Six games in, we’re at the halfway mark of the 2016 season (well, just before the halfway mark, if all goes according to plan). The team has exceeded expectations so far (at least for most of us outside of the locker room) and is sitting pretty at 5-1. You know all that, and I’m not here to talk about how happy I am with the squad’s work so far (very). Most of us at BSD have probably expressed similar sentiments in our pieces over the past few weeks.
Instead, I’m here right now to tell you that winter is coming. That’s a mixed bag. Winter’s approach can bring some exciting things, like the beautiful sight of a snow-covered campus, or the return of Wake basketball. It can also bring some frustrating things, like trudging to a 9am class from Piccolo or Martin with a 30 degree windchill, or the return of Wake basketball. So it goes with the football schedule, as well. On the one hand, we get home games against Army, UVA, and Boston College. On the other hand, we have to face FSU, Louisville, and Clemson.
The dotted line shows Wake’s current ranking (62nd) in comparison to that of our opponents. Wake defeated the three teams that are now rated as significantly inferior opponents, defeated two teams that are in the same ballpark (Duke and Indiana) and lost to the one team ranked significantly better (NC State). The teams we’ve played have a combined record of 17-15. For the teams we’ve beaten, that falls to 13-14.
That’s not to take anything away from the Deacs and the performance they’ve put together so far. All the team can do is go out and try to win the games on its schedule, and they’ve done their job (and then some) in coming away with five wins in six games. Plus, two of those games were underdog road wins at P5 opponents Duke (who went on to win at Notre Dame) and Indiana (who went on to beat a ranked Michigan State team and whose only non-Wake loss has been to Ohio State).
Our opponents in the second half of the regular season have gone a combined 22-11 so far. Honestly, though, it doesn’t make much sense to combine and average those six teams to characterize the second half. The “easy” games are behind us (although “easy” is always easier on paper, as the Tulane game showed). Going forward, we’ll be facing three football juggernauts and three relative peers.
FSU, Louisville, and Clemson are all top 10 teams by some metrics (like S&P+, which has both Louisville and Clemson in the top 5). They are a combined 14-3, and two of those three losses are to each other. Florida State, ranked as the “worst” of the bunch, is currently a three touchdown favorite on Saturday.
The good news is that our more peer-like opponents (Army, UVA, and BC) are all coming to our house to play, and they’ve all done a bit worse so far than Duke and Indiana who we beat on the road. One win from that trio gets us bowling for the first time in five years, and anything beyond that will get the program its best record in at least eight years.
Wake is in a great position going into the second half of the season, and the remaining home schedule leaves room for further success. However, the three toughest tests of the year, by far, are still ahead. The Deacs could go 0-3 in those games and still have a very successful season, but picking up even a single victory out of those matchups would give Wake a serious statement win to help bolster what should be a nice final record.