Posted: 8:11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013
By Omega Wolf
When writing a prediction story for an opponent N.C. State is favored to beat--and the Pack is an eight to 10-point favorite Saturday, depending on the source--the culmination of decades of painful memories conspires, inevitably causing me to rationalize a path to doom. If A happens, followed by B, and you mix in a little of that classic Pack bad luck, then we could lose this one guys. We really could.
This week, I've got nothing. We gon' win; they gon' lose.
I hope Jim Grobe doesn't pause long enough from polishing his 2006 ACC Championship trophy to read this and post it on a bulletin board, but Wake Forest is not going to win Saturday. Yes, the Pack have been favored to win in Winston before. No, the Pack have not won a single game in their last five trips west on I-40. But this is going to be different. And this isn't just unbridled fandom talking; I've got facts. Lots and lots of facts. And, for once, they all spell doom for the other guys.
The Deacons (2-3) are on their way to a fifth consecutive losing season. They do have a reasonably respectable win over an Army team that played Stanford tough, but the Black Nights, like Wake Forest, only have one win over an FBS opponent (the raging dumpster fire Skip Holtz is fueling at Louisiana Tech). Aside from Army, Wake's other win came over an even lowlier opponent in Presbyterian. The Blue Hose have one win all season, against D-II Brevard College, but they held the Deacs to just 3.5 yards per carry.
Wake cannot run the ball, and that's why it cannot win Saturday. The Deacs had 15 total yards rushing in an embarrassing loss to something called Louisiana Monroe. The Warhawks lost their two other games against opponents from BCS conferences by a combined total of 97 points, and their only non-Wake win came against Grambling State. AND THEY HELD WAKE TO 15 YARDS RUSHING.
Michael Campanaro will get his on Saturday--he is 16th in the FBS, averaging 107.3 yards a game receiving--and he can have those yards, throw for yet another annual rite of passage trickeration touchdown, and it won't be enough. BECAUSE WAKE FOREST CANNOT RUN THE BALL.
The Deacons are 117th among FBS schools, averaging 2.97 yards per carry. So it's all on the shoulders of Tanner Price, and Tanner Price does not have broad shoulders. His 126.14 passer rating is 85th in the FBS. Remember last year when Price was benched during an 18-for-33 performance that included a pick? Wake rushed for 16 yards on 23 attempts. The Pack pinned their ears back for five sacks. It's going to be more of the same on Saturday.
These programs are headed in opposite directions, as evidenced by their respective performances against their one like opponent, Clemson. All caveats about the tenuousness of comparing like opponents are duly noted; and, I recognize that State played Clemson at home on a Thursday night while Wake played the Tigers on the road. But still. The Deacs managed just seven points on 222 total yards (3.6 per play); they gave up 56 points on 573 yards (6.9 per play) even though Tajh Boyd spent most of the second half on the sidelines. Clemson's backup quarterback completed 10-of-11 passes! Wake could not stop Clemson even when Clemson quit trying. Conversely, N.C. State lost two touchdowns to ill-timed whistles and missed a field goal in its 26-14 loss against Clemson. The third-ranked Tigers held just a 5.4-5.2 advantage in yards per play in game that could have turned out very differently.
N.C. State ≠ Clemson, but it's a helluva lot closer to Clemson than it is to Louisiana Monroe. As evidenced by the Clemson game, this is a very good defense (28th against the pass in terms of yards per attempt, 30th against the run, 32nd in total defense, and 32nd in scoring defense). The Tigers are averaging 48.7 points against teams not named N.C. State. The Pack are allowing just a shade over 16 points per game against teams not named Clemson.
In a game pitting a good defense against the ACC's second-to-last offense in terms of yards per play and worst offense in terms of points per game, Wake Forest won't even get to 16. Even if home field is worth a two-touchdown swing from last year's 27-point Pack blowout, this isn't a very close game. Final score: N.C. State 23, Wake Forest 10.
Don't cancel your Saturday night plans. That'll be drunkin' glee you're riding, not drunken rage.
Bonus Stuff (because research is a terrible thing to waste):