The Wake Forest football team doesn't begin its season for another six-and-a-half months, but it's never too early to start examining the schedule. Several weeks ago, Wake Forest's 2016 schedule was officially released. Last week, SB Nation's Bill Connelly unveiled his initial 2016 S&P+ projections. It's very early, but let's take a look at where Wake Forest stands relative the the other teams on its schedule.
Wake Forest (3-9 in 2015)
Projected S&P+ Rating - 74
|Opponent||Date||2015 Record||Projected S&P+ Rating|
Connelly's ratings are derived from a combination of returning production, recruiting impact, and recent history, with that also being the order of importance. Given the strength of the schedule, let's put the games in tiers and look at the path to a bowl game in year three of the Dave Clawson era.
Tulane (122), Delaware (NR), and Army (124)
Each of these teams are projected to be considerably worse than the Demon Deacons, and all of these are also home games. There is still a path to six wins without sweeping these three, but life becomes a lot more difficult. I would also seriously question where Wake is as a team if they lose any of these games. I fully expect for Wake to sweep these three games. If they don't, then there are some serious issues.
Slight Favorites/Toss Ups
Syracuse (44), Virginia (68), Boston College (50)
According to the early projections, each of these teams is objectively better than the Deacs. The excellent news for Wake Forest is that the Deacs get all three of these teams at home. Wake Forest will probably be favored over Virginia, and the other two games will probably be pick 'ems, though tons could change by the season. The Deacs definitely need one of these to become bowl eligible, and they realistically need two. It's very possible that Wake Forest's bowl eligibility comes down to the Boston College game during the last week of the season. As if #therivalry could get any more intense.
Realistic Road Opportunities
Duke (51), Indiana (56), NC State (40)
Wake Forest is probably going to have to win one of these three games in order to become bowl eligible. I say that because Wake won't be expected to sweep the aforementioned six home games. Indiana is Wake's best chance at a road victory, but don't dismiss Wake's chances of winning at Duke, especially with the news that quarterback Thomas Sirk ruptured his achilles. The Deacs will also have an extra two days to prepare for this contest. Wake never seems to play well in Raleigh, and the Wolfpack have definitely been the better program over the past six years, but they did lose quarterback Jacoby Brissett (thankfully). They embarrassed the Deacs in Winston-Salem this past year, so I am not very optimistic, but I'll call it realistic since it's still February.
Wake Forest went to Louisville in 2014 and nearly came home with a victory. The Deacs even held a 4th quarter lead. Louisville is a strong program, but they are not on the same level as Florida State and Clemson. Lamar Jackson is definitely going to be a problem, but Wake can win this game if they are disciplined. This would be a 'bonus' win, and one that would significantly increase Wake's chances of making a bowl.
VERY LONG SHOTS
Florida State (5), Clemson (3)
I just don't see Wake Forest going down to Tallahassee and knocking off the Noles. They played them very tough in Winston this past year, but I expect FSU to be much better in 2016. Wake gets Clemson at home, so I suppose anything is possible, but Clemson is going to be competing for a national title yet again in 2016. If Wake Forest somehow manages to beat either of these teams, then Wake Forest is absolutely going bowling. Not just because of the 'bonus' win, but it means Wake Forest is a lot better than the initial projection of 74.
Do you agree with my tiers? Let me know in the comments section below. Spring practice will be starting up here in just a few weeks.