Schedule Preview: Wake Forest

North Carolina travels to Winston-Salem on Sept. 8 for an early ACC road test against Wake Forest. The game will mark the 100th meeting all-time between the Tar Heels and the Demon Deacons, with UNC holding a 66-31-2 advantage.

Overview: Head coach Jim Grobe entered the 2011 season with a few more critics despite winning the ACC Championship just four years prior. The 2010 season represented the Deacons' worst campaign under Grobe (3-9, 1-7 ACC). However, with 17 returning starters, including quarterback Tanner Price, top rusher Josh Harris and leading receiver Chris Givens, expectations were amped up for last fall.

Even though Wake Forest endured the program's third-straight losing season in 2011 (6-7, 5-3 ACC), the Deacons performed admirably in a tough ACC Atlantic and received a bowl bid for the first time since 2008. Victories over N.C. State and No. 23 Florida State were the highlights of the season as Wake Forest raced out to a 5-2 record.

The Demon Deacons could only muster one win in their final five games of the regular season, which included a 49-24 thumping at the hands of North Carolina on Oct. 29. However, Wake Forest was still rewarded with a trip to the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl against Mississippi State. The Deacons hung in tight against the SEC squad, but eventually fell 23-17.

Price (253-of-422 passing, 3,017 yards, 20 TD, 6 INT) returns for his junior season, but Givens (83 rec, 1,330 yards, 9 TD) is gone after being selected in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams. Leading rusher Harris (101 car, 401 yards, 3 TD) was hampered by injuries last season, but returns to form one of the most experienced backfields in the ACC alongside Price and senior fullback Tommy Bohanon.

The Demon Deacons ranked in the middle of the road of most statistical categories in 2011. The most notable deficiency was defending and generating a pass rush. Out of 120 FBS schools, Wake Forest ranked 100th in sacks allowed (2.69 per game) and 115th in sacks generated (0.85 per game).

Center Garrick Williams is the only returning starter along the offensive line. In addition to four new starters, first year offensive line coach Jonathon Himebauch will be counted on to do a better job protecting Price. Overall, the offense, which ranked 68th in scoring last season, returns just five starters.

Wake Forest runs a 3-4 defensive scheme and five of last year's starting front seven return, including All-ACC nose guard Nikita Whitlock. Whitlock is just 5'11" and 260 pounds, but he is able to wreak havoc along the line and tallied 64 tackles last fall. The 65th-ranked scoring defense from 2011 returns seven starters and nine upperclassmen are expected to start.

Quotable: "The biggest issue for this group is not going to be the ability to get the job done, it's whether they're tough enough to get the job done. It's a brutal world down in the trenches in this league. You go against a lot of good players. So, I think that's going to be coach Himebauch's biggest challenge, to get these guys crusty enough to step in in our league and play the way they need to." – Grobe on the inexperienced offensive line

Matchup to Watch: Opponents commonly underestimate Wake Forest because they do not typically have the athletes or size of larger schools. However, Grobe has proven he can go toe to toe with any team in the country. Just ask Florida State, who lost to Wake Forest 35-30 last October. This year, a key matchup for the Deacons is on Thursday night when Clemson travels to BB&T Field on Oct. 25. Not only will the stadium be rocking for the nationally televised game, but Wake Forest is 3-3 at home against the Tigers under Grobe. Clemson is known for late season collapses, so this is a game to keep an eye on down the stretch.

Outlasting Most: This fall will be Grobe's 12th season as head coach at Wake Forest. He is the second-longest tenured coach in the ACC behind only Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech. Since 2001, when Grobe arrived in Winston-Salem, 29 other men have been named the head coach of an ACC program. That includes four at North Carolina alone.

2012 Schedule
Sept. 1 Liberty
Sept. 8 North Carolina
Sept. 15 @ Florida State
Sept. 22 Army
Sept. 29 Duke
Oct. 6 @ Maryland
Oct. 20 @ Virginia
Oct. 25 Clemson
Nov. 3 Boston College
Nov. 10 @ N.C. State
Nov. 17 @ Notre Dame
Nov. 24 Vanderbilt

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