Friday, October 21, 2011

Tobacco Road Showdown: ACC GOTW

If this were a matchup in basketball, lacrosse, women’s volleyball or even a debate about the Fed’s macroeconomic policies between these two schools it would probably get more attention than this football game is currently getting. However, the purpose of this column is to give you compelling matchups each week. And, actually, the Wake Forest versus Duke game this Saturday is not only a competitive matchup, its fairly intriguing.

Why?

Well, it is intriguing because both teams have a .500 or better record going into the game and both still control their own destiny in their respective ACC divisions. When is the last time you could say that about a Wake Forest versus Duke football game? Also, it is intriguing because the experts here in the desert have put a very questionable line on this game, so it is worth our time to take a look and see if there is a betting opportunity with this game.

Wake Forest brings a 4 – 2 record into this game with their only losses coming in an opening week overtime loss on the road to future conference member Syracuse and a 38 – 17 loss last week to a revitalized Virginia Tech squad. The Demon Deacon’s marquee win is a 35 – 30 win against Florida State that was not really as close as the score indicates. Jim Grobe’s success at Wake has been cyclical and the reason for that is he does not get the four and five star recruits, he gets less heralded players and immediately redshirts them and keeps them in the program for the full five years. This year he has five redshirt seniors and four redshirt juniors starting on defense alone. This type of time in the program and maturity level on the field makes for a fundamentally sound football team even if they are not the most talented each week.

It is no surprise to anyone that follows the ACC that when Coach Grobe has an experienced team that they are competitive each week. Wake is averaging just over 400 yards per game while only averaging 2.8 yards per rushing attempt. The bulk of the offensive production has fallen on the shoulders of quarterback Tanner Price who has 1,606 yards in passing on the season while completing over 61% of his pass attempts.

While doing my research for this column I decided to check out the Duke Blue Devil’s Rivals.com page and what did I find? I found three different pictures of Coach K on the front page that accompanied differing articles about the basketball team and no mention of this football program. Wow Duke Fans, way to support your 3 – 3 football team! I guess the Duke students are busy counting down the days until they need to start camping out to insure they get their Duke versus North Carolina basketball tickets.

It is shame for Coach Cutcliffe who has actually started to put a decent football product on the field each week. Duke is a long way from winning marquee ACC games or even being mentioned as a threat to win each week, but they have been respectable. Hell, they even have a conference win this season over Boston College.

The Duke offense has the ability to put up some points. They are currently averaging 389 yards per game. Quarterback Sean Renfree has 1,578 yards passing while completing over 68% of his pass attempts. This game could come down to which quarterback has the hot hand because Renfree and Wake’s Price are both capable signal callers.

Before I get into the pick I want to throw out a little knowledge that can be later used in bar room trivia about how Wake Forest became the Demon Deacons. In 1923 Wake was playing their interstate rival Trinity College, later to be known as Duke University and a newspaper reporter gave them the nickname in his article after a hard fought victory. He called them the “Demon Deacons” because of their devilish play and fighting spirit on the field and over time the name stuck, with the official Demon Deacon making his appearance in 1941 as the brain child of several Wake Forest fraternity members.

Now on to why this game is really an intriguing matchup. Last week Duke lost to Florida State 41 – 16, while just two short weeks ago Wake Forest defeated the same Florida State team 35 – 10. Their other common opponent is Boston College, both teams beat the Golden Eagles, but Wake won 27 – 19 on the road, while Duke narrowly won the game 20 – 19 at home. The big question is why is the line only -3 in favor of Wake Forest? Looking at common opponents is anything but an exact science, but the disparity in these outcomes really begs the question of what is going on with this line. Both school’s offensive numbers are similar, but Wake has played the much more difficult schedule at this point in the season. For my pick I think the much more experienced Demon Deacons will cover the three points and move on to 5 – 2 overall on the season.

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