Yes, yes, we know. It's Twindependence Day. All other sports are invisible, nothing else in the world matters, etc. Skip this if that describes your mindset right now.
But for those who are still interested in the oblong ball, we're still here covering it all. And hey, it's a long way until 5:00. You're going to need something to help you pass the time. (And if things, uh, don't go so well today, having a quick turnaround to Saturday and the wonderfulness that is Stefon Diggs will be a boon. (Football school for life, bruh.))
As always, we reached out to our blogging brothers, the Wake Forest fans at the excellent Blogger So Dear, with Bart Johnston being kind enough to virtually sit down with us and answer a few questions on Saturday's impending Maryland-Wake showdown. Read on to see a Wake perspective on how they'll replace Michael Campanaro, what sleepers will make an impact, and who Bart thinks will win (spoiler: he likes Maryland).
TT: Statistically, Wake Forest isn't doing much to move the needle this year. I look at the ACC stats, and see Wake at 11th in scoring offense, 11th in total offense, 11th (tied for last) in scoring defense, and 11th in total defense; the Deacs are the only team in the ACC in the bottom three of every category. That's the type of thing that causes major problems over the course of a season. And yet ... hey, 3-2 is 3-2, and you have a win over UNC. So what's the mood in Winston-Salem right now? What type of team do you think this is?
BSD: Yeah so far this year Wake isn't making very much happen statistically. A lot of the times statistics tell the full story and a lot of the time you have to sort through why the statistics are misleading. Right now I would say the Deacs are in a bit of a state of flux between these two issues. Wake has not played very good football so far this year. We were miserable against Liberty, played one good half plus a good drive against UNC, were blown out by FSU, snuck by Army despite an awful day defensively, and then made too many errors against a mediocre Duke team. I think Wake is somewhere around a 5-7 or a 6-6 team, but in order to win Wake is going to have to force turnovers, not commit penalties, and make things happen a little bit more on offense. The mood in Winston-Salem is pretty down. The defense was highly touted coming into the year and for whatever reason has just not been getting the job done. The secondary fares okay, but we don't get much pressure on the quarterbacks and the linebackers are having one of the worst years I ever remember a corps having. This team reminds me more of the 2010 team (3-9, 1-7 in the conference) than any other Wake team in recent memory.
TT: Speaking of beating UNC: how'd it happen? Because the numbers and other performances this year leave a lot to be desired, but that's a nice win.
BSD: We beat UNC because they refused to just run the football, our offense was clicking in the first half, and Tanner Price led the team down the field in the final minutes of the game for an exciting 28-27 victory. UNC is going to struggle some this year because they lack discipline and their play calling leaves a lot to be desired. Campanaro had a phenomenal game against UNC but is out for three weeks or so with a broken hand suffered in the first half of the Duke game. UNC also committed a couple of untimely turnovers, which our defense was able to ensure got us the ball back. The UNC game might end up being the high point of the season.
TT: Michael Campanaro's almost certainly out for Saturday. How big of an impact is that. and who are you expecting to pick up the slack in his absence?
BSD: It's impossible to overstate how big of an impact Camp not playing is. It would be like Diggs not being able to go for y'all. Camp was pretty much the only thing that kept the defense honest in terms of our receivers and with him out, we got to see the full complement of our other receivers' relative incompetency. Another wide out Matt James is likely out for the year with a shoulder injury. Wake needs to establish the run game a little bit better, but unfortunately there it appears one of the two main guys at the tailback position Deandre Martin, will also be missing the Maryland game due to suspension. We're probably going to end up playing true freshmen at receiver at points during the game. Look for Jared Crump to see some playing time and lose his redshirt.
TT: Star nose guard Nikita Whitlock's been fighting through some injuries, too; he was back in action against Duke, but seemed somewhat limited. How up to speed do you think he is, and what type of impact is his return having on Wake's defense?
BSD: Nikita is probably back to 80% which means he might be the best lineman on the field. His impact is one of those which once again cannot be overstated just like Camp's. He is the leader of the defense and despite his small size has an ability to singlehandedly disrupt the offense. If both Nikita and Camp were able to go at full speed on Saturday against Duke we would most likely be 4-1, as it took Wake committing 4 turnovers to lose by a touchdown. I think Whitlock will play most of the game and will be back to his normal aggressive self.
TT: We know about guys like Whitlock, Tanner Price, and Josh Harris. Who are two names we may not know, one on each side of the ball, who'll have an impact on Saturday?
BSD: One guy on defense who you probably know is cornerback Bud Noel (defensive freshman of the year in the ACC last year) who will probably match up with Diggs, but since you ask for someone you don't know I'll go with Justin Jackson at linebacker. He's a guy who can get into the backfield and has a real knack for reading where the play is going. He had a couple of big time plays against Duke and was able to put pressure on Renfree despite the rest of defense being positioned poorly due to the defensive play calls. Jackson should be in the backfield along with Nikita making some plays.
On offense with all the injuries, I would say keep an eye on Josh Harris. He will get the majority of the carries at runningback and for Wake to have a chance to win with our receivers so depleted, we will have to run the ball well. We're working behind a patchwork offensive line so it may be difficult to get anything going. I think Harris rushes for 80 to 100 yards and gets a TD.
TT: And last one: who're you taking?
BSD: I don't think either of these teams are very good right now. Maryland is playing at home and has the slight advantage since Wake is completely depleted with injuries and suspensions. Diggs is going to have a field day against our conservative defensive play calling and I don't see any way Wake gets the job done unless we force three or four turnovers. I'm going to take Maryland 34-21 with the Terps scoring a late touchdown in an otherwise close game.
Thanks as always for having us on and I look forward to the game on Saturday!