When Wake Forest Has The Ball
Wake Forest has yet to announce a starting quarterback for this game, and I don't anticipate them doing so until just moments before game time. Whoever the quarterback is will have to take what the North Carolina defense allows. That probably means attacking the defense with underneath routes. UNC has one of the better defenses in the country in terms of preventing big plays. Hopefully the loss of M.J. Stewart will allow the Deacs to connect on some shots down the field.
Rush defense is a not a strength of the North Carolina defense. However, running isn't necessarily a strength of the Wake Forest offense. If Kendall Hinton plays, then the Deacs have the potential to really frustrate Carolina's defense. In terms of a traditional rushing attack, the Heels allow 4.85 yards/attempt. I expect Wake Forest to try and play a game that involves ball control, and time of possession. In order to do that, I expect them to pound the ball with Tyler Bell and Matt Colburn. Wake's best opportunity for victory involves chewing the clock by controlling the ball on the ground. Easier said than done, however.
Wake's underneath passing attack should work against this Carolina defense. I expect Chuck Wade and Cam Serigne to be heavily involved in the game plan. Carolina currently only allows opponents to complete 5.2 yards/attempt, so either John Wolford or Kendall Hinton is going to have to be very selective about taking shots deep down the field. If Wake sticks to its typical passing attack, then it should be successful against this Carolina secondary. Carolina's defense somehow has just two sacks on the year, so while Wake's offensive line is young, it should still be able to keep Wake's quarterback(s) upright.
When North Carolina Has The Ball
Quarterback Marquise Williams is not a gifted passer, but can be a terror if he gets in the open field. He is completing 63.1% of his passes on the year, but he is averaging a whopping 7.86 yards/carry. He's actually averaging more yards per carry than yards per passing attempt. Against Georgia Tech, he completed just 54% of his passes, but ran for 148 yards on just 15 attempts. South Carolina did an excellent job of defending Williams in the season-opener. The Gamecocks intercepted Williams three times, and limited him to just 9 rushing yards on 10 attempts. Can Wake's defense do the same? They are ranked higher than South Carolina.
The Tar Heels have a talented back in Elijah Hood. They flipped the Charlotte product from Notre Dame, and he has lived up to his recruiting ranking. Hood averages 6.25 yards/attempt, and already has 5 rushing touchdowns on the season. Hood and Williams for a very formidable rushing duo.
The Heels also have a strong receiving corps. In the slot they have Ryan Switzer, who leads the team in targets and has two touchdowns on the season. On the outside, Carolina has 6'4" Quinshad Davis and 6'5" Bug Howard. Wake Forest fans may remember that Davis nearly chose the Demon Deacons in 2012. Davis and Howard and very big red zone targets, and will be very difficult matchups in any jump ball situations.
To combat Carolina's offense, the defensive line has to generate pressure. This will probably start with Duke Ejiofor, who made his season debut against Boston College. The line also cannot lose contain when Williams is in the pocket, or looks to run down field. Our linebackers will have to tackle Williams and Hood as soon as they have an opportunity. The defense cannot afford to give up big plays simply due to missed tackles. Wake's corners have a big challenge ahead of them. Brad Watson and Devin Gaulden cannot simply watch the receivers, and must go and find the football. Gaulden had a bad pass interference penalty against Boston College on an underthrown ball. Had he turned around to find the ball, it's an easy interception. UNC's offense can be explosive, and missed tackles and not finding the ball will only make them more explosive.
I hate it for Wake that the Deacs are returning from a physical road game, while the Tar Heels had a bye week. I do think fatigue is going to play at least some role in this game. Ultimately, I think that the combination of Carolina's experience, size at receiver, and rest will be too much for Wake Forest to overcome.
Wake Forest 24
North Carolina 34