Previewing 2018 Football: Wake Forest

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There will be football on Thursday. Questions arose all week about the possibility of Boston College football’s game against Wake Forest getting postponed or canceled in the wake of Hurricane Florence. Fellow ACC squads North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Virginia Tech were all forced to call off home games this weekend, as the Category Four hurricane is expected to cause mass amounts of damage in the Carolinas and surrounding areas. BC and Wake Forest benefitted from the fact that the game was originally scheduled for Thursday night. Moving the start time forward by two hours did not throw a major wrench in game preparations or travel plans the way it would have if the matchup had been slated for Saturday. The compromise worked for all parties, as ESPN can still nationally broadcast the game at 5:30 without a major drop-off in viewers, and BC can presumably get out of Winston-Salem on Thursday night, before the hurricane makes landfall on Friday afternoon.

Beyond the logistics, a fantastic matchup awaits between two ACC foes hungry for their first conference game of the young season. BC (2-0) seeks to avenge an embarrassing loss at the hands of Wake Forest (2-0) a year ago, in what has become a growing rivalry between the two schools typically heralded for their academics. This is a pivotal early game for Steve Addazio’s team that is seeking its first 3-0 start since 2007. A statement victory could vault the Eagles into the Top 25, while a loss could derail the hype train that has only grown since the season opener.

Who is BC Playing?

Wake Forest

When is BC Playing?

Thursday, Sep. 13, 5:30 p.m.

Where is BC Playing?

BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, North Car.

How to Watch:

The game will be nationally broadcasted on ESPN.

By the Numbers:

BC:

24.8: The number of yards per carry A.J. Dillon averaged last Saturday against Holy Cross. The Preseason ACC Player of the Year made it look easy against the Crusaders, needing only six totes to find the end zone three times. He got to the edge with ease, showcasing his impressive speed coupled with his size to barrel over defenders. It is a safe assumption that Addazio will hand it off to the sophomore much more than six times on Thursday night.

1: The number of touchdowns that BC’s starting defense has allowed through two games. While the offense has gotten much of the shine, Jim Reid’s squad has been nearly perfect. A pair of pick-sixes by Lukas Denis and Hamp Cheevers have actually led the Eagles’ first-team defense to outscore its opposing offenses so far this season, speaking to the dominance they’ve displayed. They will need to be atop their game for their first true test against a Demon Deacon offense that has posted 1,114 yards in its first two games.

73.91: Anthony Brown’s completion percentage through the first two games. Granted, the redshirt sophomore has attempted just 23 passes, but there has been a tangible improvement in his down-the-field accuracy so far this year. Many of Brown’s interceptions last season came from errant throws and poor reads. This season, he looks a lot more poised in the pocket and is reading defenses quicker, leading receivers so that the worst-case-scenario is an incompletion rather than a pick.

Wake Forest:

2: The number of punts that Greg Dortch returned for touchdowns last week against Towson. The 5 foot 9 inch receiver is a multi-faceted, dynamic player who BC has to watch out for. In addition to racking up 243 receiving yards, Dortch changes the game on special teams, which has been the weakest area of BC’s team so far.

620: The number of yards that true freshman Sam Hartman has thrown for in his first two games. Replacing four-year starter John Wolford is no easy task, but what began for Hartman as a three-game stint to replace suspended starter Kendall Hinton might turn into the full-time gig. Hartman has impressed in all areas of the game, averaging 7.9 yards per attempt and tacking on 128 rushing yards to boot. The only area where he has struggled has been with turnovers, tossing three interceptions in his first two matchups.

4: The number of touchdowns that Wake Forest has allowed on passes of 15-plus yards. This number also includes two scores allowed from 50-plus yards Week One against Tulane. The secondary appears to be the weakest part of the Demon Deacon defense, as the defensive backs have often let receivers get behind them in the open field. Wake Forest will have to key in on BC deep threat Kobay White, as Addazio should figure to exploit these struggles.

Last Meeting:

Wake Forest thoroughly dismantled the Eagles last year at Alumni Stadium, 34-10. The Demon Deacons spoiled BC’s home opener, with John Wolford racking up 243 combined air and ground yards en route to an offensive onslaught. It is worth noting that the road team has come out victorious in the last four meetings, including an ugly 3-0 Wake Forest victory in 2015.

Outlook:

Originally, many thought that if this game was played, it would be aired in torrential rain with sustained wind-tunnel-like conditions. That no longer appears to be the case, as the brunt of Hurricane Florence will not reach Winston-Salem until Friday. With conditions no longer of great concern, BC should seek to perform much as it has in the first two games.

With a talented Demon Deacon front seven most likely loading the box against Dillon, play-action will be as vital as ever, especially if the secondary bites and provides opportunities for big plays through the air. Dillon will undoubtedly get his yards, but Brown may have to be the difference maker against the best defense he will see so far this season. The redshirt sophomore will be expected to play four quarters of football, windows will close faster, and he will have to navigate a raucous crowd that will show their support for Wake Forest.

This game bodes well for BC’s ball-hawking secondary on the defensive side of the ball. Hartman will make mistakes, and the Eagles have to be ready to capitalize. Conceding underneath routes to not give up the big play may be the defense’s best course of action. Limiting mistakes on special teams will be crucial for BC as well, as close matchups can often be determined by a spectacular play or catastrophic blunder in the third aspect of the game. With the short week coming to a close for both teams, only one can head into their eight off-days still carrying an undefeated record.

Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Editor