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Wake Forest vs UNC Preview

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Third on the schedule is a non conference clash at home vs the UNC Tarheels

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 24 NC State at North Carolina Photo by Dannie Walls/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

So. Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Wake Forest will be taking on a non conference opponent on a Friday night. Said opponent is, checks notes, UNC? Like Adam has done before me I’ll be giving you guys a small little rundown of some stats from last season(without laughing), some projections for this year and then try to take a stab at what on earth will happen with a team led by Mack Brown.

Game Date: September 13th

Opponent: UNC

Conference: ACC(Non-Conference Game)

Head Coach: Mack Brown, 1st Year(2nd Stint as HC)

2018-19 record: 2-9 (1-7)

Highest Ranking: None

Bowl Game: None

Wins: Pittsburgh, Western Carolina

Losses: California, ECU, Miami, Virginia Teach, Syracuse, UVA, Georgia Tech, Duke, NC State, Bye Week, Tailgate(x11)

Yards per Game: 442 (31st in NCAA)

Yards Allowed per Game: 448 (107th in NCAA)

Points per Game: 18.9 (123rd in NCAA)

Points Allowed per Game: 34.5 (108th in NCAA)

S&P+ Rankings (2018-19 season):

  • Overall: 88
  • Offense: 58
  • Defense: 95
  • Special Teams: 90
  • SOS: 96

Projected S&P+ Rankings (2019-2020 season):

  • Overall: 61
  • Offense: 30
  • Defense: 88

Key Departures

  • Anthony Ratliff-Williams WR (42 Rec, 689 Yards, 3 total TDs in 2018)
  • Thomas Jackson- WR (40 Rec, 401 Yards, 8 TDs over Career)
  • Malik Carney- DE (176 total tackles, 32.5 TFL, 17 Sacks, 3 FR, 9 FF, 1 TD in career)
  • Cole Holcomb - LB (327 total tackles, 15.5 TFL, 12 PD, 1 FR, 4FF)

Notable Returns

  • Javonte Williams - RB (282 yards from scrimage, 5 TDs rushing, 5.2 YPC)
  • Michael Carter- RB (1,391 yards from scrimmage, 12 tot TDs, 6.4 YPC 6.5 yards per catch)
  • Jason Strowbridge - DT (79 Tackles, 16 TFL, 8 sacks)
  • Myles Dorn - S (157 tackles, 6 TFL, 7 PD, 4 int)

Look man. This is Mack Brown’s second go around with the Tar Heels. As the wonderful Bill Connelly has noted: second time isn’t usually the charm. Mack has been doing a fantastic job on the recruiting trail i’ll give him that much, but there just doesn’t seem to be a straightforward path for this team to be good this year. UNC had two main weak points last year, a shaky passing game, and getting absolutely gashed on the ground. Yes injuries played a part but UNC ranked 109th(!!!)in rushing marginal efficiency and teams ran at will on them to avoid their actually decent pass rush and secondary.

QB play last year was.... something. Nathan Elliot ended up transferring to not even play football anymore, Jace Ruder threw 5 passes all year, Cade Fortin played sparingly, and Chazz Surratt(you may have heard of his brother) plays defense now. Incoming 4-Star Sam Howell in the future should add some stability but at this point its hard to project anything but status quo from the QBs.

Where UNC will have to thrive hinges on them being able to stop the run this year and be able to run the ball themselves. If they can slow down Cade Carney, Christian Beal-Smith, and whoever is the starting QB at this point of the season on the ground, then it plays into their hand of having a substantially better pass rush and secondary and get Wake off the field on 3rd downs. UNC also was decent running the ball. All three running backs combined for 20 carries a game, 6.1 YPC and had a 46% success rate. Wake had their fair share of giving up explosive plays across the entire year, but especially to running backs.

All in all, while on paper it looks like the Deacs are made for this matchup, rivalry games always are one to keep an eye on. If the game was being played this weekend, I’d probably set the line at Wake -10(which is Wake by a touchdown on a neutral site btw so sure go ahead and @ me). A healthy Cade Carney looks to be a major x factor here and I’m sorry it just looks like it will be a couple of years before UNC gets back to being a “good” football team both offensively and defensively.

if you wish to read more, be sure to check out Bill Connelly’s full breakdown of UNC for the upcoming season.