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Behind Enemy Lines: Wake Forest

Get the inside scoop on Syracuse football's next opponent, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

We caught up with Essex Thayer of Deacons Daily to get the inside scoop on Syracuse football's next opponent, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. 

1. What is the biggest difference between this year’s Wake team and last year’s?

Thayer: There are several differences from last year’s ACC Atlantic champs and this year’s team, and most of them have become more evident during the three-game losing streak. Since the win against Boston College several weeks ago, Wake Forest has struggled mightily to start games fast. In the loss vs Louisville, the Deacs did not score until their third drive. Against NC State, a touchdown didn’t come until their fourth. Last week, Wake Forest allowed North Carolina to jump out to a 14-0 lead after squandering their first two drives. When the team starts slow, it puts them at a severe disadvantage and they suffer greatly.

2. The defense has had trouble stopping teams in some games. What has been the biggest issue there?

Thayer: Believe it or not, the defense has actually taken a step forward for Wake Forest this year. If the offense had kept last year’s pace, the Deacs would be an incredibly tough matchup. But, there are a couple problems to point to. Like in years past, Wake has struggled against the ground game. They’ve allowed an average of 183.6 yards per game during their losing streak. Also, the secondary hasn’t always been great at defending the deep ball. Against UNC, Wake Forest allowed 10 completions of over 15 yards, two of which went for more than 40. The team also hasn’t forced a turnover since the loss to Louisville back in October.

3. How do you see Wake attempting to defend Syracuse?

Thayer: By trying to stop Syracuse’s biggest threat - the ground game. Garrett Shrader and Sean Tucker present the biggest challenge for Wake Forest. It can’t be forgotten what the dual-threat quarterback did to the Deacs last season, notching 198 yards and a score with his legs. Tucker also dissected the Deacons’ defense, gaining 155 yards for two touchdowns.

With that in mind, I expect Wake Forest to stack the box and lean towards the run. If they can cover the line of scrimmage, it could force Shrader into situations where he will need to throw the ball more than normal. If he hits those throws with consistency, Wake could be in some trouble.

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4. Offensively, Wake has most of its success through the air. However, Syracuse’s defense has struggled to stop the run during its four game losing streak. Will Wake stay with a pass first approach or alter its game plan?

Thayer: Wake does like to pass the ball when Hartman is throwing well, but usually approach games with a balanced attack. Against North Carolina, Hartman threw the ball 31 times and the Deacs had 34 designed runs. Over the past few weeks, Wake has struggled on the ground. The team netted 81 yards against Louisville and just 17 in the loss to NC State. But, in last week’s matchup with the Tar Heels, they got back on track with 170 rushing yards. That just might give them the confidence to rely on the ground game when needed.

5. How do you see this game playing out?

Thayer: I fully expect Saturday to be incredibly close. Syracuse’s offense struggled against Florida State, no doubt, a team that Wake Forest beat earlier this year. But, Shrader has caused Wake Forest trouble in the past. With an improved defense, Hartman will have the opportunity to lead the team to victory. A few mistakes, though, and this game could get ugly fast.

I’m taking Wake Forest in a nailbiter, 38-34.

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