushing attack will undoubtedly give Wake Forest problems.

In their season opener last week against Tennessee, Georgia Tech posted 655 total yards, 535 of which were rushing, courtesy of their famed triple-option attack.

The Wake Forest defense, then, will have the small luxury of knowing where the Yellow Jackets will attack on offense. Defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel is in his first season on the Wake Forest sidelines this year after leading a Minnesota defense that often attacked the run, so Wake Forest should be in decent shape on defense. If they can gameplan accordingly, the Deacons should be able to give themselves a chance in Atlanta. Expect Wake Forest to win, 35-30.

Oct. 28: Wake Forest vs. Louisville

SB Nation gives Wake Forest a 20 percent chance against Louisville, but that doesn’t take into account the electric atmosphere inside BB&T Field that will give the Deacons a boost from the moment they exit the tunnel.

Last season, a Wake Forest playbook containing confidential gameplan information and previously-unused plays was found in the Louisville locker room prior to their game against Wake Forest, spawning an investigation that lasted more than a month before it was revealed that a former coach-turned-radio announcer who traveled with the team had given the Cardinals the information. The leaks were made worse by the fact that Wake Forest was up 12-3 at halftime, but ended up losing 40-12. Nonetheless, Wake Forest isn’t expected to compete against the Cardinals this year, leaked plays or no. Louisville is returning Heisman-winning and dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson for his junior year, and an adequate defense should prevent the Deacs from gaining much traction. Wake Forest will drop this one, 36-20.

Nov. 4: Wake Forest at Notre Dame

South Bend has not historically been kind to Wake Forest, as the Deacs have lost their two matchups on the road to Notre Dame by a combined score of 64-7. While the Fighting Irish went 4-8 last year, the historically successful program is poised to rebound to their normally high standard of play on both sides of the ball.

Wake Forest’s former defensive coordinator Mike Elko, who led the Deacs to a Military Bowl victory last season, has taken the same position with Notre Dame and will undoubtedly craft a stauncher defense than the Fighting Irish had last year, when they gave up 27.8 points per game.

Notre Dame will be led on offense by junior Brandon Wimbush, a dual-threat who’ll be tasked all season with creating much of the Notre Dame offense.

In their first game last week against Temple, whom Wake Forest defeated in last year’s bowl game 34-26, Notre Dame notched 422 yards on the ground in a 49-16 win.

Wake Forest will drop their second in a row in South Bend, 35-17.

Nov. 11: Wake Forest at Syracuse

Syracuse finished last season with an abysmal 4-8 record and hasn’t made great strides in the offseason since. Syracuse represents a major drop-off in quality of opponent for Wake Forest after their brutal 5-game stretch, so the squad will be eager to capitalize.

In Syracuse head coach Dino Faber’s second season, many project the Orange to finish with around the same record, and Wake Forest looks like it will repeat last year’s 28-9 win over the Orange as well.

Nov. 18: Wake Forest vs. N.C.State

This game could go either way for Wake Forest, who fell in Raleigh last year, 33-16. The Wolfpack are expected to reach a bowl, but a similarly tough schedule  could place them in a tight spot going into their matchup with Wake Forest.

The Wolfpack are returning eight starters on offense, but lost their top running back in Matthew Dayes, and struggled in the red zone  last season. The defensive front of N.C. State also terrorized offenses last year with 37 sacks.

Against a tough Demon Deacon crowd and with their season on the line, Wake Forest will have a chance to upset in-state rival. Unfortunately, I have the Demon Deacons losing this matchup, 27-20. 

Nov. 25: Wake Forest vs. Duke

The Demon Deacons’ final regular season game will be, consequently, their most important in a season full of potentially lopsided outcomes.

The Blue Devils are expected to end up at the cellar of the ACC this year, and likely will have nothing to play for by the time they travel to Winston-Salem.

On the contrary, I believe the Deacons will be fighting for their seventh victory and a chance at an even higher-profile bowl game than the Military Bowl. With this motivation, expect Wake Forest to move past Duke, 28-15.