Peter Casey-US PRESSWIRE
The Demon Deacons enter the Virginia game coming off back-to-back losses to Duke and Maryland respectively. Those losses drop them to 3-3 overall and make this upcoming game at Virginia about as close to a must-win game as you get in mid-October. After the jump I'll go into detail about this Virginia team and how I see this game playing out. Please feel free to post comments and leave your predictions in the comments section.
Virginia's 23.1 points per game offense is led at quarterback by sophomore Phillip Sims. Sims transferred from Alabama after losing the quarterback battle with A.J. McCarron, (good decision by Nick Saban) and the NCAA allowed Sims to play immediately. Sims has a passer rating of 119.45 which is 11th best in the ACC. Unfortunately Tanner Price currently has the worst passer rating in the league at 114.89.
Virginia has one of the best running backs in the ACC in Kevin Parks. Parks is averaging 5.11 yards/carry, but he is only getting slightly over 13 carries per game because of backup Perry Jones. Jones, however, is out this week with a concussion, so Parks should look to get almost all of the carries this Saturday. In addition to carries, running backs are very active in the Virginia passing attack, so look for a lot of swing passes and check downs to the backs.
A trio of sophomores leads Virginia's receiving corps in Darius Jennings, E.J. Scott, and Dominique Terrell. Each has at least 19 receptions on the season and between the three of them they average 130 receiving yards/game. Virginia also has an excellent tight end in Jake McGee who already has 4 touchdowns this season. Virginia definitely looks to target McGee once they get inside the red zone.
Virginia's offensive line is led by 1 senior, 3 juniors, and 1 sophomore. They have allowed 13 sacks this season, which is one more than Wake has allowed, but Wake has played one fewer game. If Wake can apply pressure on Sims, then we should be over to force turnovers and gain valuable extra possessions.
Virginia's 4-3 defense is allowing 33 points per game, which is 10 points more than last season's team did. The team starts 4 seniors, 2 juniors, and 1 sophomore in their front 7. The front 7 is lead by senior linebacker Steve Greer leads the team in tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks. But on the flip side they start 4 sophomores in their secondary. That's part of the reason why they have only intercepted an opposing quarterback one time all season. This is a reason why Virginia is last in the ACC in turnover margin at -13. Wake is tied for third in the league at +2. Another reason why they do not force many turnovers is that despite having an experienced front seven, they don't put much pressure on the quarterback. They only have sacked opposing quarterbacks six times all season. To put it in comparison, the Deacs have 12 sacks on the year. This is definitely a defense that our struggling offense should be to bounce back against.
Virginia's Special Teams
Much like Wake Forest, Virginia has also recently made a change in the kicking game. Junior Drew Jarrett was just 5/9 on the season, so Mike London decided to go with freshman Ian Frye, who was formerly just the kickoff specialist. Frye was 2/2 against Maryland, but his long was only 22 yards.
Virginia gives up the most yards per kickoff return in the ACC. They allow more than 28 yards per return on 15 returns. Some may say that that stat is inflated because of the Stefon Diggs 100 yard return. Even if you remove that play, then they still allow 23 yards per return, which would also be last in the ACC. The Deacs need to take advantage of this on Saturday and gain strong field position.
Wake Forest 24
I believe Tanner Price will have the time he needs to make correct reads and move the chains. I also believe that we will play a relatively mistake free game and that we will force at least one or two turnovers. Those extra possessions will be enough for the Deacs to come away with our first road win of the season, move us to 4-3, and will keep us in the chase for bowl eligibility.