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UNC Football vs. Wake Forest: Game Preview

In the latest “biggest game of the year,” Carolina looks to make it three in a row against the Demon Deacons, and lock up the Coastal Division

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a rough two weeks for Wake Forest football. After carrying one respectable loss to Clemson in a 2OT classic, the Deacs have dropped their last two in curious fashion. Sam Hartman, Wake’s dynamic and handsome quarterback, has been abducted by aliens and replaced with a doppelgänger that can’t stop turning the ball over.

In an absolute beatdown at Louisville that nobody saw coming, alien Sam Hartman had three interceptions and three fumbles lost. The next week, NC State decided to push the blitz dial to “11” and forced Hartman into three more interceptions.

These two losses saw Wake Forest plummet down the national standings, dropping from #10 to #21 to out of the rankings altogether. Thanks to Wake, College Gameday won’t be coming to Winston-Salem when the Tar Heels rolls through.

Are there any takeaways that Carolina and the defense can apply to its game plan tomorrow night? Sure. Are the Heels capable of pulling it off. Color me skeptical.

Sam Hartman suffered when put under pressure. NC State and Louisville were able to put him under pressure with ease, sacking him a combined 12 times. UNC has 14 sacks in nine games this season, so that’s probably not something Gene Chizik will count on.

Hartman remains capable of connecting with his excellent (and tall!) receivers, so it is imperative that Storm Duck and Tony Grimes win some one-on-one battles, because the slow mesh hand-off game that Wake employs will get UNC’s safeties to bite, guaranteed. A.T. Perry is 6’5”, Jahmal Banks is 6’4”, and Donavon Greene is 6’2”, so Hartman can hit these guys on shoulder-level or higher point throws “if” he’s dialed in. Tomorrow would be a great day for Grimes to grab an interception to start catching up to Duck, who now has two this season.

As woeful as Carolina’s defense has been, the offense has been diametrically excellent. Drake Maye has overtaken Hartman as the ACC’s poster child for quarterbacking excellence, and his Heisman buzz is sounding across national media. It’s deserved.

One thing that Louisville and NC State benefitted from tremendously against Wake Forest was the cornucopia of turnovers that gave them short fields. The Tar Heels don’t need those to score. UNC’s conspicuous absence of a run game will probably not matter so much, as the Deacs will likely score on most drives, necessitating Maye’s harmonious neurolink with Josh Downs and Antoine Green to pile on points so Carolina can keep up.

It’s hard for me to gauge how this game will go, since it’s entirely dependent on whether vintage Sam Hartman or alien Sam Hartman shows up at Truist Field. Their last two losses were on the road in front of hillbilly fans going absolutely bonkers, so maybe a quiet home crowd (many tickets are still available) will help settle Hartman down.

I’ll plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Prediction: Wake Forest 49, UNC 42