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UNC Football vs. Wake Forest: X-Factor

Carolina’s defense is going from bad to worse. Can they at least make the Wake Forest offense one-dimensional?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 Wake Forest at Army

Disheartened Tar Heel fans, there is no time to despair. After being humiliated at Notre Dame, attention must now turn to an even more potent offense from a familiar foe.

Wake Forest heads to Chapel Hill this Saturday for a noon kickoff on Military Appreciation Day. They are in rarified air, currently undefeated and ranked #10 in the country.

According to NCAA statistics, Notre Dame has the 74th ranked offense in college football (389 yards per game, 30 offensive touchdowns scored). Carolina felt that Irish pinch in South Bend last Saturday night, giving up scores on 8/11 drives (UNC kicked a field goal with a couple seconds remaining in the 2nd quarter, so it’s really 8/10).

Yikes!

This defensive performance came off the back of a bye week where Jay Bateman and company had plenty of time to gameplan, prepare, and fine tune individual mechanics and technique. Tar Heel Nation should not be imbued with confidence for the short turnaround against a statistically superior opponent.

This season, Wake Forest sports the nation’s #9 offense (495 yards per game, 42 offensive touchdowns scored). If there’s a grain of optimism in those sobering numbers, it’s that these statistics were largely accumulated at the expense of a bunch of opponents with the quality of Adam West’s “Batman” rogues gallery.

The Demon Deacons invited two Hampton Roads schools (ODU and Norfolk State) for beatdowns. They beat Florida State when they were awful early in the season, ONLY scored 37 points against UVA, and just beat Syracuse and Louisville by three points each. We’ll throw out the Army result, because that game was such a statistically anomaly, it can only confuse our understanding of this Wake Forest team, and of college football in general.

What then to make of this matchup? Carolina has shown that they can score against teams, but how will the defense support Sam Howell and company? The trick here is Wake Forest’s balance. The Deacons have scored 20 rushing touchdowns, and 22 passing touchdowns. Their yards gained per game (184 rushing, 312 passing) are pretty balanced as well.

Carolina’s defense has shown themselves to be pretty adept at giving up touchdowns on the ground and air, so it may be a case of selling out to stop at least one. Sam Hartman is a tough test case, as he is dangerous in the pass and the run.

Wake continues to show their delayed hand-off action, which causes defensive linemen to hesitate before hitting their assignments. In the clip above, Hartman actually shuffles forward before slinging a touchdown pass over the top.

Since UNC knows they won’t pitch a shutout, they need to make sure this strategy is punished. Linemen and linebackers should burst through the line and hit somebody. The running back, the quarterback, it doesn’t matter. If they present their bodies, don’t worry about the fake, just blow them up, legally of course.

The Heels have shown that they’ll give up points playing straight up. Selling out to blow up the run and get after Hartman for sacks at least gives them a chance at some third-and-longs, and maybe a fumble or two. Strictly trying to matchup is a dicey proposition, and one that Carolina barely managed to win with last year.

This game should be a shoot-out, so being able to get solid hits on Wake’s delay action, and possibly forcing some turnovers will be key to Carolina’s success this weekend.