It’s been almost 48 hours since Wake Forest took it’s largest beating of the season with a 52-3 loss to Clemson.
Before the season, predictions were made, things were said, and I’ll just revisit what I had down for Wake.
“Projected overall record: 9-3 regular season
Projected conference record: 5-3
Give me Wake starting out very hot running off 8 in a row and dropping 3 of the last 4.”
This isn’t about, “oh hey, I’m only 2 wins away from being right on this season, I’m so smart, pay me money.” It’s about recognizing steps. (I was also so wrong because I thought we’d run Louisville off the field.)
Was the score against Clemson similar to last year? Yes, yes it was and it hurt the same. However, take a step back here and look at what the team has accomplished and what is left for this season.
The team sits now at 7-3. Full stop. If I told you before the season, without the only context being that they’d be going into the Duke and Syracuse games 7-3 and 2 of the losses were on the road to Virginia Tech and Clemson, the collective lot would be through the roof. Instead, there’s been a bit of a disappointment it feels after the way the Clemson game went and the way VT went.
Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson: "We’ve bounced back from these games before, but every team is different and every week is different. We need to move on. We don’t want to forget about it. We need to learn from it, but we have a really important game next week."— Les Johns (@Les_Johns) November 17, 2019
What is left in front of the team is very doable. From just the team themselves there are challenges. Losing Justin Strnad, Sage Surratt, and Luke Masterson is huge. Just as it was expected the OL would take a step back(which I will get to later) with the losses of Ryan Anderson and Phil Haynes, the same could be said missing the 4 guys on the injury report right now. No need to go more in depth on them, what do we have now?
What we have now are mostly inexperienced WRs outside of Kendall Hinton. The only way to get experience is to play and so it will be a baptism by fire. Waydale Jones has to hold onto the football, receivers can’t be bullied off their routes. But the blame isn’t all on them and other parts of the offense have to play their roles. Starting at QB, Jamie Newman has to play better point blank. There have been some not great reads, missed throws, and they happen but Jamie Newman is an elite level talent and it’s not crazy to expect him to play better. The offensive line has to play A LOT better. All credit to the guys who have arguably the toughest job on the field. You don’t just get better losing a guy to the 4th round of the draft and another has been landing on practice squads in the NFL. The situation at LG has been not optimal to say the least but it’s a major point of concern the last few weeks. Newman needs at least some time in the pocket and holes have to be opened for Carney, Beal-Smith, Walker. Speaking of those three, we have to get a running game going. Up until FSU we averaged 4.4 yards a carry. From FSU to Clemson? 2.4 ypc. Not great! In this offense the burden of getting the running game going is on all parts. Sure, one game was against Clemson. I understand. Even in a blowout against NC State couldn’t run the ball. I have a sneaky suspicion that the moment the run game gets going again the offense will begin to be the one we saw for a majority of the season, not what we saw against VT or FSU.
Defensively, getting to the QB with pressures and hits has honestly been a lot better than expected coming into the season. Linebackers, it’s the same thing with the WRs. You don’t expect a team to be better or even as good as they were losing people like Strnad and Masterson. This is Chase Monroe’s first real year playing, Ja’Cquez Williams has been admirable, but even still they both can’t take every single snap defensively. It has to be a group effort to make sure not only that they’re in the right spots, but also they’re wrapping up. It’s almost infuriating seeing them in the right spots and then still allowing another 3,4,5 yards after contact.
Chase Monroe's "you're not playing N.C. State anymore" moment.— Conor O'Neill (@ConorONeillWSJ) November 16, 2019
Secondary wise, just being in the right spot and playing with confidence. That group played with the most energy and fire I’ve seen in the FSU and NC State games, but on Saturday they looked... just out of sorts. There are other players left on the schedule like Justyn Ross or Tamorrion Terry, but players like Trishton Jackson can torch a defense if they aren’t being a collective unit
Amari Henderson had help over the top from Nasir Greer, but Greer looked like he misread and took shorter angle to Higgins/the ball.— Conor O'Neill (@ConorONeillWSJ) November 16, 2019
This isn’t to rag on Wake because well, we have the pieces offensively to be better. There was a reason these kids were recruited and there have been flashes. These kids can play, but they have to show it on the field not just in practice.
Our good friend Bart aka @FanaticDeac has been doing a great job of keeping everyone informed of what the postseason looks like for Wake in terms of the Orange Bowl and I’d highly recommend following him as he does it weekly and Wake is still very much in the running for an Orange Bowl berth.
Alright SP+ win distributions are updated. Brief thoughts below and an article on @BloggerSoDear will follow in the next day or two. You know the drill!— Wake To El Paso (@FanaticDeac) November 11, 2019
Beating Clemson would have actually all but eliminated Wake from the Orange Bowl as Clemson losing would’ve pretty much eliminated them from the CFP and so the winner of the ACC Championship game would get in. Wake currently would not be the favorite, I’d currently give that distinction to either Virginia Tech or UVA. However, the team is not out of it. In terms of other destinations, that all depends on what comes these next two weeks.
Duke just got slapped around by Syracuse and have looked anywhere between mediocre and downright bad outside of whatever that Virginia Tech game was. Syracuse, outside of the Duke game, has looked miserable all year and one of the most disappointing teams in the country. Both of these teams have glaring weaknesses that play into the strengths of Wake Forest and it seems like a great time to get back into what made this team one to be reckoned with.
Win both of these games, Orange Bowl is very much in play but will take some help. The one situation I’m monitoring closely is the opening up of the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day. Two reasons why: 1) If Notre Dame isn’t ranked high enough to get into a New Year’s Six bowl, they have a right to any bowl game with ACC ties outside of the Orange(they can be the opponent there), as long as they are within 1 game of a similar ACC team. Seeing as they currently have a better record than every ACC team outside of Clemson and UVA, they would be in place to snag the next bowl after the OB, so Camping World or Citrus. 2) Even if ND gets into the New Year’s Six, having another option of a warm weather bowl game is fantastic and having more options is better than having none this time of year.
In terms of destination, with a 9-3 team bowls like the Camping World in Orlando vs a Big 12 team, Pinstripe Bowl in New York against the Big 10 and Music City bowl in Nasville vs the SEC are very viable options and would elicit a good turnout from the Wake Forest base.
Wake is going to a bowl game regardless but the last two weeks of the season are still in play. Just because of two losses and a couple of injuries, there is no need to resign to being meh about this team or this season. This team still has a wealth of talent, this coaching staff is one to trust, so let us all just breathe and let the team focus on whooping Duke.
Feel free to yell at me @CamLemons_ on twitter.