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Wake Forest Orange Bowl Update

Bart takes an updated look at Wake’s chances of playing in the 2019 Orange Bowl

North Carolina State v Wake Forest Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Fresh off a dominant 44-10 win over in-state rival N.C. State, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons boast a 7-1 record and remain nationally ranked. If you are a regular reader of the blog, you likely saw the article last week regarding the Orange Bowl selection process as well as an initial breakdown of Wake’s odds of making the Orange Bowl. If not take a gander at that article for the Orange Bowl selection background.

In addition to Wake’s win, the Deacs continued to receive good news from the rest of the conference from other teams who are also competing for the second spot in the ACC and respective berth to the Orange Bowl. As a quick reminder, the second highest ranked team in the CFP rankings from the ACC receives an automatic bid to the Orange Bowl if the ACC sends a team to the CFP playoffs. In our case this year that team is Clemson and they are almost assuredly going to the playoffs if they win out.

The biggest change in news this week is that the first CFP rankings of the season come out tomorrow night. These are the only rankings that matter for Orange Bowl purposes and once these are released all references to rankings in these articles will be drawn from that system. I anticipate that Wake will be ranked a little bit higher by the committee than the weekly polls given their 7-1 record from a Power 5 conference. If I had to make an exact guess, I’d say Wake is ranked 17th by the committee in the initial rankings. No other ACC team will be ranked (or really even too close to being ranked)

In the interest of consistency, I will follow the same format from last week in running down Wake’s current chances so it is easy to track from week to week for those interested. If you just want a quick summary of the Deac’s chances, you can jump to the final section for a recap of where Wake currently stands.

Wake Forest’s Current Position

Currently, the relevant ACC standings based solely on overall record are as follows:

  1. Clemson (9-0) - ranked 4th in the nation
  2. Wake Forest (7-1) - ranked 22nd in the nation
  3. Virginia (6-3)
  4. Pittsburgh (6-3)
  5. Virginia Tech (5-3)
  6. Louisville (5-3)

Of the top six teams in the ACC (who all have at least some non-negligible chance to make the Orange Bowl) the following occurred:

Clemson romped FCS Wofford

Wake beat State

Virginia beat UNC (huge win for Virginia and increases their individual OB odds)

Pitt beat Georgia Tech

VPI lost to Notre Dame (VPI heavily outgained and had a 1% win expectancy per SP+ ratings)

Louisville held serve against the bye.

A Statistical Look at the Jockeying Teams

Using the SP+ win distribution percentages from Reddit user ExternalTangents (available here) and still proceeding on the premise that a team will likely need to reach nine wins to be ranked in the CFP polls, we can begin by looking at the odds that each of the jockeying teams above reach this coveted nine win mark (in decreasing likelihood):

Wake Forest has a 74.8% chance of 9, 10, or 11 wins (9.05 expected wins)

Virginia has a 47.6% chance of 9 wins (8.35 expected wins)

Pittsburgh has a 19.0% chance of 9 wins (7.726 expected wins)

Louisville has a 4.2% chance of 9 wins (6.94 expected wins)

Virginia Tech has a 3.3% chance of 9 wins (6.77 expected wins)

Other than Wake, who can go 2-2 in their last four games and still win 9 games the remaining four ACC teams competing for second place all must win out in order to reach this mark. Virginia Tech still has games against Wake, Pitt, and UVA so they have not only the most difficult schedule to reach 9 wins but also provide a solid opportunity to knock off other teams to prevent them from reaching 9 wins as well. This is a huge positive for the Deacs.

Wake fans simply want each of the other four teams to lose one more game which makes a straightforward template for cheering interests overall but is even better if Wake beats VPI this week: pull for Virginia Tech in every remaining game and pull against every other team on the list.

Virginia has the easiest remaining shot at 9 wins (reflected by their second best odds to reach this number) as they have three home games against Georgia Tech (worst ACC team), Liberty, and rival Virginia Tech. It’s worth noting though that UVA has not beat VPI in 15 years and has only one win that rivalry since 1999.

Another way to look at Wake’s Orange Bowl odds is to break down various scenarios where Wake finishes second. I’ve identified three separate realistic groupings for Wake to achieve this goal:

1) Wake finishes the season 10-2 (29.5% chance). This likely just means Wake beats VPI, Duke and Syracuse and loses to Clemson. Wake will be favored in the three non-Clemson games and will be heavy underdogs at Clemson (likely 24 or 25 point Vegas underdogs). If Wake finishes the season 10-2 and Clemson wins out, Wake goes to the Orange Bowl. It’s that simple

2) Wake finishes the season 9-3 (43.1% individual chance) and every other team listed above loses at least one game. There remain pretty good odds overall that every team vying for second loses at least one more game. Wake still plays Clemson and has three games that are relative tossups; and no other team listed is more likely than not to go undefeated. If Wake finishes 9-3 and nobody else reaches 9 wins, Wake is likely an 80%+ favorite to make the Orange Bowl and it would be an odd situation that they would be jumped by any of the above teams who are not really close to being ranked at present.

3) Wake finishes the season 9-3 and one of the above teams wins out. The likelihood of this occurring is less than the first two scenarios but even if Wake ends the season 9-3, the Coastal champ takes a guaranteed loss to Clemson in the ACCCG for the Orange Bowl berth to be up in the air. Wake’s worst case scenario is that they finish 9-3 and Louisville wins out to get to 9-3. Louisville beat Wake and would finish the season on a winning streak - I think here Louisville probably gets the nod. Overall I’d say Wake is still around 30-40% (if not a bit higher) to get the Orange Bowl bid even if another team does win out just based on the fact that Wake is already ranked. These odds shift a bit depending on who Wake loses to (if Wake loses the finale to Syracuse it takes away the advantage Wake has of not ending the season on a loss compared to a Coastal opponent).

I think if Louisville goes 3-1 and gets to 8-4, Wake easily gets the bid if they finish 9-3 and nobody else gets to 9 wins.

Also Wake has a 2.2% chance of winning out and going 11-1 where they would likely be favorites over any Coastal team in the ACC Championship Game. That means Wake is around a 1% chance to go 12-1 where (according to 538) they would have above a 50% chance to make the CFP playoffs.

4. Remaining Odds and Ends

While I provided the teams that I believe have the best shot at reaching the second place ACC spot, it is theoretically likely that a team outside the top six could get hot and finish in second - particularly in light of the conference’s parity. Let’s take a look at these remaining teams and their chances of reaching at least eight wins (with an outside shot of finishing in second) - keep in mind that if say Miami wins out, they still would take their fifth loss in the ACCCG to Clemson if an OB spot is to come open.

Miami: 41.0%

Boston College: 4.0%

Duke: 2.0%

N.C. State: .9%

Sorry Georgia Tech, Syracuse, UNC, and FSU you cannot reach eight wins. Better luck next season.


Based on the current standings and the remaining schedules for every ACC team, Wake has a very very good chance of finishing in second in the ACC and going to the Orange Bowl if Clemson makes the playoffs. I’d put Clemson’s chances at making the CFP around 90%.

At present I would put Orange Bowl chances for ACC teams as follows:

Wake Forest - 60% (includes scenarios where Wake beats Clemson and wins the ACCCG but doesn’t make the playoffs) (+15% from last week)

Virginia - 35% (+10% from last week)

Clemson - 5% (scenarios where they do not make the CFP) (-10% from last week - I overestimated this number last week and I apologize)

Pittsburgh - 4.5% (same as last week)

Louisville - 3.5% (up .5% from last week)

Virginia Tech - 1.5% (-3% from last week)

Field - .5% (these are basically the odds Miami wins out, Wake falls apart, and the other teams on the list all lose once).

If Wake goes 3-1 coming down the stretch, they’re almost assuredly going to the Orange Bowl. If Wake goes 2-2 and the losses are to VPI and Clemson, I think Wake has a pretty good shot still of being selected just given the odds that every other team we’re up against also loses.

After last week I said Wake has a plurality but not a majority chance to make the Orange Bowl. With the win over State and the VPI loss to ND, I now believe Wake has a better chance than the rest of the field to finish second and get the Orange Bowl bid. Wake has a massive final few games upcoming and this is an exciting time to be a Wake fan.

If you have any questions please feel free to let me know. This relies heavily on SP+ projections, but if you look at most other predictive models (rather than models looking at resumes with a backwards looking approach rather than a forward looking approach) they provide similar numbers.

I will update this weekly until the end of the season. As always, go Deacs.