Wake Forest? Yawn. This one should be a cakewalk. Hopefully Mark Leal will get a chance to take some...
Has it been five years already? Dammit, that means Wake Forest is due to field a halfway competent team again. Just our freaking luck.
Wake Forest is the Vanderbilt of the ACC: small, overpriced, not quite the right fit in the conference, and with a fan base that doesn't get excited even when the team doesn't suck. Probably because they know that by next season order will be restored and their football program will once again regain its rightful place as conference bottom feeder. They made these guys cross-divisional rivals with Duke for a reason.
But every so often Jim Grobe manages to scrape together a team that is irritatingly non-terrible. They did it in 2006, when they managed to make the ACC an even bigger football joke by becoming its champion. And it looks like they're giving it what for again this year.
On the other hand, these guys have never beaten us. I mean, they beat VT pre-Beamer, back when we had a meaningful rivalry with VMI and got excited when we beat the Hoos. It's like beating the Patriots before they had Brady. Doesn't count. Under Beamer VT is 3-0. We survived them 17-10 our first year in the ACC, we spanked them 27-6 the year they actually managed to win the conference, and last year we dismantled them 52-21. Yes, the Deacs look better this year than last, but they don't look as good as they did in '06 with Riley Skinner.
I guess I should throw out some obligatory stats just to make this preview look all official. Wake's leading rusher, Josh Harris, is only averaging about 82 yards per game. He's gone over 100 yards once this season, last week against a Florida State team that is officially now mailing it in. The Deacs are a completely one-dimensional team. They're so pass-happy even their wide receivers get in on the action. Seriously. Wide receiver Michael Campanaro has thrown three passes on the year for the Deacs. He's 3 of 3 for 106 yards and 2 TDs, sporting a passer rating of 616.8. The man usually passing the ball for Wake isn't quite so spectacular, but is still pretty damn good. Tanner Price has thrown for 1,352 yards and 10 TDs but only 2 INTs through five games. Still, if Wake stays true to form they should come out passing against us, which will put the game into the hands of our secondary - the one area of our defense that hasn't been destroyed by injury. The front seven might have some trouble getting pressure on Price if Gayle isn't 100%, but all in all I have supreme confidence in Torrian Gray's defensive backfield. Then again, Josh Harris absolutely humiliated Bud Foster's defense last season by piling up 241 rushing yards against them in the lopsided loss. He was literally about 70% of their offense against us. So expect Jim Grobe to test the waters in the running game, hoping to duplicate last season's success. But I also guarantee you that Bud Foster has been watching tape of last year's game all week. Probably in a dark room while sacrificing a virgin.
UPDATE: Harris is questionable with a bum hamstring. Grobe might be bluffing, but it's looking like if Harris plays at all against the Hokies it will be in extremely limited capacity. Look for the bulk of the handoffs to be taken by Brandon Pendergrass, a senior who is averaging 3.7 yards per carry in backup duty this season. If Harris can't go that will make Wake's offense that much more one dimensional.
Defensively the Demon Deacons are annoyingly solid. They do tend to give up quite a few yards through the air (over 222 per game), and their scoring defense (23.4 ppg) ranks quite a bit below their total defense statistically, which indicates they are prone to give up the big scoring play. That means LT, DW and the entire offense will have to take advantage of the opportunities that Wake presents them if they're going to become bowl eligible this Saturday.
The Miami game was as good of a turnaround as I could have asked for after Clemson. Now - to risk sounding like a broken record - I need to see where the offense goes from here. We've probably already seen LT's best and worst game this season, and now the question is where will he settle in as his baseline? The good news is as far as away games in the ACC go, he's not exactly walking into the lion's den for his first road conference game. This will be a good opportunity for LT to prove that Clemson, not Miami, was the outlier in his season.