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What to know before Georgia Tech vs. Wake Forest

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We haven’t seen the Deacs in quite a while. What will need to happen for Tech to pull out a win this evening?

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Appalachian State Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Head coach Dave Clawson has finally freed Wake Forest football from the darkness of the late Jim Grobe era, returning the Demon Deacons to bowl relevance after a tumultuous first two seasons in Winston-Salem. Though they aren’t quite a juggernaut in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, Wake finished last season with a 7-6 overall record which includes a win over Temple in the Military Bowl — the first winning season for the Deacs since 2008. Clawson has his team off to a 4-2 start this time around as he looks to play spoiler for Tech’s homecoming weekend in Atlanta. Let’s see what all is in play for tonight’s game:

  1. Georgia Tech will be thin at linebacker. With Brant Mitchell out for the game, Tech will have to rely on the likes of Bruce Jordan-Swilling and other inexperienced players at the linebacker position. That doesn’t bode well for the defense, especially when you consider the unit’s struggles after Mitchell left the Miami game. There’s undoubtedly talent waiting at linebacker, but it just isn’t ready for extended action yet.
  2. Wake’s road to bowl season runs through Atlanta. Wake Forest plays an incredibly tough schedule the rest of the way, including games against Louisville, NC State, and Notre Dame. Just to attain bowl eligibility, the Deacs would have to be beat both Syracuse and Duke at the end of the season assuming a loss to the aforementioned three teams. A loss tonight wouldn’t necessarily be a death sentence in that regard, but expect to see a motivated Wake Forest team with plenty on the line.
  3. Oh, and speaking of bowl eligibility... Tech will be in the danger zone with a loss tonight. The cancellation of the UCF game doesn’t do Tech any favors (though it’s likely that the NCAA would permit a 5-6 team with a cancellation to be bowl eligible) and the rest of the way after tonight is treacherous: it starts with Clemson and continues with Virginia, Virginia Tech, Duke, and Georgia. This team needs to increase its margin for error, and that starts today with a win.
  4. We’ve reached a critical juncture in the season. Georgia Tech has trailed for exactly four seconds in second halves this season. Georgia Tech is 3-2. Those two things shouldn’t go together, but the fact that they do means that we’re about to see how this team responds to frustration and disappointment. It essentially boils down to how the Jackets are feeling after the stunning loss to Miami: angry or defeated. To those ends, it’s fair to expect either an easy win for Tech or quite the ugly game.
  5. Wolford and Carney are weapons for Wake. Dave Clawson has found success through defense, but quarterback John Wolford and halfback Cade Carney are a couple of very strong players. Their performances have been hindered by a struggling offensive line so far, but the homerun capability is certainly there. The good news is that Wake’s offense is not of the spread variety that Ted Roof’s defenses have historically struggled with, but there’s still work to be done.
  6. Can wake contain the option? Paul Johnson is an impressive 9-1 versus rotating Atlantic Division opponents during his time at Tech, with the sole loss coming versus NC State and Russell Wilson back in 2010. Long story short, the offense isn’t easy to prepare for if you a) don’t face it annually or b) don’t have ample time to prepare for it. Wake did have a bye, but that’s hardly a new deal for Johnson and company.
  7. It’s a homecoming whiteout! An unofficial one at least, according to social media. However, this no excuse: make sure to wear your white tonight! Corey Griffin said so, Georgia Tech kind of said so, and everyone reading this probably said so too. Don’t be that guy who gets mistaken for a Wake Forest fan.

All things considered, this is a game that Tech should probably win. Don’t confuse that logic with optimism though, particularly after seeing the devastating way that the Jackets managed to lose to both Tennessee and Miami so far this season. If you’re a believer in trends, then the good news is that Tech is 3-0 when favored and is currently a 4.5-point favorite over the Deacs. It should be a fun atmosphere for the quasi-whiteout on homecoming weekend regardless of the outcome, but a win would go a long way for Tech as the 2017 season toughens.