Let's be honest: Wake Forest didn't exactly have high expectations coming into the season, but they might not've lived up to even their lowered hopes. They have a grand total of one ACC win...against Duke...at home...by eight...and they gave up 48 points of their own. If not for that game, there'd be a very real argument being made for Wake Forest being the worst team in the ACC, and I don't know how much argument you'd have.
Things started out okay. We knew there were some serious problems for Wake before the season, particularly at QB and on defense, but an easy win over FCS team Presbyterian plus a shootout win over Duke answered a few of the questions, at least offensively. And then it fell apart.
Scheduling Stanford seemed like a good idea awhile ago, but the Deacs never stood a chance now that the Cardinal are a powerhouse, giving up nearly 60 in Palo Alto. Then they got shut out by FSU. Then they lost in the final minute to Georgia Tech. And then they lost by a point in the final 30 seconds to Navy. And then they got destroyed at Virginia Tech.
Last week they had a bye, sparing them the probable embarrassment of another loss. And that's where they stand now: with two whole weeks to prepare, readying to play what figures to be one of their last good chances at another ACC win. Just a hunch, but I don't think they get it.
Looking at Wake Forest as a team, there's not a lot to like. There was some uncertainty at QB, with true freshman Tanner Price having claimed the job thanks mostly to Ted Stachitas' injury against Duke. Price took his place and threw 3 TDs in 19 passes, which basically gave him the job by defaul. He's had his good games since - 37-53 for 326 and 2 TDs against Navy - and a lot of bad ones - 3-16 at Virginia Tech, 6-12 with an interception against FSU - but for better or for worse, he's their guy. (If you're wondering, Price was graded at a 78 by ESPN, two lower than classmate and Maryland commitment Tyler Smith. So this is like Maryland making someone worse than Tyler Smith QB.)
Of course, that leads to not a lot of passing, which is a shame considering the talent that Wake has at WR, namely breakout candidates Devon Brown and Marshall Williams, the latter of which many thought was better than Torrey Smith. Wake's 108th in passing offense, mostly a result of a failure to throw the ball consistently. Instead, the Deacs rely heavily on their running game, powered by resurgent senior Josh Adams (remember him from last year?) and out-of-nowhere star redshirt freshman Josh Harris. They run a lot, which helps the stats, but it's still impressive that they're 23rd in the country.
But more importantly, let's talk Josh Harris. He has started a grand total of one game, and that single game accounts for over half of his yardage, which is enough to lead the team. The reasons that game was so impressive: for one, it was against Virginia Tech, not some FCS cupcake. Oh, and he ran for 241 yards on 20 carries. Read it again, because there's no way to shout through the internet.
Most of those runs were, obviously, big gainers, which have the tendency to be fluke-ish. But if you're a non-believer, watch the video from Blogger So Dear: he's crazy quick, found holes quickly, won footraces, and even ran through a few arm tackles. I would say he has jets, but that's a bit of an understatement. He ran through VT's defenders like they were standing still, and they're one of the most athletic defenses in the country. It was an unbelievable performance.
More to the point, I fear for Alex Wujciak. He's a great run defender, but not out on the edge, where his poor speed and tackling angles will come back to hurt him against someone this fast. I wouldn't be upset with a little more David Mackall on Saturday; his redshirt's already been burnt, so let's see what he can do. Other than that, well, don't fear Tanner Price's arm. Sell out against the run, stop him at all costs, and see if Price can avoid throwing picks.
It bears repeating: this was one game, and outside of it he's done little. He's obviously got crazy potential and is Danny O'Brien's biggest threat to the ACC Rookie of the Year claim, but it's only logical to remain skeptical - not disbelieve outright, but remain skeptical - until he proves himself against at least one more team.
On the other side of the ball, Wake's flat-out, downright, certifiably awful. I don't need to go any farther than the stats for you to know what I'm talking about: 113th in rush defense, 98th in pass defense, 117th in pass defense, 112th in scoring defense, 114th in 3rd-down defense, 106th in red zone defense, and 116th in first downs allowed.
In case you couldn't figure it out, that means that Wake Forest is in the bottom 22 in nearly every defensive category that matters. Take out their game against super-patsy Presbyterian and everything gets worse, if that's even possible.
Wake's defense is not-awful (and I'm being generous) in exactly three categories: sacks, where they're 72nd in the nation, turnovers forced, where they're 84th, and awesome names. The first is mostly thanks to Kyle Wilber, a DE with 5 sacks. The second is mostly thanks to Alex Frye, a safety with 3 interceptions and crazy body control/field awareness. The last is solely thanks to Gelo Orange, a spectacularly named LB.
In case you couldn't tell, I'm not very high on Wake. They've got nothing in the way of offense with the sole exception of a spectacular, unproven freshman running back. They've got plain nothing on defense. Maryland needs to use this game to reestablish the running game and instill more confidence in Danny O'Brien, because, unless Harris is even better than he was against Virginia Tech, I don't think this one should be too difficult.