Wake Forest started the season experimenting with an option attack. Not quite the triple option scheme of Georgia Tech, but more like the option that the Orange used to employ under Paul Pasqualoni. With that rendered ineffective, they moved back to a spread passing attack.
The Demon Deacons like to spread the field and utilize the quick passing game. Wide receiver screens, quick slants, and drag routes are features to put pressure on the opposing team's defensive backs as well as get their best athletes in space.
Tanner Price is the senior starting quarterback for Wake Forest. He was the starter who was torching the Orange secondary in the Carrier Dome in 2011. Price returns with a more experience and maturity. Price actually leads the team in carries due in part to the option attack used in the first three games.
Price is a smart quarterback with a decent arm. The spread, quick passing attack takes advantage of his accurate arm in short and intermediate routes while hiding his lack of elite arm strength. Price does not force the ball into crowds and has been very good at taking care of the ball with only four interceptions on the season.
The Decons are a balanced team that has had much more success through the air than on the ground. The primary ball carrier is Josh D. Harris, who is averaging only 3.4 yards per carry on 75 totes this season. He has yet to eclipse the century mark in a game this year. Harris possesses a good combination of speed and power, and is quick on cutbacks forcing defenses to maintain gap integrity.
Only one other back could see carries in meaningful action on Saturday. Dominique Gibson is the most likely candidate. He is a freshman with good burst, but has struggled averaging less than three yards per carry.
Michael Campanaro is the best receiver on the team and receives a vast majority of the targets. He hurt Syracuse in 2011 with 79 yards on seven catches and a touchdown. Now a senior, Campanaro is an improved route runner with good speed and wiggle. He receives a lot of bubble screens and is excellent in space. The 5-foot-11 wideout has good hands and will pose a big test for the Orange secondary.
A trio of receivers make up the rest of the threats for the Demon Deacons. Jonathan Williams was the compliment to Campanaro earlier in the season, but has only one catch over the last five games. He is a big target at 6-foot-4.
Jared Crump is another bigger body at 6-foot-3, and has become a bigger part of the passing attack with three catches in each of the last two games. He is more of a possession receiver and not a big threat to get behind a defense.
Freshman and former Syracuse recruiting target Tyree Harris has come on strong with 12 catches for 144 yards in the last two weeks. Harris has a nice combination of size and speed. He has become a real threat for Wake Forest as a compliment to Companaro.
The tight ends are not utilized a lot in the Wake Forest passing attack, but are solid blockers who help in pass protection and in the ground game. Spencer Bishop is the primary contributor through the air, but has not eclipsed three catches in a game yet this season. He is a big body who is physical but not overly quick.
Jordan Garside is the starting fullback who is only utilized as a lead blocker.
In the Trenches
The Wake Forest offensive line is mixed with youth and experience. The starting tackles, Steven Chase and Dylan Intemann, have ideal size for the position. Both are athletic and solid in pass protection but struggle to open up big holes on the ground. Quicker edge rushers give them problems in pass protection.
The interior of the line also possesses good size, but has more of a rotation. Guards Antonio Ford and Frank Souza will start, but Tyler Hayworth and Josh T. Harris will rotate in. They can be overpowered by strong interior defensive linemen.
Center Cory Helms is a true freshman with good size and potential, but is still learning the position at the division one level. Senior Whit Barnes has the experience behind him and could rotate in at times.
Wake runs a 3-4 system with an attacking style. They frequently rush four, mixing up which linebacker provides the fourth rusher. The defense is built on speed rather than size, and tries to force mistakes with their aggressive play.
In the Trenches
The Wake Forest defensive line is undersized, but quick and athletic. Nose guard Nikita Whitlock is the best of the bunch and leads the team in sacks and tackles for loss despite his 5-foot-11, 250-pound frame. He is great at utilizing leverage and quick feet to get into the backfield. Whitlock has wreaked havoc on interior linemen all season.
Defensive ends Zach Thompson and Kristopher Redding are very different players. Thompson is the better pass rusher who is second on the team in sacks, and uses his long arms to shed pass blockers very well. Redding is a bigger body who is better against the run.
The Back Seven
The linebackers have a good combination of size and speed. Hunter Williams and Justin Jackson man the outside spots. Both spend time rushing the passer as well as in coverage. Neither is an extremely gifted pass rusher, but can do a bit of everything.
On the inside, Brandon Chubb and Mike Olson are the guys who are downhill linebackers that can shoot the gaps against the interior running game. They don't blitz very often, but are solid tacklers who play smart within the scheme.
The secondary features a group with some experience. Junior corners Merrill Noel and Kevin Johnson will man the outside. Both are solid corners that can run and be physical at the line. Expect to see a lot of bump coverage from the Wake corners.
Behind them are sophomore Allen Ramsey and freshman Brad Watson who will cover the slot when Syracuse spreads the field. Both are solid but vulnerable down the field.
Senior safety A.J. Marshall is the leader of the group and can do a little bit of everything. He can cover, blitz and creep into the box to help out in run support. Redshirt freshman Ryan Janvion is athletic but a bit undersized as a strong safety. Still, he isn't afraid to put his nose in there against the run.
Chad Hedlund is the place kicker for Wake Forest. He has solid accuracy good power. He can be a bit erratic at times, but overall is a solid division one kicker. Hedlund is 7-11 on the season, but only 1-3 beyond 40-yards.
Alexander Kinal is one of the best punters in the ACC, and has developed a cult following amongst Wake Forest fans. He has a big leg and helps Wake Forest flip field position.
Michael Campanaro is the primary punt returner, and is dangerous in the open field. He has been only solid on the season, averaging 4.5 yards per return without a touchdown.
Wake has mixed up their kick returners this season without great results. Starting running back Josh Harris or starting receiver Tyree Harris could both see time there, but neither are big time threats.
This is a game where Syracuse has some size advantages. A key matchup will be center Macky MacPherson against Nikita Whitlock. Look for the Orange to try to take advantage of their size advantage up front with the power running game while mixing in some spread looks. If Syracuse can get any production from the passing attack, it would be huge.
The Wake passing attack will give Syracuse problems with their fast paced action and bubble screens as the Orange corners like to play off coverage. The running game leaves a lot to be desired, so Syracuse should be able to force the Demon Deacons into a one dimensional offensive attack.
This matchup looks pretty even on paper and should be a closely contested battle in the Carrier Dome.