Previewing 2019 Football: vs. Wake Forest
Sports, Football

Previewing 2019 Football: vs. Wake Forest

After a 30-16 win over Rutgers on the road, Boston College football returns home to face the most talented team it’s seen thus far. Wake Forest, a team that leads the receiving votes section of the AP Poll and is slotted at No. 24 in the Coaches Poll, comes to town for Parents Weekend. The Demon Deacons (4-0, 0-0 Atlantic Coast) are undefeated but have yet to play a conference game—even though they did beat North Carolina via a rare scheduling quirk—and will take on an Eagles (3-1, 1-0) side aiming to prove it’s way beyond the Kansas loss.

Wake Forest opened as seven-point favorites, and bring in a surprise Heisman candidate—quarterback Jamie Newman—to Chestnut Hill for a late afternoon kickoff. A win from BC would be nothing short of season changing, as many expect that the Eagles could end up playing catch-up for most of the game.

Who is BC playing?
Wake Forest

When is BC playing?
Saturday, Sept. 28, 3:30 p.m.

Where is BC playing?
Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Mass.

How to Watch:
The game will be broadcasted on the ACC Network.

Series History:

As covered in depth earlier this week, BC and Wake Forest have played some entertaining games over the last few years. Steve Addazio (seventh year) and Dave Clawson (sixth year) are two of the longest-tenured coaches in the ACC, and they’ve met five times on the gridiron, with BC holding a 3-2 edge. Last year, it was the Anthony Brown show, as he threw for 304 yards and five touchdowns in a 41-34 win in Winston-Salem. The road team has taken each of the last five matchups, but the Eagles hold a 14-10-2 historical edge.

What to expect from Wake Forest:

boston college football

Offense:

The Demon Deacons rank 34th in the country in offensive efficiency, and it’s almost surprising that they don’t find themselves higher. Wake Forest enters Saturday averaging 38 points per game (tied for 29th) on the strength of a passing attack that is 15th in the country. This has been the result of a terrific start to the season for Newman, who has won seven of his first eight starts dating back to last year.

Newman, standing 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, is the perfect quarterback for Clawson’s offense. He’s able to tuck it and run but also has a really quick release that allows him to hold the ball at the mesh point with running backs before deciding to unload it downfield. Through four games, all Newman has done is lead the ACC in passing yards per game (319.5) and in passing efficiency (177.0), throw for 12 touchdowns, and run for three more along with 160 yards on the ground.

He has his fair share of dangerous targets downfield, too. The duo of Sage Surrat and Scotty Washington have been elevating each other’s play, competing on a consistent basis for the ACC Wide Receiver of the Week award (one of the two has claimed the honor all but one week of the season). Surrat boast 484 yards and five touchdowns—including a streak of six straight games with a touchdown reception going back to last year—while Washington is not far behind with 376 yards and five scores. Former quarterback and now wide receiver Kendall Hinton, who missed the last two games with injury, had 110 yards in his first two appearances and returns this week.

Part of the reason the offense has been so explosive is the running game, which in turn sets up the play action. The Demon Deacons have leaned on the bruising Cade Carney in the past, but when he missed two games with injury, they found another explosive weapon in true freshman Kenneth Walker II. Carney returned against Elon last week to take seven carries for 39 yards, but it was Walker who racked up 91 yards on just nine rushing attempts. BC held Rutgers to just 2.92 yards per carry in the win last week, but gave up a plethora of yards through the air. Wake Forest’s dynamic run-pass option attack could pose all sorts of problems in trying to contain both Newman’s prolific passing ability and the versatility of both Carney and Walker.

boston college football

Defense:

Wake Forest is holding opponents to just 20.3 points per game entering Week 5, but the quality of opponents hasn’t necessarily been high. Utah State (54th in SP+) was the best offense the Demon Deacons faced and the Aggies dropped 35 points on them, while Rice (122nd), North Carolina (55th), and Elon (FCS) struggled. Still, Clawson and his defense is much more confident in themselves this year than last season, when Wake Forest gave up 41 points against BC.

“That was obviously a tough game last year,” linebacker Justin Strnad, who leads the team with 40 tackles, said per Wake Forest Athletics. “They hit us with some play action passes and some explosive plays. We feel as if we’re a much better team than we were last year. We’re much better on defense than we were a year ago, and we’re hoping to prove that on Saturday.”

Strnad leads a defense that has shown an ability in the early going to make things difficult on opposing quarterbacks. Through four games, the Demon Deacons have racked up 13 sacks, the sixth-highest total in the nation. That constant pressure was on display against UNC, when they totaled six sacks of freshman quarterback Sam Howell. The player to watch on the edge is Carlos Basham Jr., a 6-foot-5 defensive end who is third in the conference with 4.5 sacks and also has 5.5 tackles for loss. Strnad has also come in on a linebacker blitz for two sacks, while freshman defensive end Shamar McCollum has a pair as well.

The pressure Wake Forest can generate will reveal a lot about how this game is going to go. The Demon Deacons defensive front is going up against an experienced BC line that has been strong in pass protection thus far. The Eagles have allowed just three sacks (second in the ACC) and 16 tackles for loss (second), reflecting an ability to avoid negative plays. Brown also hasn’t thrown an interception and BC hasn’t lost a fumble, which could make things difficult for Wake Forest, as it’s just plus-2 in turnover margin.

Outlook:

ESPN’s FPI Index gives Wake Forest a 62.6 percent chance to win the game, and that seems about right. The Demon Deacons have a better offense and a better defense, and are off to a 4-0 start with no signs of trouble. They’re fresh off a thorough win where they worked in most of their depth chart, so Clawson’s group will be well rested. Plus, they’ve taken a step forward from last year—while the Eagles have arguably gone in the other direction—so a repeat of last year seems unlikely. A lot of points will be scored, surely, but it’s Newman’s Wake Forest side that has the edge going in.

Correction: Jamie Newman was originally named as Sam Newman. This story was updated at 11:23 AM to fix the error.

Featured Image by Michael Dyke / AP Photo
Images by Nell Redmond / AP Photo

Bradley is the sports editor for The Heights. He believes that America does truly run on Dunkin, baseball teams should always wear stirrups, you can't outrun a bear, and being down 3-1, in anything, is never cause for concern. You can follow him on Twitter @bradleysmart15.

September 27, 2019
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