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Wake Forest vs UNC: Keys to the Game

Numbers, Matchups, Tar Heels?

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

We are less than 2 hours from, well, the most important game of Wake’s season to date. While UVA was a game that the Deacs NEEDED, this one on paper seems like the most influential to the season. Win this game and you’re more than likely ranked, which is important for a multitude of reasons. Win this game and you’re sitting at 5-2 and have a much better chance for another winning season with half of the remaining games after this coming against top 10 teams. Win this game and you’re one game away from winning another state championship.

While UNC shouldn’t have been ranked as a top 10 team this year they do have a very good product, especially on the offensive side of the ball. They can light up the scoreboard on offense, they’re opportunistic on defense, so just how can Wake Forest walk out of Chapel Hill with a win?

Win the Line of Scrimmage

It seems... obvious to say a football game is won in the trenches, but tomorrow afternoon that will be where a huge focus should be.

For Wake’s offensive line, they have to push that defense around like others have all season. Jay Bateman’s base defense is one that should look similar to Wake’s. If you freeze frame it you’ll see a 4-2-5. However, Bateman is someone that likes using a LOT of wrinkles. He only wants to rush 4 guys, but you’ll only know who 2 of them are pre snap, the tackles. One of the edge rushers can drop back into coverage, the other rush, and then one of the two linebackers come in as a delayed blitzer up the A-Gap(between the Center and the Guard.) It’s all about efficiency and seeing what you can get with 4 rushers. The problem this year is that against good offensive lines, they’ve found themselves needing to rush LB Chazz Surratt almost 30% of the time. If you can force them to rush 5 or 6 guys, you allow Sam Hartman to be able to scramble, but you also draw up more space for guys like Jaquarii Roberson, Donavon Greene, and Taylor Morin to work freely over the middle and rack up YAC.

Defensively, this seems like a game that Wake asks their line to win with speed more than brute force. This should be a game we see more of guys like Boogie, like Rondell Bothroyd, JaCorey Johns, Shamar McCollum. While UNC has a very large offensive line, they’re susceptible to speed rushes with that kind of size. The left side of that line also isn’t very good and they try to compensate it with having their center Brian Anderson help, which allows teams to send a guy up the A-Gap(hello Traveon Redd and Ja’Cquez Williams.) There’s a reason why in the predictions I thought this would be closer to the VT game than any sort of shootout, getting in a track meet with this team isn’t fun. You want to suck the life out of this team and that starts with the guys up front. Whatever the game plan was to stop Khalil Herbert should be, and probably will end up being the gameplan here. I’m calling my shot with 2 Traveon Redd TFLs

(Smart) Ball Control

One of the biggest gripes and reasons Wake doesn’t have the best ~ metrics ~ is due to Dave Clawson insisting on just milking clock, turning the sliders all the way to the left, and going ultra conservative when they get a lead. I get the mindset of it, you don’t want to burn your defense by continuously going 3 and out while burning no clock. However what’s been happening is that they’re still going 3 and out. In their last 3 games, Wake hasn’t scored a point on 47% of their drives. If you add in field goals, over 70% of their drives haven’t been ending up with touchdown. Granted that has worked the last 3 games but this is the best overall offense this team has seen since Week 1 vs Clemson.

This team needs to control the clock but at the same time can’t continually shoot themselves in the foot with drives that stall and put more pressure on a defense that may be without a decent amount of their starters this game. Efficiency should be the name of the game here. This shouldn’t be a game where Sam Hartman has 40+ passing attempts, this is a defense that is getting gashed on the ground, #EstablishTheRun and force them to stop you. Wake has got to use the clock to their advantage and use UNC’s lack of depth on the defensive side against them.

(Big Apple)Turnovers Galore

As you may have heard, Sam Hartman has yet to thrown an interception. Wake has turned the ball over once all year and that was in a game against NC State that still is annoying to this day. I don’t expect any of the running backs to put the ball on the ground in this contest. I do expect some close throws from these quarterbacks however.

It’s not that I think either of these QBs are bad, Sam Howell is a very good QB and I’ve eaten a lot of crow on Sam Hartman’s performance this year. Both Lyle Hemphill and Jay Bateman run a style of defense that’s meant to create pressure and disguise coverage. Gavin Holmes’ pick six last week is a prime example of it.

From the start of the play, you think Holmes is going to trail the boundary receiver in man coverage. However, his real responsibility was dropping into a zone while passing him off to the safety, meaning any underneath throw he’d be in a good position to make a play on the ball. Bateman runs similar concepts at UNC and it’s going to be a fun chess match watching to see who blinks first. I’m calling my shot and saying Ja’Sir Taylor gets on the board today with a pick of his own.