The Deacs had a bye this week and according to sources close to the football program, Wake was unable to emerge victorious and took a crippling defeat heading into a matchup with ranked, yes ranked, Duke. The Blue Devils enter the game at BB&T Field as the number 25 team in the nation fresh off a 48-30 win over Miami. Duke sits at 8-2 on the season, and with a 4-2 record in the ACC has the Coastal Division title within its reach (also known as "the team who gets to be slaughtered by Florida State in the ACC Championship Game).
This will be only the third time since 1960 that either team will be ranked in the matchup. The most recent time was in 1994 when Duke entered the game 20th in the AP poll, 6-0 on the season, and cruised to a 51-26 victory over the 2-5 Deacons. Before that you have to go all the way back to 1979 when Wake was also ranked 20th, with a 7-2 record, where the Deacs emerged with a 17-14 victory over a Blue Devil squad who was 2-5-1. Well this year Wake enters the game with a 4-6 overall record in need of two wins in their final two games to make a bowl. It is also Senior Day for the Deacons and the final home game, so those people attending should get inside around 11:30 to watch the senior festivities. If you see nothing else of the game, at least go in and support the entire senior class which includes two absolute studs in Michael Campanaro and Nikita Whitlock.
In other Campanaro news, Mike tweeted that he has full mobility back and is well on the road to recovery. He had previously postulated that he could return for the Vanderbilt game if all went well, but I would say that he should take his time coming back and not risk his long term health for short term gain. He has a big offseason coming up with the combine and NFL Draft and he should not risk reinjury if he's not back to 100%. If the Deacs fall short on Saturday, as most assume they will, there's really no reason for Camp to come back for the season finale. I love Camp and I love everything he's done for Wake but he needs to look out for himself here and not put his body on the line.
I caught most of the Duke-Miami game and the Blue Devils overcome a relatively sloppy start where they fell down 10-0 to rattle off 27 points in the second half and ultimately win by 18 points. With the win Duke wins the Coastal if they win out and win a lot of the tiebreakers even if they only go 1-1 against Wake and UNC in their finale. Duke opened the week as a 5.5 point favorite, but betting has apparently been on the Deacs early as the line quickly dropped to 4.5. I wonder what the reason was for the line being so low in the first place since Sagarin suggests Duke is about 16 points better on a neutral field, but a lot of the time Vegas knows better (or bettor - all puns intended) than anyone else. I will say though that without Campanaro, I don't really see how Wake gets much going offensively since we've only scored three points in the last eight quarters.
I do believe that Wake's defense will come out ready to go against a Duke offense ranked 36th in the country in scoring offense. Wake's defensive stats really ballooned after the FSU game despite a pretty solid effort against the high powered Seminoles' offense. As discussed last week, the offense really put the defense in pretty vulnerable positions where the defense had their back against the wall for most of the day. Grobe says that he's hanging his hat on Tanner for this one, but I think that there might be a pretty short leash if he gets off to a slow start. Unfortunately backup Tyler Cameron didn't really get the opportunity to do too much in his own right against the athletic and speedy FSU defense, so there's not really a very bright alternative if Tanner does get down early.
I think if Wake loses to Duke we will see Cameron start the Vanderbilt game and the team will go back to an option style offense that they ran earlier in the year. If it's not a full blown transition I would think that there would still be more run plays as Cameron is generally regarded to be a speedier guy who is fit to run the option. I really don't know what to expect from this game in general, but I do think Duke is somewhat vulnerable. I'm sure Duke fans are thinking the same thing Wake fans always think "how can WE of all teams overlook anybody" but I think Duke may be looking ahead a week to the UNC game which is almost certain to be one of the biggest matchups in the history of that rivalry. Wake has still won 11 of the last 12 meetings against Duke, with the lone blemish coming last year at BB&T Field. If Wake's defense has a solid game, I think the offense can do enough to get it done. Grobe, despite being pretty putrid in November over the past few years, always has a game or two where his team manages to stun the opposition. I think this is Grobe's big game and I think Wake stuns the nation and pulls the upset, only to get beat down again in the finale against Vanderbilt thus sealing a 5-7 record for the 2013 installment of Demon Deacon football. You heard it hear first, Wake wins 21-20 and Duke fans curse the fact that Jim Grobe is still their daddy.
Moving over to the basketball front, Wake has played three games so far this year (four by the time this article hits the press with a game against Jacksonville on tap tonight at 7) but has looked pretty solid in five of six halves. The starters haven't really gotten too much second half work since the Colgate game, but have managed to put up some gaudy numbers on both ends of the floor so far even in somewhat limited minutes. Sophomore Devin Thomas, who has turned into quite the rebound machine, is averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds in only 28 minutes per game, while fellow sophomore guard Codi Miller-McIntyre (or as the ESPN3 commentators called him "Ellis McIntyre") is averaging 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists a game with only 1.3 turnovers per. This places Codi's turnover rate at under 10% of all possessions which is a very, very solid number. Both of these guys are likely to experience a regression in their gaudy early season numbers, but from what we've seen so far they are off to a fantastic start.
I will definitely add the caveat to the 3-0 start that the Deacons have played an embarrassingly easy schedule. I'm not faulting anybody one way or the other about the schedule, nor am I saying it's a bad thing, but I do think it's important to note that the best team Wake has played so far according to KenPom is 274th ranked VMI (of 351 teams). Jacksonville, last night's opponent, ranked 282nd prior to the game while Wake's other two opponents - Colgate and Presbyterian, ranked 287th and 344th respectively. Currently, Wake has played the 8th easiest schedule in the nation and I can't imagine the Jacksonville matchup will vastly help increase that number.
KenPom's numbers this early are not perfect, nor are they infallible but they are pretty good indicators and predictors of where a team stands in the general pecking order. Wake sits at 85th right now, which is vast improvement over the past three years where Wake failed to crack the top 100 one single time. For those fans curious about Wake's predictions, KenPom has Wake going 15-14 (not counting the two unknown opponents and games in the Atlantis tournament) with a 7-11 record in the ACC. Wake's rank is 12th in the ACC, ahead of only Boston College, Miami, and Virginia Tech.
I also want to give a shoutout to my boys the Belmont Bruins who went into the Dean Dome and knocked off the North Carolina Tarheels 83-80. This wasn't the greatest week for UNC who was also tied with Holy Cross at 25 at the half in the first matchup of the week. Unfathomably, but perhaps not unsurprisingly, UNC is STILL ranked in the latest poll at 24th in the country. Now this is no disrespect to Belmont from me, but if any team in the top 25 struggles to beat an abysmal Holy Cross team and then blows an eight point lead in the final four minutes to fall at home to an OVC team, they should not be ranked the next week. UNC is one of only two teams to be ranked that has lost to an unranked team. Perhaps one explanation for this is the fact that Belmont received 18 votes to be in the top 25. Instead of actually using logic and removing UNC from the top 25, some "journalists" decided that Belmont must actually be close to a top 25 team since it could NEVER be true that UNC might just not be that good. KenPom says Belmont is 73rd in the country and UNC is 28th. It's also important to note that UNC's ranking includes weighted preseason data from both P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, neither of which has played a game yet this year and both appear unlikely to do so anytime soon. That's the end of my UNC rant, but for the Tarheels to still be ranked after the week they had just reeks of subjective journalism and homerism from a group of voters who almost assuredly have a few members with degrees from the UNC school of journalism.
I suspect Wake will emerge from the matchup with Jacksonville with another convincing win and will take care of business against another horrible team on Thursday (the Citadel) to get to 5-0 heading to the Bahamas for a Thanksgiving Day matchup with top 5 Kansas. I'm excited to see where Wake stands when they play three solid teams in the tournament, and I think we will know a lot more about this team through eight games than we know through three games against an easy schedule.
If you're in town you should absolutely head over to the Joel on Thursday to support the basketball team and you should clearly be in your seats at 11:30 for the Senior Day ceremonies to see off some all-time great Deacons in their final home game. Frustration with the coaching staff and the general state of Wake athletics is no excuse to not show up and show your support for this year's senior football class. Here's to a great week of Wake sports and as always, go Deacs.