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Wake Forest Football: Mid-Season Evaluation

The bye week gives us time to take stock

NCAA Football: Army at Wake Forest Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The Deacs have their open date this weekend, and it just so happens that it coincides with the midway point of the season. Since there is no game this weekend, I figured we could fill the time by looking at how Wake has performed halfway through the season and how they currently compare to last season’s 11-win squad.

Through the first six games of the year, I feel like the Deacs are pretty much exactly where they were expected to be. While they absolutely had a shot against Clemson and probably should have won that game, I think most of us probably thought going into the season that Wake would likely be 5-1 at this point. The Liberty scare might have shaken some confidence for the fans in week 3 (it absolutely did for me), but Liberty is probably going to have another 8-9+ win season and the Deacs came back with a close 2OT loss to Clemson and a ranked win on the road at an improved Florida State team to show that they are still one of the best teams in the nation. The national media seems to agree, as they have the Deacs ranked at #14 in the latest AP Poll.

Looking at some national rankings, the Deacs currently rank 11th in the nation with 41.2 points per game. It may come as a surprise that Wake is all the way down at 41st in FBS in total yards, gaining just over 440 yards per game—pass interference penalties may have something to do with that, however. The leader of the offense, quarterback Sam Hartman, is 6th in the nation in passing touchdowns despite missing the first game of the season. Hartman is the 10th best quarterback in the nation by passing efficiency and is completing a career best 65% of his passes so far this season. He set the Wake Forest single game record for passing touchdowns in a game with 6 against Clemson and is currently 4th all time in passing yards and 6th all time in passing touchdowns in ACC history.

On the defensive side, the Deacs are much improved from last season, but still have some room for improvement. Wake is 66th in the nation in scoring defense, giving up 25.5 points per game, and 75th in total defense, giving up 385 yards per game. Just for reference to show the improvements on defense, Wake ranked 88th and 91st in those categories respectively last season.

In 2021, Wake Forest was one of the best teams in the nation, finishing the season as Atlantic Division Champions and tying a school record with 11 wins. So how does this year’s team compare to what is arguably the best Wake Forest team of all time (we can debate this later)? Well, let’s take a look.


Per Game Stat 2021 2022
Per Game Stat 2021 2022
Points 41 41
Yards 468 441
Plays 77 71
Yards Per Play 6.0 6.2
Passing Yards 307 293
Completion % 58% 66%
Passing TDs 2.8 3.3
Rushing Yards 161 147
Yards Per Rush 4.0 3.7
Rushing TDs 2.2 1.7
3rd down % 50% 44%
Turnovers 1.4 0.5

The offense has stayed pretty consistent from 2021 to 2022. The Deacs have slowed down a little, averaging 6 plays per game fewer than last season, but points per game and yards per play have not been affected. While the overall yards per game are down slightly from last season, the decreased turnover rate and Hartman’s increased completion percentage have allowed the Deacs to be more efficient this season.


Per Game Allowed 2021 2022
Per Game Allowed 2021 2022
Points 29 26
Yards 413 385
Plays Per Game 71 71
Yards Per Play 5.9 5.4
Passing Yards 218 235
Completion % 58% 58%
Passing TDs 1.7 2.3
Rushing Yards 196 150
Yards Per Rush 4.9 3.9
Rushing TDs 1.8 0.7
3rd down % 37% 42%
Turnovers Forced 2.1 1.8

So far, the defense has been much improved in Brad Lambert’s first season as the defensive coordinator. The Deacs are giving up 3 fewer points and almost 30 fewer yards per game than in 2021. The rush defense is where we have seen the biggest change, with the Deacs giving up almost 50 yards fewer per game on the ground than last year and only 4 rushing touchdowns so far this season. Third down defense has seen a slight hit, but that probably has something to do with allowing Clemson to convert 16 out of 23 3rd attempts.


Per Game Stat 2021 2022
Per Game Stat 2021 2022
Penalties 5.8 4.7
Penatly Yards 53 43

While it looked like penalties might be a problem in the first couple of games, the Deacs seem to have sorted that out and are now averaging fewer penalties and penalty yards than they did last season. That could also be due to running fewer plays per game, but fewer penalties is always a good thing regardless.

Really, outside of maybe going for it on 4th down in the Clemson game, I don’t think we could have asked for a better start to the season. The offense is still moving the ball up and down the field at will, the defense has seemingly figured out how to, at the very least, slow opponents down, and the Deacs look like one of the best teams in the nation for the second year in a row.

The second half of the season will really determine what kind of year it will be for the Wake Forest football team. Wake gets a home game against Boston College to ease back into things after the bye week, but it only gets more difficult from there, since the Atlantic Division is shaping up to be one of the toughest in college football this season. The Deacs still have arduous road games against Louisville and a ranked State team, and home games against a ranked Syracuse team and a North Carolina squad that could be the only decent team in the Coastal Division. As long as Wake continues to play the way they have through the first 6 games of the season, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the Deacs run the table and finish the season with one loss. That would be pretty awesome, but let’s just take it one game at a time for now.

Enjoy the bye week this weekend and the chance to catch some of the other games from around the country. Saturday should have some really good games, including Atlantic Division showdowns between Syracuse and NC State, who play at 3:30 on the ACC Network, and Clemson at Florida State, which is at 7:30 on ABC.

Go Deacs!