Football season is just a couple of weeks away and that means it is time to take a quick look at the schedule and the future opponents for the 2021 Wake Forest Football season. Up first is the first team on the schedule, the Old Dominion Monarchs.
Game Date: Friday, September 3rd, 2021
Opponent: Old Dominion Monarchs
Head Coach: Ricky Rahne (0-0)
2020 Stats : Cancelled
Record: 1-11, 0-8
Highest Ranking: N/A
Wins: Norfolk State
Losses: VT, UVA, ECU, WKU, Marshall, UAB, FAU, FIU, UTSA, MTSU, UNCC
Yards per Game: 275 (127th in NCAA)
Yards Allowed per Game: 374.8 (79th)
Points per Game: 16.2 (127th)
Points Allowed per Game: 29.8 (79)
This preview is going to be kind of difficult simply because Old Dominion hasn’t played football in so long, I have no idea what to expect. Because the Monarchs cancelled the 2020 football season due to the pandemic, Old Dominion hasn’t played a football game since losing to the Charlotte 49ers all the way back on November 30th, 2019. That means that when the season opener rolls around, ODU will be playing their first football game in over 640 days—that’s nearly 2 years. On top of that, the Monarchs changed coaches after finishing the 2019 season 1-11 with 1 win (FCS Norfolk State), hiring former Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne. There is a good chance that Old Dominion will look like a completely different team from that of 2019.
On the plus side, the Monarchs did get a solid addition in UCF transfer QB Darriel Mack Jr. during the offseason last year. Mack finished his time at UCF with 838 passing yards, 7 passing TDs, 2 interceptions, 516 rush yards and 9 rushing TDs in 17 games. That is a big improvement for a team that finished the 2019 season with a combined 5 passing TDs and 12 interceptions between 4 different quarterbacks.
In his time as the Penn State OC, Ricky Rahne was a big proponent of using the QB in the run game. In 2018, Trace McSorley finished with the second most rushing attempts on the team, running the ball 170 times for 800 (4.7 avg) yards and 12 TDs. In 2019, Sean Clifford also finished with the second most rushing attempts for the Nittany Lions, with 116 runs for 402 yards (3.5 avg) and 5 TDs. Based on that trend, I would expect that Mack will get the starting nod for the season opener due to his ability to run the football, and I would bet on plenty of quarterback runs during the game. Penn State has used a ton of RPO style plays in recent history, so the Deacs should be prepared to see a great deal of that on opening night. But again, since ODU hasn’t played a single game during Rahne’s short tenure, this is mostly just guess work.
On the defensive side, the Monarchs lost a few of their best players from 2019 to the transfer portal. Leading tackler and 2nd team All-CUSA linebacker Lawrence Gardner departed the team just before the cancellation of fall sports at ODU in 2020. Junior CB Kaleb Ford-Dement finished the 2019 season with an FBS tenth best 13 PBUs and 2 interceptions, earning 2nd team All-CUSA honors; he transferred to Michigan State. Defensive end Keion White, who finished 2019 with 62 total tackles, 19 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks transferred to Georgia Tech. Defensive tackle Juwan Ross moved on to ETSU; he finished 2019 with 9.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. That leaves the Monarchs with a lot of holes and not a lot of game experience on the defense. That is something the Deacs should be able to take advantage of.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Wake Forest absolutely should win this game. The Monarchs haven’t played a football game in almost 2 years and they haven’t won a game against an FBS opponent since 2018. Missing a whole season of game experience is a massive disadvantage and I don’t think Old Dominion will be able to overcome that in just 1 year. On top of that, the Monarchs hired a new coach right before the pandemic, and Wake fans should be very familiar with the difficulty of that situation. The Deacs should start the season 1-0.