Wake Forest comes to Chapel Hill for the Heels' home opener on Saturday. Wake Forest has become one of the better defenses in the ACC over the past few years and the Heels will need to be careful with the football since they may not get many chances in this game. Wake Forest's offense on the other hand, is one of the worst in the country, having only scored more then 20 points against FBS competition only once this year.
The Demon Deacons are in the midst of a slight quarterback controversy. The established starter, sophomore John Wolford, has been inconsistent this year and was pulled for two and a half games in favor of freshman Kendall Hinton. Neither player has been particularly impressive so far this year as Wolford regained the starting job for the Boston College win. Wolford has been the better of the two this year, completing 64 passes on 103 attempts (62.1%) for 821 yards (7.97 yards per attempt) with four touchdowns and five interceptions. Hinton has completed 70 passes on 128 attempts (54.7%) for 684 yards (5.34 average) with two touchdowns and four interceptions.
Hinton adds a second dimension as a runner that Wolford doesn't possess. Hinton had 54 carries for 218 yards and four touchdowns. Wolford is athletic, he does have a 70 yard touchdown run--but it was in the opener against Elon so his 19 carries against not-Elon for -5 yards and one score is more indicative of his running prowess. The Demon Deacons have three wide receivers with more than 300 yards receiving this year: K.J. Brent, Cortez Lewis and Cam Serigne. These three also all have 25 or more catches while no one else on the team has more than 18. Lewis and Serigne each average just more than 10 yards per catch while Brent is the deep threat with 25 catches but the most yards at 342.
Tyler Bell and Matt Colburn are the top runners for Wake Forest outside of Hinton. Bell and Colburn have not been particularly dynamic so far. Bell has 128 yards on 46 carries for a 2.8 yards per carry average. Colburn has 169 yards on 43 carries for a 3.9 yards per carry average and the only rushing touchdown outside of the quarterbacks. Carolina's opponents have ran the ball very well this year though so either back could break out on Saturday.
Wake Forest wins games by the strength of their defense. The Demon Deacons are 15th in FBS in yards per game allowed and that is inflated a bit by having to play Florida State in one of their two home games against FBS opponents. Their calling card on defense is their ability to stop the pass. Wake Forest is eighth in the nation against the pass, allowing opponents to average only 142.7 yards per game and a 53.8 completion percentage. The run defense is nearly just as good, with Wake holding opponents to 3.9 yards per carry. When Dalvin Cook's 94 yard run is taken out, the Wake defense looks even better, holding opponents to 3.5 yards per carry which is about the 30th best mark in the country. Wake Forest's defense has also been forced on the field a lot and is in better shape phsyically than most defenses Carolina will play. The Heels normally try to use their quick tempo offense to tire out a defense by the fourth quarter. But against Wake Forest, this probably will not work as the Demon Deacon defense is used to being on the field with little rest.
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Make them Throw:
Carolina has quietly been one of the best pass defenses in the country through their first few games. Carolina has allowed the fewest completions of any FBS team in the nation, held opponents to the seventh lowest completion percentage and the tenth fewest yards per attempt. Now if you scheduled five games this year searching for the worst quarterbacks in college football that would look a lot like Carolina's opponents so far. But Wes Lunt and Illinois have been pretty good in games not against Carolina and the Heels ate them up in Chapel Hill. The Heels are facing a team with uncertainty under center and three average receivers. Carolina should be able to play press man and eat up Wake when they throw. The Heels need to make sure that Wake Forest can not run the ball in this game either by bottling up running lanes or by scoring so much early that they have no other reasonable game plan.
Carolina is a heavy favorite in this game but they need to play professionally and not give Wake Forest any extra chances to steal an upset. The Heels have been careful with the ball since the South Carolina game. But if Marquise Williams throws the ball to Wake defenders or the ball is put on the ground a few time then the Heels could end up in trouble quickly. Carolina needs to be disciplined with the ball in this game and scoring should not be a problem.
Carolina has not yet been impressive enough that they can easily win games with anything but maximum effort. The heels are coming off their first win in Atlanta since 1997 and a bye. The Heels are also playing a team that has been kind of a joke for the past few years and it would be easy to not come out fired up. Wake Forest almost beat Florida State this year and is really well coached. The Demon Deacons will come to play and a lot of their players are from North Carolina who will want to badly beat the Heels. Carolina has to come out fired up and be ready to win under the lights Saturday if they want to give Larry Fedora his first win over Wake Forest.