When it comes to college football histories, traditions, championships, and bowl games, nobody out there is mistaking Wake Forest for Alabama. Hell most people aren’t mistaking Wake Forest for anything other than a bottom dwelling Power 5 program who struggles year in and year out to be successful on the gridiron.
While it is hard to refute those perceptions given the facts, when a team has a chance to be one of the most accomplished teams in a history that spans 111 years, it is time to grab that chance by the horns and run with it.
The current iteration of Wake Forest football is 5-4 through nine games of arguably one of the toughest schedules it has faced in recent history. While some of these schools certainly aren’t at the same level they have been in recent years, a schedule that includes: Clemson, Notre Dame, Florida State, Louisville, and Georgia Tech is no joke.
When you throw in a road game at Appalachian State, and a suddenly resurgent Boston College team as appetizers (both wins I might add), it makes the schedule look even more daunting.
The four losses for the Deacs have come to teams with a combined record of 23-11, and it got both Clemson and Notre Dame (16-2) on the road.
The Deacs are currently ranked 36th in the S&P (which is similar to KenPom for basketball, ranking on efficiency, advanced statistics, and the basics of the game), and sit as the second best 5-4 team in the country.
A suddenly prolific offense has moved from 97th pre-season to 36th, and while the defense has certainly taken a step back this year, still ranks 42nd nationally.
All of that is to say that this Wake Forest team may not have a record that shows this, but it is a good team, especially by historical standards.
Now that the ridiculous stretch from Appalachian State to Notre Dame is done (a 2-4 record is probably one of the more optimistic guesses that anybody could have reasonably had), it is time for the guys to step up and show how good this Wake Forest team actually is.
Football Study Hall gives Wake Forest a 23% chance to run the table against Syracuse, N.C. State, and Duke to finish the year. If Dave Clawson and the team can do that then it would be the fourth time in school history that Wake Forest has won 8 regular season games (1979, 2006, 2007).
Only 13 teams in school history (12%) have won 7 games in school history, and three of those seasons were achieved through bowl wins, meaning just 10 teams have been able to do that in the regular season. Football Study Hall gives the Deacs at least a 68% chance to accomplish this.
The “Simple Rating System” on College Football Reference ranks this team as the second best in school history behind only the Orange Bowl year in 2006.
There is no doubt that injuries are piling up on both sides of the ball and that could jeopardize the chances of the Deacs to accomplish these records (and certainly calls into question the complete accuracy of the percentages listed above), but if I know Dave Clawson like I think I do, there is no excuse-making going on right now and the team has simply adopted a “next-man-up” mentality.
This team has been fun to watch all year and is lightyears ahead of where it was just 3 seasons ago when it was a laughingstock of college football due to an anemic offense and coaching transition.
If Wake wants to become bowl eligible for the second straight year (for the second time in school history), or become just the fourth team in school history to win eight regular season games, it will have to buck a trend of fading late down the stretch.
Since 2009 the Deacs are a paltry 6-25 in the month of November. Including this season, the Deacs are 6-22 from October on for a 27% win percentage under Dave Clawson.
Now is the time for this team to grab the opportunity down the stretch and show the talent, resolve, and determination that it has that other Wake Forest teams lacked.
That starts this weekend against a talented Syracuse team that upset Clemson in the Carrier Dome. From there the Deacs host a very good N.C. State team, who sits at 6-3 on the season and boasts a terrific defensive line. Finally, Wake Forest will wrap up the season with another in-state rivalry against the Duke Blue Devils who may be fighting for it’s own post-season eligibility too.
I am looking forward to watching the team take on this challenge, and based on what I have seen so far this season have the utmost faith that this coaching staff and collection of players has what it takes to break through to make this season rank up there amongst one of the best in Wake Forest history.