We’re very fortunate to have the SB Nation network of team sites to work with during game weeks. The third installment of our 2017 Q&A series features a chat with Cameron Lemons Debro, staff writer at Blogger So Dear, SBN’s excellent Wake Forest blog. We discuss a hot start, a stingy defense, and what it will take for the Deacs to pull the home upset.
TN: Wake is off to an excellent start in 2017, currently sitting at 4-0 and 35th in the country by S&P+. What were your expectations for the Deacs coming into this year, and what are they going forward?
BSD: I have been in the minority for Wake Forest football and it's been almost comical to watch this team do almost exactly what I saw them doing to start the season. People were very convinced that we would lose to BC and/or App State, while I've always been on the side of this should be a 4-0 start as this team is way too experienced and talented to lose to competition like that. Going forward we have the hardest schedule in the nation by far I'd say. I 100% think we make a bowl its a matter of how many.
TN: Wake Forest’s offense checks in at 79th in the nation by S&P+. What has Warren Ruggiero’s unit done well, and where are you looking for improvement?
BSD: Greg freakin Dortch man. John Wolford has done has been a very good job winning the starting role back and has yet to throw a pick(knocks on every piece of wood ever) but Greg Dortch has been absolutely ELECTRIC this season so far and helped us get the start we need. Improvements would have to be to clean things up. Whether its the blowouts of BC and Utah State or the nailbiter against App State, we've been messy. Dropped passes/Int's, missing open receivers, letting up huge plays etc. These things cant happen against FSU(0-2 or not), Clemson, Louisville etc if this team is to make the next step.
TN: How do you expect the Demon Deacons to attack this Florida State defense? Where do you think they can find success?
BSD: While Wake has been taking shots down the field the most out of anyone in the ACC (and I expect us to do it again) I see this more as a smash mouth type of game. Giving the ball to Cade Carney (if he's healthy) and Matt Colburn up the gut and letting Arkeem Byrd be able to break open a huge run. TOP and turnovers will decide this game and I think Wake goes more towards a run heavy game to keep the TOP on our side.
TN: The Wake defense currently ranks an impressive 16th in the nation by S&P+. What makes this group so good? Y’all haven’t found a way to bring back Nikita Whitlock, have you?
BSD: This defense honestly isn't even the best in the past 3 years in my opinion. They play together very well. The front line led by Duke Ejiofor gets a lot of pressure on the QB, our LBs led by Jaboree Williams are very good at getting pressure as well as covering people. The corners might be the weakest point but still have a few Int's to their name and have help over the top in two of the top 5 safeties in the ACC in Jessie Bates and Cameron Glenn. These units feed off of each other so well so it's easy for them to play well.
TN: Which match-ups with Florida State’s offense concern you? If the Demon Deacs are going to keep the FSU offense in check, how will they do it?
BSD: Cam Akers is a scary thought. He's finally coming into his own and could cause problems. It may sound weird, but keeping him off the field might be the best option. If Wake can get a lead and try to play contain, the best option is making the frosh QB beat us rather than an electrifying running back.
TN: If this turns into a low-scoring rock fight, how confident are you in Wake’s special teams to give the Deacs a chance?
BSD: I have all the faith in the world in our special teams. Dom Maggio is a very good punter and can help flip the field. This team is built on speed so a game breaking return could be on the horizon.
TN: Finally, let’s get a prediction. FSU opened as a 10-point favorite, which has quickly been bet down to 7.5 on several sites. Will the Demon Deacons keep FSU winless with a home upset?
BSD: I wrote an article on July 6th detailing Wake's chances. I'm sticking to my guns here. I think these teams are heading in two different directions, this game was definitely circled on Wake's calendar and with injuries piling up, I am going with the Deacs 28-24.