As June slowly winds to a close, the college sports scene has almost come to a complete halt. The finals of the College World Series mark the end of the 2010-2011 sports season, with the nearest relief for college sports enthusiasts over two months away. This of course means that it is time to delve into thoughts and memories of last season, or more appropriately for many Wake fans, look forward to what is to come with the 2011-2012 seasons.
Although the 2011 version of the Wake Forest Demon Deacon football team is still 66 days away from kicking off (but who's counting?) it's never too early to take a peek at what's to come. So over the next few weeks at Blogger So Dear we are going to do just that: take a look at next year's team and how the Deacs can be expected to fare over the course of the 12 game season, starting today with a precursory look of the schedule.
Click through for the 2011 football schedule with accompanying thoughts and analysis
@ Syracuse Orange
Thursday, September 01 2011
8:00 PM EDT
N.C. State Wolfpack
Saturday, September 10 2011
3:30 PM EDT
Saturday, September 17 2011
6:30 PM EDT
@ Boston College Eagles
Saturday, October 01 2011
Florida St. Seminoles
Saturday, October 08 2011
Virginia Tech Hokies
Saturday, October 15 2011
@ Duke Blue Devils
Saturday, October 22 2011
@ North Carolina Tar Heels
Saturday, October 29 2011
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Saturday, November 05 2011
@ Clemson Tigers
Saturday, November 12 2011
Saturday, November 19 2011
Saturday, November 26 2011
One of the first thing most football fans do when the schedule is released is to examine the number of home games to see how many tailgating opportunities there are for the upcoming fall, followed by looking at the road games and dream about how many games they can make it to on the road. For the third time in the past four years, the Deacs have seven games from the confines of BB&T Field (aka Groves Stadium) with five games on the road. With a standard four conference road games, this means there is only one non-conference road game on the season, which Wake gets out of the way with a season opening trip to Syracuse.
The Syracuse game is set to kickoff on Thursday September 1 from the Carrier Dome, the second consecutive year the Deacs have started their season on a Thursday night, and once again the third time in four years this has occurred (Baylor in 2008, Presbyterian in 2010). On the bright side, the Deacs have won their last two Thursday night openers as well as four in a row dating back to a season opening loss to a Jay Cutler led Vanderbilt team in 2005. Syracuse presents much more of a challenge than Presbyterian did for the Deacs last season. The Orange went 8-5 last season, capping their season off with a bowl win over Kansas State 36-34. This will be Syracuse's first game of the season as well, and will be their first Thursday night game since the 2004 season when they lost 27-6 to West Virginia. Perhaps starting with Syracuse will be a good omen considering the last time these two teams met, the Deacs won 20-10 in the 2006 season opener which of course led to Wake Forest's first and only appearance in the Orange Bowl.
The first conference game of the season takes place the next week as N.C. State comes into town for the Wake Forest season opener. Unfortunately, the new scoreboard is most likely not going to be completed in time for the game, but I've heard rumors that they're just going to play the game anyway. The Deacs lost last year to the Pack 38-3, but have a four game home winning streak against the team from Raleigh last losing at home in 2001. The game starts at 3:30 and will in all likelihood be 90 degrees at kickoff, per usual for September afternoons in North Carolina.
Wake remains at home for a game against Gardner-Webb the next weekend for a 6:30 kickoff, which will at the very least give the Deacs their first win of the year. Gardner-Webb should probably be better than Presbyterian was last year, but it really shouldn't matter. If Wake manages to lose to the Bulldogs, we should probably just fold the football program. This will be a good game to have going into a bye week and will hopefully get the confidence on the team up before the bulk of the schedule kicks into gear.
Game four of the season starts an arduous three game stretch: @ Boston College, then back home for two weeks for games against conference-favorite Florida State, and Virginia Tech. Wake has not had very good success against BC since they joined the conference four years ago, going 1-3 over that stretch with some heartbreaking losses. A late long pass in the 2008 game eliminated Wake from winning the division and the game two years ago in Chestnut Hill featured a manic comeback by the Deacons before we lost our minds in overtime on a play I like to use as example A of "why you run the ball up the middle if you're on the one yard line". The Deacs also lost last year 23-13 to the Eagles in what was arguably Wake's second best chance at winning a conference game (aka not a five touchdown blowout).
It's always fun to host power teams like Florida State and Virginia Tech just to see how your team matches up with top 20 teams in the nation, and Wake gets to do exactly that in back to back weeks in October. Unfortunately for the Deacons both teams are likely going to be very good and looking to run all over Wake. The Deacs experienced very good success against the Seminoles during Riley Skinner's tenure at Wake, winning three in a row between 2006-2008 but have now lost the last two in blowout fashion.
Wake has not had the same success against VPI since they joined the conference, as last season's 52-21 laugher from Blacksburg certainly indicates. The bright spot of that game was of course Josh Harris running for 200+ yards and making VPI's defense look like they were...well Wake Forest's defense. It's tough to be optimistic regarding these two games, but if Wake can establish a running game and force some turnovers they could hang in there.
The Deacs head back on the road for the next two weeks, well sort of. Hour long trips to Durham and Chapel Hill are technically road games, but aren't going to be as bad as say travelling to Palo Alto in the second week of the 2010 season was. Wake hasn't lost to Duke in seemingly ever (I think we're up to 11 games in a row now) and can thank the Blue Devils for giving the Deacs their only conference win of the season last year.
This will be the first time Wake has ever played UNC in football....just kidding, but it has been a while as the two have not met since the 2007 season thanks to Swofford's expansion. The Deacs have won two in a row against the Tarheels including a win in 2006 in Chapel Hill. The game will also be UNC's first football game after their response to the NCAA on their major violations stemming from parking violations, tutors paying parking tickets, agents being tied to assistant coaches, illegal phone calls taking place, and draft parties being paid for. Maybe the Tarheels will be distracted and Wake can sneak by claiming two scalps in two weeks from in-state conference foes.
And then comes November 5th, the day every Wake fan has circled on their calendar since the schedule was released: Notre Dame comes to town. It's difficult to overstate how big a game this is for Wake Forest fans, simply because of the caliber of the Fighting Irish and their tradition in college football. While big name schools like Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Miami come to Winston-Salem semi-regularly because of conference affiliation, this is the first time in a while that a school with this much national recognition has scheduled a trip down to North Carolina to play Wake Forest besides Nebraska in 2007. Notre Dame should be better this year than they have over the previous couple of years and if you had to pick one game this year as THE game of the year for the Deacs, it would have to be this one.
After the Irish and their large contingent of fans have left Winston, the Deacs will waltz down to Death Valley, a place where the Deacons have had MUCH success over the past few years. And by success we of course mean Wake will have absolutely no chance in this game. The Deacs have taken two fairly decent teams down to Clemson the past two trips and come away with a combined 82-13 smackdown, including an embarrassing 38-3 loss two years ago. While I'll probably still end up sitting in the end zone in Clemson to watch this game, I fully admit and recognize now that this combined score over the previous three matchups after this year's game will probably be much, much worse than 82-13. This game also marks the last foray away from Winston-Salem for the Deacs who close with two home games against Maryland and Vanderbilt.
If the Deacs have any outside shot at a bowl for the 2011 season, they will have to win these last two home games against the Terrapins and Commodores to sneak into the post-season. Vanderbilt provided Wake one of their three wins last season as the Deacs laid the wood to the Dores with a 34-13 victory, providing Wake with an encouraging one-game winning streak coming into this year. Maryland is the last conference game of the year, and there should be some incentive for Wake to give some revenge in this one considering last year's game was one of the worst I've ever seen Wake play. The Terps jumped out to a 27-7 halftime lead, en rout to stomping Wake 62-14 while Wake only gained 155 yards. While Wake isn't a football powerhouse, losing by 7 touchdowns to Maryland is absolutely never acceptable. Vandy comes into town for the season finale over Thanksgiving weekend in what promises to be a chilly game, as anyone who was there for the game in 2009 can recall (cold, rainy, 35 degrees). Hopefully this year the game will be in the afternoon rather than in the evening.
All-in-all, Wake Forest has a rather daunting schedule which is somewhat balanced by having seven home games. The new scoreboard should be finished for the Gardner-Webb game and is certain to bring a little bit more energy to Groves Stadium. Regardless of what happens next year though, trips into Winston-Salem by Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Notre Dame provide what could very well be argued as the best home slate ever. If you haven't bought your season tickets yet, now is the time to do so.
And as always...Go Deacs.