Oct. 22, 12:30, ACC Network
Here's The Deal … While a Wake Forest trip to Duke might not amount to much in terms of the ACC divisional races, it's going to be a huge deal for the participants. Coming off losses against two of the league's signature programs, both schools need this game in Durham in order to bolster their postseason hopes. The Demon Deacons were unable to run with Virginia Tech a week ago in a 38-17 drubbing at home. Still, this has been a season that's filled with promise, a bounce back campaign for head Jim Grobe's kids after going 3-9 in 2010.
The Blue Devils endured a similar fate in Week 7, losing to Florida State, 41-16, to snap a three-game winning streak. Duke realizes that ending its 17-year bowl drought will require a few victories in conference games, which doesn't happen on a regular basis. That quest will begin with this weekend's game at Wallace Wade Stadium.
Why Wake Forest Might Win: Yeah, the Deacons got steamrolled last Saturday, but the offense has been consistent throughout the year. With Tanner Price at the controls, they boast the nation's 24th-ranked passing game, and scored at least 34 points in wins over NC State and Florida State. Price has done a nice job of spreading the ball around, though RB Josh Harris and WR Chris Givens have been his favorites among the supporting cast. Harris, who's hoping to return from a hamstring injury, and Givens, who leads the ACC in catches, are itching to face a Duke D that ranks near the bottom of the league in most statistical categories.
Why Duke Might Win: When the Blue Devils were winning three straight games at the end of September, it was the passing game that was leading the way. On the right arm of QB Sean Renfree, they're averaging almost 300 yards a game through the air. Led by Conner Vernon, four receivers have already caught at least 20 balls to Renfree a multitude of options. The Wake Forest pass defense has been a sore spot this season, yielding nearly twice as many touchdown passes and interceptions made. Plus, the Deacons' inability to get to the quarterback will afford No. 19 all the time he needs to check down until he finds the open man.
What To Watch Out For: If Harris is a scratch for a second straight week, Wake Forest is confident about its depth in the backfield. Senior Brandon Pendergrass has played a lot of football in Winston –Salem, rushing for 528 yards in 2008. A steady and at times explosive runner, he went for 80 yards on 21 carries in last week's loss to Virginia Tech. The drop-off would be minimal, especially versus a Duke defense giving up 4.4 yards per carry. Blue Devils defender Matt Daniels is a very nice player, but it's always a concern when a safety has nearly twice as many stops as the next top tackler.
What Will Happen: It'll be back to business for Wake Forest, which was playing extremely well before hitting a wall last week. The Deacons have too much offense for a Duke program that usually bows in the face of capable attacks. Price will seize control of the game in the second half, showing why he's on the verge of becoming the program's next version of Riley Skinner under center. He'll outplay Renfree to get Wake back on track, and help bring his team to within one victory of bowl-eligibility.
CFN Prediction: Wake Forest 31 … Duke 23