Army Opponent Preview: Wake Forest

Army West Point’s first home FBS opponent of the season is Wake Forest who will visit West Point in week three of the 2015 season. The battle of black and gold clad teams is set to kick off at noon eastern and is viewable of CBS Sports Network.

2014 Record: 3-9 (1-7 in the ACC)

Series Record: Wake leads 10-4 in a series which dates back to a first meeting in 1945 which Army won 54-0. In recent years, however, the Demon Deacons have been dominant, winning eight straight games in a streak which began in 1990.

Last Meeting: Army West point saw a 21-14 fourth quarter lead slip through their fingers as Wake scored ten points without reply in the final period to win 24-21. The game swung on turnovers as the Black Knights had 11 minutes more possession than the Demon Deacons, but were undone by two fumbles.

Head Coach: Dave Clawson is entering his second season as the Demon Deacons head coach with a 3-9 (.250) win/loss record. Clawson came to Wake Forest after a very successful spell at Bowling Green. In his final year with the Falcons they posted a 10-3 record and beat #15 Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship game.

Spring News: This spring was all about steady progress for a team which in 2014 was one of the worst statistically in the FBS in almost a decade. Signs are trending upward though. Just how this will translate to an increased win total in 2015 is unclear. Clawson worked hard this spring on discipline and fundamentals, citing a huge decrease in penalties and mental breakdowns in the spring game as proof that the Deacs are headed in the right direction.

Projected Strengths: The Demon Deacons defense proved capable of minor miracles time and time again in 2014. Their biggest strength was their ability to stop teams in the red zone by being equally adept at shutting down the pass and the run. Offenses had only a 52.3 percent conversion rate against the Deacs in large part due to the line backing trio of Brandon Chubb, Marquel Lee and Hunter Williams. All three will be back in 2015, bringing with them their combined 25 tackles for a loss and eight sacks from last fall.

With the offense being such a struggle it is helpful if you can win the field position battle. Wake Forest is lucky in this regard as in Alex Kinal they have one of the best punters in the entire nation. Kinal held down an average of 43.6 yards per punt in 2014, with a longest punt of an absurd 73 yards.

Projected Weaknesses: It is hard to see the offense being any worse than it was last year, but it is also hard to see such a monumental jump that the unit would be considered anything other than a weakness. The offensive line was all-time bad last fall, head coach Clawson actually saying that there were high school lines in the state bigger than his, so turnover and weight room time here will help. Wake certainly needs to find more out of their backfield too, with the ENTIRE TEAM rushing for just 479 yards at an average of 1.3 yards per rush. To put that in perspective 208 players rushed for more than that in 2014.

As solid as the defense was last fall it loses two massive parts this season. Cornerbacks Kevin Johnson and Merrill Noel graduated and took their 84 combined starts with them. That leaves a host of question marks in the secondary particularly because projected starters Brad Watson and Bryant Gross-Armien missed the spring with wrist and ACL injuries respectively. If competent corners don’t emerge quickly it is hard to see how Wake Forest stays in games.

Prediction: It is hard to know if Clawson knew just what a disaster he was walking into at Wake Forest. The team is still way too young to be competitive in the ACC, especially with a pretty brutal schedule. With that in mind the Deacons will be targeting this game as one they should win. Army West Point had the Deacs beaten last year, only to throw it away with sloppy fourth quarter play. Expect Jeff Monken to use that revenge factor to his advantage and for Army to take care of business at home.

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