Having your best season since World War II is a sign that you’re doing something right in a program isn’t it?
Wake Forest finds themselves 6-0 for the first time since 1944, their first-ever 4-0 start in ACC play, and their highest ranking in the polls since 2008.
If the season ended today, Wake would be happy with what they’ve accomplished, but as we know, the regular season is 12 games long, and Wake still has a long way to go before accomplishing their goals for the season. However, there should be some solace that Wake has not only put themselves in a position to play some nationally important games down the road, but they’ve done so in multiple ways.
Cupcake openers are what they are, but the real eyebrow-raiser is the fact that they’ve matched two dominating performances in the Florida State and Virginia games, with two uneven performances against Louisville and Syracuse(who have shown to be a fair amount more dangerous than previously indicated.)
Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth, and it’s encouraging to see Wake Forest be able to win back to back games where not only did they not come out with their A-game on either side of the ball, but proved they could survive both an explosive offense in Louisville(top-10 team in offensive explosive play rate) and a grueling, physical team that likes playing with a little tempo of their own in Cuse.
It’s been noted multiple times that having a bye week isn’t the advantage that people always think it is, especially by Conor O’Neill of Deacons Illustrated:
Dave Clawson at Wake Forest in abnormal prep time, broken down:— Conor O'Neill (@ConorONeill_DI) October 18, 2021
Season openers: 6-2
Post-off weeks: 3-9*
Bowl games: 3-2
* Four of these games came from the 2020 wasteland, when WF was 2-2 with at least two weeks between regular-season games.
In 2021 alone, teams are 22-27 coming off of bye weeks. However, this might be one of the cases where a bye week may have been needed. Players such as Miles Fox and Michael Jurgens have found themselves playing banged up, safeties Evan Slocum and Nasir Greer plus DT Kevin Pointer have missed a couple of games, while DT Tyler Williams and DB Malik Mustapha have been trying to work their way back after missing basically all of camp. Allowing these players to get healthy and take snaps while getting your younger group of players like Ahmani Marshall, Chelen Garnes, Jasheen Davis, and JJ Roberts all get valuable practice time was the best thing you could’ve done at this juncture. Plus, you finally get some mental rest. Playing a couple of extremely physical games takes a toll on players, so giving some rest in order to mentally recover could end up paying dividends the next couple of games.
In my opinion, it’s honestly the best-case scenario that Wake has learned to win in different ways. Looking at the schedule, every team can attack you in different ways: Army wants to suffocate you via ball possession, Duke wants to lull you to sleep on the ground and then beat you over the top, UNC remains someone you don’t want to get into a shootout with, NC State offers a balanced blend of solid offense and defense, Clemson’s defense will beat you into submission, and Boston College without Jurk looks to just make it a simple game.
If Wake has played their best game they’ve played all year, they’re in trouble, but I don’t think there’s a good case to be made they’ve done that. In every game this year we’ve seen parts where the defense looks elite but the offense looks awful, and the other way around. While Wake has done enough to win 6 games in a row, if they want to reach an ACC championship game and make this season actually special, they’re going to need to continually improve as the season goes on, and that starts on Saturday against a multi-faceted Army team.