Is the third time the charm? Wake Forest hopes so, as this will be Wake Forest’s third consecutive game seeking bowl eligibility. The Deacs are slight favorites in Saturday’s contest against Virginia (2-6). What can we expect to see when Wake Forest and Virginia kick things off at 3 p.m.?
Wake Forest on Offense
Wake Forest’s offensive showing against Army was nothing short of atrocious. I believe the Deacs got too caught up in what Army was doing defensively and did not stick to their strength of running the ball. Virginia’s defense has put up strong showings in recent weeks, so it will be critical for Wake Forest to play mistake free and make the most of every possession they get.
Virginia is similar to Army in that their best defensive player is a linebacker. Micah Kiser is leading the team in tackles with 67, including 5.5 sacks. He also has 6 pass break ups to go along with 4 forced fumbles. He could throw off Wake’s rushing attack, but I still don’t think that vertical passes are the answer. Virginia’s biggest defensive weakness is surrendering short passes. I believe that Wake can take advantage of this by using Chuck Wade and Tabari Hines in the slot, as well as some comeback routes for players like Cortez Lewis and Alex Bachman. Bachman was targeted far too many times against Army, and John Wolford needs to spread the ball around more for Wake to be successful.
Wake Forest on Defense/Special Teams
Wake Forest should have a major edge on this side of the ball. Virginia has the 72nd best offense in the country according to S&P+, but Wake Forest has the 28th best defense.
Virginia’s best strength on offense is converting on short passes. Unfortunately, this is by far Wake Forest’s biggest weakness defensively. Wake’s major strength on defense is stopping the run, but I worry that Virginia may adjust the game plan to utilize the short passing attack. If Virginia does attempt to pound the ball, they’ll be feeding Taquan Mizzell, who is averaging 5.1 yards/carry on the season. Another talented back is Albert Reid. Between the two backs they have scored 10 touchdowns.
UVA’s most targeted receiver is Keeon Johnson. The senior is targeted more than 1/5 passing attempts, and has 39 receptions for 385 yards and 3 touchdowns on the season. He isn’t the team’s biggest playmaker, but Johnson is part of the reason Virginia is successful at keeping drives alive with quick passes. Olamide Zaccheaus and Doni Dowling are also major threats who each average at least 13 yards/reception.
In what is expected to be a low scoring contest, special teams could very well play a serious role. Virginia has been very strong as punt and kickoff returns as well as punting, but has truly been atrocious at field goal kicking. Virginia has used three field goal kickers on the year, who have combined to miss 2 PATs and go just 3-6 on field goals. Mike Weaver can give the Deacs an edge here, but UVA’s ability to return punts is concerning.
This has all the makings of a low scoring game where the team that makes the fewest mistakes will win. I’ll take Wake Forest to win 20-17, but I’m a lot less confident than I was a week ago.
What are your thoughts?