The Wake Forest Demon Deacons are 2-0 for the first time since 2012. If the Deacs defeat the Delaware Blue Hens (2-0) on Saturday, then they will move to 3-0 for the first time since 2008. How do the Deacs match up against the Blue Hens?
Wake Forest on Offense
As most of you are now aware, Wake Forest has made a change at quarterback, and Kendall Hinton will be starting on Saturday against Delaware. Head coach Dave Clawson has no plans to definitely put John Wolford into the game, so this will be Hinton’s show. Hinton has earned that right after scoring Wake’s only points in a 7-3 victory over Tulane in week one, and lighting a spark in the offense en route to a 24-14 victory over Duke in week two. Hinton’s best trait as a passer is his deep ball, and with Wake’s speed at receiver, I expect the vertical passing game to be more potent against Delaware.
Delaware has forced six interceptions on the season, but I expect Hinton to be a much more accurate passer than what Delaware has seen so far this season. He did throw one interception against Duke, but that was on 4th down and he was throwing it up while he was being pressured.
Hinton obviously has great athletic ability, so he will be able to make plays with his feet when the offense breaks down. Additionally, the threat of Hinton running opens up the run game for running backs like Cade Carney and Matt Colburn, as defenders are slower to react to zone reads and normal handoffs within the offense.
Delaware’s defense has been very good through two games, as they’ve allowed just 10 points per contest, but those games were against Delaware State (still mad about that basketball game) and Lafayette, respectively. Delaware beat Delaware State 56-14, and won 24-6 at Lafayette. To put it in perspective as best I can, Delaware State is currently 240th out of 253 teams in Sagarin. Lafayette is 213th. Wake Forest would be a 48 point favorite over Delaware State on a neutral field, and would be a 33 point favorite over Lafeyette on a neutral field. Sagarin likes Wake Forest to beat Delaware by about 20 points.
Wake’s receivers have been somewhat disappointing through two games, as no receiver has a touchdown, though they improved against Duke. Wake was much better at the vertical passing game against Duke, and that should definitely continue against Delaware. I expect Cortez Lewis to make a big play, and I also expect Chuck Wade to catch the ball in space, and break a long run.
Delaware has a nice stable of linebackers who have accumulated a number of sacks and tackles for loss this season. I don’t know how much they will test the Wake Forest offensive line, but based on the stat sheet, it seems that Wake is going to have to be prepared for some blitz packages that send linebackers from all parts of the field. Wake clearly won the line of scrimmage against Duke, and I expect them to do the same against Delaware.
Wake Forest on Defense
Delaware’s offense is averaging a whopping 40 points per game against some less than stellar competition. Wake Forest’s defense is allowing just 8.5 points per contest, so this is your classic “something has to give” game. I tend to think that the Wake defense is going to have the advantage in this one given that there are multiple NFL players on defense.
Delaware will be without its best offensive player when they take on the Deacs. Wes Hills, who is averaging more than 10 yards per carry this season, will miss the contest against Wake Forest. In his place will be Thomas Jefferson (insert horrific joke about him previously being a third down back), who is averaging 6.5 yards per carry. Jalen Randolph is also a very capable back, who is averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
Delaware’s offensive line is young and undersized (by Power 5 standards), so I fully expect the Wake Forest defensive line to be able to win the line of scrimmage, stop Delaware’s run game between the tackles, and make quarterback Joe Walker uncomfortable when he’s in the pocket. Given Delaware’s youth on the offensive line, I expect defensive coordinator Mike Elko to send a few exotic blitzes to confuse the line and create big tackles for loss.
The Blue Hens are very run heavy on offense. They have 107 rushing attempts on the season compared to just 27 passing attempts, so they run the ball about 4 out of 5 times. Quarterback Joe Walker is just 11-25 (44%) for 132 yards on the season. He is not a strong threat to pass the ball, but Wake’s defensive backs have to stay engaged throughout the game and be prepared for play action. He is, however, a good runner and averages nearly 6 yards per carry. More good news for Wake is that Wake’s safeties are good at run support, but hopefully the backs don’t get to that level of the defense.
Wake should win this contest on talent and size/athleticism alone. Delaware has a good program and does a lot of positive things offensively, but I believe Wake’s stout defense is going to disrupt a lot of what they want to do and get them off schedule. If Delaware is forced into 3rd and long situations, then they have very little chance of success.
Wake is going to have to compete hard and execute, and I believe they will, but ultimately I expect them to win 27-6 and move to 3-0. I’m looking forward to the game and seeing what the team brings. There’s a lot of excitement around the program now, and I can’t wait to see what happens during the rest of the season. As always, go Deacs!