Well, here we are.
Right now, right at this moment, your Demon Deacons are 4-0 and heading into Week 5 with multiple Top 25 votes for the first time in five years. This storyline is a long way away from where fans thought the program was on September 2nd just hours after Wake had struggled to put away an underwhelming Tulane side at BB&T Field. Fortunately, winning makes painful fandom moments of the past easily forgettable and now the team sits in its best position since 2006. With the first bowl game in a half decade all but locked up, let’s take a closer look at the potential places the Deacs might end up in the postseason and what the best possible scenarios are.
First, I’ll list all the bowls that the ACC has preferential bid contracts with for the 2016 season. Due to Notre Dame’s agreement with the ACC, they are also directly eligible for these bowls despite them not being an official member of the conference. There are ten bowls that have bids directly tied to the ACC, and an additional two bids in which they share with the Big Ten. Keep in mind that these are simply preferential bids, and in the case of an ACC team going to the College Football Playoff, or not simply having enough bowl eligible teams, there’s a good chance that one of these games would not feature an ACC program.
Here’s the list and some info about them:
(Note 1: The tiers are a combination of ESPN’s tier rankings and my overall rankings based on the past 3 years of team quality in these games)
(Note 2: Wake Forest is currently projected for 7.4 wins based on ESPN’s Football Power Index)
As you can see there are some great options available, but there has to be a way to quantify the value of these potential bowl games right? Which ones do we actually want to play in and what’s our likelihood of that happening? Of course, the more prestigious the bowl the better, but if we’re being realistic about our end of year win total (I think most would agree 7-8 wins is about where we lie), then which games do we want to be lined up for?
That’s why I created a small little formula to analyze and compare where we might be playing come the holiday season. Based on Bowl Tier, Location to Alumni Fans, Bowl Date, Venue Weather, Potential Opponent, and Likelihood of Appearance, you can find the main games that align best with our overall talent level AND personal bowl desires.
Here are the categories:
Tier Value- These were associated with an inverted value of their overall tier in Table #1. If it was a lower tier game (Such as the St. Petersburg Bowl), fans would desire it less and it was given only 1 point in the formula. On the other end of the spectrum, a higher tier game (Such as the Russell Athletic Bowl) carried more weight. Scale: 1-3
Army currently beating Buffalo 10-0. It’s gonna be amazing when Army and Wake Forest meet in the Fiesta Bowl.— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) September 25, 2016
Fan Location- This was based on the bowl’s location to potential alumni who could go to the game. Of course, Charlotte in this scenario was the top point receiver given its massive WF alumni base. Other cities such as New York, Annapolis (close to D.C), and Nashville picked up a reasonable amount of points in this category as well. Scale: 1-4
Date- There were three possible point allocations for this category. The St. Petersburg Bowl, Quick Lane Bowl, and Camping World Independence Bowl all will be taking place the day after Christmas, which makes it extremely difficult for a number of fans to be able to attend the game. I conducted a Twitter Poll on this problem two days ago and confirmed this exact problem. The 27th is also a potential difficult day to attend a game as well as New Years’ eve. These dates were thus given a 2 rather than a 3 on the scale. Scale: 1-3
If the Deacs get a bowl game on Dec 26th, which of these sites would you be able to get to for the game? (Pick your #1 choice)— WFU Sports Stats (@DeacFan3) September 26, 2016
Weather- This is pretty self-explanatory. Part of the reason bowl games always have that “vacation” feel is because a ton of them take place in resort cities such as Orlando, Miami, and Los Angeles. The better the weather, the more points in the formula. Scale: 1-3
Opponent- At this point, I don’t think Deacon fans care too much about who they would play in a potential bowl game. At the same time though, you’d be hard-pressed to convince me that you would be just as excited for a Tulsa game as you would be a matchup against a P5 opponent like Mississippi State or Penn State. Therefore, 2 points for a Power 5 matchup and 1 point for the rest. Scale: 1-2
Two bowl scouts in Winston-Salam for Wake Forest/Delaware ... both from #OrangeBowl of course. Deacs (2-0) thinking big, thinking 2006— Bob Sutton (@tnBobSutton) September 17, 2016
Likelihood Factor: Finally, I subjectively determined the overall probability of each of these bowls given the fact that Wake is projected for a little over 7 wins at the moment. This probability was then multiplied by the overall sum of the other categories to reach a final score between 1 and 15. Of course, given that 7 wins also puts the Deacs perfectly in range for a bowl like the St. Petersburg bowl, these lesser tier games still have decently high likelihoods even with the hot start. The 7-8 win games are those that don’t have any diluting multiplier, while the top bowls we all dream of are heavily reduced in the system by the factor. Multiplier: .25x-1.0x
Let’s take a look at what game matches our projected record and fan preferred bowl characteristics best.
The clear winner after all of this is the 6th official edition of the Belk Bowl in Charlotte. It’s pretty easy to see why too.
Fan base nearby? Check.
SEC opponent? Yup.
Non-freezing weather? Sure.
Likelihood? 100% in-play.
In fact, that’s exactly where CBS Sports predicts we’ll be playing this postseason against Auburn at Bank of America Stadium. Talk about a perfect welcome back to “Bowl Life.”
Belk Bowl against Auburn in Charlotte? I think Wake fans would like that a lot. https://t.co/La0i75v8Tu— Les Johns (@Les_Johns) September 26, 2016
The New Era Pinstripe Bowl came out #2 in the rankings, mainly because the bowl is located in a metropolitan area full of alumni, is on a prime late December date, and is totally achievable with 7-8 wins. For reference, since the ACC has been involved in the Pinstripe Bowl, Duke and BC have both been selected at 7-5 and 4-4 in the conference. I think there’s a good chance Wake mirrors that record when it is all said and done.
Apart from these two standouts, this ranking system is also good for letting you know which bowls we want to avoid. The Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit has about as many redeeming qualities as a Jeff Bzdelik first half gameplan and the Camping World Independence Bowl in Shreveport is about the last place I’d want to go to watch a sporting event. Wake has also been flirting with the Military Bowl in recent projections, but the AAC opponent and weather make it a little less desirable in my own opinion.
Tigers still projected to Military Bowl in Annapolis, now against Wake Forest; https://t.co/55oxcTqIka— Jeff Brightwell (@JeffABrightwell) September 11, 2016
Well what do you guys think about the potential options? Would you be happy pretty much anywhere, or now that we’re 4-0 are you hoping for certain games? Finally, you may be wondering why I didn’t put the College Football Playoff as an option. There’s no need to jump the gun just yet; that can come into the discussion next Sunday after we beat the Pack and are chilling on top of the ACC at 5-0 with no worries in the world. Hope to see you all in Raleigh!