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Wake Forest Football Preview: North Carolina Tar Heels

The Deacs head home in Week 11 to face another state rival, the North Carolina Tar Heels – and this time it’s actually a conference game. Wake and UNC have actually been pretty similar teams for the past two seasons; both relied heavily on high-scoring offenses as they both had defenses that for the most part couldn’t stop anyone. The result was two highly entertaining games with virtually no defense where both teams scored over 50 points. While Wake Forest held a double digit 4th quarter lead the last two meetings, they allowed the Tar Heels to score a total of 52 points in the 4th quarter and lost both of those games. It has never been more painful than last year, when the late collapse ended Wake’s undefeated season. Hopefully this year, the Deacs will get their revenge.

Instantaneous

  • Opponent: North Carolina
  • When: Saturday, November 12, 2022
  • Location: Truist Field | Winston Salem, North Carolina
  • Total Vegas Insider Earnings: 7.5
  • 2021 review: 6-7
  • Previous match: Wake 55—UNC 58 (2021)
  • all time against WakeForest: 71-36-2

As mentioned earlier, UNC was a very similar team to the Deacs last season. They had a powerful attack that, due to the weak defense, basically had to score every time they had the ball to win games. In fact, when UNC scored 34 or more points, it was a perfect 6-0; when they scored less than 34 points, they lost all 7 games. This puts a ton of pressure on the offense and gives them almost 0 room for error.

The Tar Heel offense finished last season 19th in the nation with 35 points per game and 10th in the nation with 468 yards per game. They were a dominant rushing team, gaining over 200 yards per game rushing and 5.4 yards per carry, the 8th-best average in the nation. Unfortunately for the Heels, most of that offense revolved around the point guard ability of QB Sam Howell, who now plays for the Washington Commanders. Howell basically did it all for the Heels, completing 63% of his passes for 3,000+ yards and 24 touchdowns, while also leading the team in rushing attempts with 183 carries for 828 yards. That leaves a big hole for redshirt rookie Drake Maye to try to fill – a daunting task considering Maye attempted just 10 pass attempts last season. Not only did the Heels lose their starting quarterback, but they also lost their first rusher, Ty Chandler, who you might absolutely remember slashing the Deacs for 213 yards and 4 touchdowns last season. Between Howell and Chandler, the Heels will need to replace nearly 2,000 yards and 24 rushing touchdowns from last year’s team,

The good news for the Heels and new starting QB Drake Maye is that WR Josh Downs is still on the team. Downs is the type of receiver who is a quarterback’s best friend; it always finds a way to open up and can turn just about any game into something special. Downs finished last season with the ACC’s best 101 receptions for 1,300 yards and 8 touchdowns. Tar Heel quarterbacks as a unit completed 237 total passes last season, which means nearly half (42%) of all UNC completions last season went to Josh Downs. With a young QB, honestly, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Downs receiving even more receptions this season as a sort of safety blanket for Maye. Slowing him down will likely be key to keeping the heels out of the end zone this season.

North Carolina’s defense was a different story, as it was easily one of the worst in the nation last season. The Tar Heels gave up 31.1 points and 418.6 yards per game last year, ranking 105th and 93rd respectively in the nation. Did you think Wake Forest’s defense was non-existent last season? Well, the UNC defense gave up 2 points and 5 yards MORE per game than the Deacs. It’s no surprise, then, that the Heels also changed their defensive coordinator during the offseason, firing notorious cheater Jay Bateman and replacing him with former DC Gene Chizik. During his previous 2-year stint at UNC, Chizik’s defenses gave up 436 and 408 yards per game, but only 24.5 and 24.9 ppg in 2015 and 2016. This 2015 team finished 11-3 and made it to the ACC Championship Game. . He’ll have talent to work with in junior DL ​​Myles Murphy, who finished last season with 38 total tackles, 9 tackles for loss and 4 sacks, and junior linebacker Cedric Gray, who led the team with 100 tackles and caught 2 interceptions. last season. The Heels will need to find someone to replace senior DL ​​Tomari Fox, who was suspended for the season after taking a banned substance.

Prediction

There are a lot of question marks in this game that will likely be answered by November 12. The most obvious to me would be how much Drake Maye commands the UNC offense and how much of Sam Howell’s production he is able to replace. Both teams’ defenses have been awful lately, and while both teams have made changes to address this issue, I don’t think these issues will be resolved in a single season. I fully expect another shootout with a high score. The Deacs have been the better team for 6 of the previous 8 quarters against the Tar Heels, but have completely failed to wrap up both games. With this one home, I love that Wake finally finishes a game against the Heels and comes away with a win.