Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

To go bowling in 2016, Wake Forest must defeat. . .

Coming off consecutive 3-9 seasons, but bolstered by the best two recruiting classes in program history, the Deacs believe they have what it takes to go bowling in 2016. What games must the Deacs win to make that possible?

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson will hate this article, but we'll just keep this our little secret.

Clawson would caution that the chemistry and make-up of a football team often morphs during the marathon of a 12-game, four-month long season, and that it's foolhardy to look ahead on a schedule and try to predict wins and losses.

The truth is, he's right. Suspensions, injuries and varying development level for either or both teams could make the Nov. 5 home game against Virginia look completely different than it looks now, one week before fall training camp even begins.

But we're not going to allow common sense to slow us down. The Deacs have set a goal to make a bowl game in 2016, meaning six wins is the magic number. Vegas oddsmakers have set the win total for Wake at precisely 5 1/2 games, which means the Deacs are firmly on the bubble.

There's a small group of games where the Deacs should be prohibitive favorites and an equally small group of games where Wake will be major underdogs. Toss those games aside for the time being. Here's a group of four games that will likely decide the Deacs fate. If they can take three of them, they will get a 13th game this season. If not, they may have to "steal" a game somewhere.

Syracuse - Oct. 8 - BB&T Field

A coaching battle featuring the last two head coach at Bowling Green State tops the list. The Deacs have lost their last four matchups against Syracuse, with the last win coming at home in 2006. Wake has never defeated the Orange in ACC play.

The Orange shut the Deacs out in the second half last year to come from behind for a 30-17 win. Dino Babers impressed the media with his quick wit at ACC Kickoff, but can he fix the broken Orange defense which is especially weak up front. Athlon Sports ranked the Orange the worst team in the ACC, but every Syracuse.com beat writer predicted Syracuse to top Wake in this game.

Virginia - Nov. 5 - BB&T Field

Both the Deacs and the Cavs have missed bowl action since the 2011 season, but UVA believe the off season hire of BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall will turn their program around.

Virginia returns the nation's No. 79 ranked defense, but hope to bolster that side of the ball with the hire of former ECU assistant coach Ruffin McNeil. The two teams haven't met on the gridiron since 2012, but the Deacs have won two straight in the series.

Boston College - Nov. 26 - BB&T Field

The Deacs escaped Chestnut Hill last year with a 3-0 win, as the Eagles botched a final shot at getting off an opportunity for the game-tying field goal.

Despite taking graduate transfer Patrick Towles from Kentucky, the starting quarterback position is still considered up in the air between him and Darius Wade, a redshirt sophomore who missed the final nine games of the season last year with an injury.

Though the media picked Wake last in the ACC Atlantic division, it seems clear that not many considered that most of these critical games will be played at home for the Deacs. That clearly gives them the edge to avoid the basement and threaten for a bowl bid.

Indiana - Sept. 24 - Memorial Stadium - Bloomington, Ind.

The Deacs dropped a close one at home last year to the Hoosiers, but IU lost their quarterback, Nate Sudfeld, to graduation and have gaping holes to fill on both sides of the line. Coach Kevin Wilson was rewarded for a 6-6 season with a massive and lengthy contract extension, but expect the Deacs to give the Hoosiers a battle in this one.

A close fifth place in this list is the week two matchup at Duke. Win or lose, that game will tell us a lot as to how good the Deacs may be this season.


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