- Virginia Tech vs. Wake Forest: 3:30pm, ACC Network
- Virginia Tech vs. Wake Forest Betting Line: Wake -2.5
- Virginia Tech-Wake Forest roster cards: Click here
- Game notes from Hokiesports: Click here
- Blacksburg weather: Click here
- Gameday information: Click Here
- Tickets from StubHub:
Virginia Tech welcomes No. 22 Wake Forest (7-1, 3-1) to Lane Stadium for a Saturday afternoon kickoff. The Demon Deacons are enjoying a great season, and they’ll hope to beat the Hokies this weekend so they can attempt to challenge Clemson for Atlantic Division supremacy on November 16.
Through the first eight games of the season, this appears to be the best Wake Forest team since Jim Grobe’s 2006 team won the ACC Championship. The Hokies beat that team back in 2006, and they’ll be looking for a repeat in 2019.
Wake Forest is a team that, if you argue on one side of the coin, could be 8-0. They ran 102 plays to Louisville’s 69, and outgained the Cardinals 668 to 520, but lost the game 62-59 thanks to special teams miscues and turnovers. However, on the other side of the coin, they have narrow wins over 4-4 Utah State (38-35), 5-4 Boston College (27-24) and 4-5 Florida State (22-20).
However, like everybody else, they are what they record says they are. Their top 25 ranking is legitimate, and head coach Dave Clawson and his staff deserve credit for putting together one of the most prolific offenses in the country.
Speaking of the Wake offense, let’s get started with the preview on that side of the ball.
The Wake Forest Offense – By The Numbers
Justin Fuente noted that Wake Forest has a high-tempo offense. He’s right. It’s also the best and most balanced offense that the Hokies have faced all season. Though one team has a national name and the other doesn’t, this Demon Deacon offense is much better than the one the Hokies faced in South Bend last week. Here are Wake’s numbers against Power 5 competition…
Scoring Offense: 35.2 ppg, No. 14
Rushing Offense: 180.6 ypg, No. 31
Passing Offense: 296.6 ypg, No. 17
Total Offense: 477.2 ypg, No. 12
Yards per Play: 5.56 ypp, No. 50
You’ll notice that Wake’s yards per play ranking doesn’t quite match up with their other numbers. The other numbers are heightened by the fact that the Demon Deacons run 86.4 plays per game, which ranks No. 1 in the country. The more plays you run in a game, the more likely the opponent is to make a mistake, and the more likely you are to score. However, that strategy can backfire with a bad defensive game, or a game where the offense turns it over, as it did against Louisville.
That said, the strategy has paid off for the Demon Deacons this year. They’ve been good with turnovers (No. 10 in the nation in turnover margin) outside of the Louisville game, and they’ve been good enough defensively (though not dominant), again outside of the Louisville game.
Quarterback Jamie Newman
Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman (6-4, 230, r-Jr.) is perhaps the best football player in the country that most of the nation has never heard of. He’s graded out higher than any starting quarterback in the ACC this season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Jamie Newman, Wake Forest: 90.8
Hendon Hooker, Virginia Tech: 85.6
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson: 82.5
Sam Howell, UNC: 77.4
Micale Cunningham, Louisville: 75.1
Considering that we have a limited sample size of Hendon Hooker, it’s not particularly close between Newman and the rest of the ACC. Here are his numbers for the season…
Passing: 167-of-247 (67.2%) for 2,059 yards, 20 TDs, 5 INTs
Rushing: 98 carries, 305 yards, 3.1 ypc, 5 TDs
Newman picked Wake over Duke, NC State, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, and others, and he is without a doubt the best quarterback the Hokies will face all season, despite what preseason prognosticators said about UVA’s Bryce Perkins.
Newman redshirted, hardly saw the field as a redshirt freshman, and was a part-time starter as a redshirt sophomore. He’s the perfect example of why it’s important to be patient with quarterback prospects. He could end up being the first Demon Deacon quarterback to be drafted since Mike Elkins in 1989.
Sage Surratt and the Wide Receivers
Sage Surratt (6-3, 215, r-So.) was ranked outside the nation’s top 1,110 recruits by 247. He picked the Demon Deacons over Harvard, Yale, UNC and South Carolina, but who knows if those offers from UNC and South Carolina were legit? ESPN’s scouting service was much higher on him, ranking him the No. 13 player in North Carolina and issuing the following scouting report…
“Surratt is just darn productive. He is athletic, flexible and possesses ideal measurables to develop into a productive red zone target and jump ball player. Makes a lot of plays while the ball is in the air and is a sneaky deep receiver. Good player with talent to warrant attention from programs in the big five conferences.”
As it turns out, ESPN was correct. Surratt is an excellent college wide receiver with good size and good speed, and will probably be the best receiver the Hokies face in 2019. He has 62 catches for 948 yards and 15.3 yards per catch, with nine touchdowns, and he’s still got four regular season games left. He ranks in the top ten in the nation in receiving yards, yards per game, yards per catch, and total touchdowns … in other words, every receiving stat that matters. In case you were wondering, he is the brother of former UNC starting quarterback and current starting linebacker Chazz Surratt.
Surratt isn’t Wake Forest’s only good target, either…
Scotty Washington (6-5, 225, r-Sr.): 35 catches, 607 yards, 17.3 ypc, 7 TDs
Kendall Hinton (6-0, 195, r-Sr.): 43 catches, 497 yards, 11.6 ypc, 1 TD
Sort of like Virginia Tech’s 2016 offense, Wake Forest is not deep at wide receiver, but their starters are very good players. To top it off, tight end Jack Freudenthal (6-3, 235, r-Sr.) is a dangerous player with 22 catches and four touchdowns on the season.
Wake Forest throws big outside receivers against opposing defenses in the form of Surratt and Washington, and fortunately the Hokies faced an offense with similar size on the outside last week at Notre Dame. However, this is a tough week to lose Jermaine Waller for the first half. Waller is the ACC’s highest-rated cornerback, according to PFF, with Caleb Farley coming in third.
Experience Level – Offense
Wake Forest starts three redshirt seniors on the offensive line, and their youngest linemen in the lineup are redshirt sophomores. Here are how the career starts break down for their projected starting lineup…
LT Justin Herron (6-5, 290, r-Sr.): 46 starts
RT Jake Benzinger (6-7, 295, r-Sr.): 35
WR Scotty Washington (6-5, 295, r-Sr.): 26
RB Cade Carney (5-11, 215, Sr.): 24
RG Nathan Gilliam (6-5, 300, r-Sr.): 24
TE Jack Freudenthal (6-3, 235, r-Sr.) 23
WR Sage Surratt (6-3, 215, r-So.): 17
QB Jamie Newman (6-3, 230, r-Jr.): 11
C Zach Tom (6-4, 290, r-So.): 9
LG Sean Maginn (6-3, 290, r-Sr.): 8
Total: 232 starts
Tech’s projected starting defense on Saturday has a combined 160 starts (with Armani Chatman and his zero starts substituted for Jermaine Waller and his eight starts). That’s actually an impressive number for the Hokies, considering they start five sophomores and only one senior. A year or two from now, this Tech defense is going to be as experienced as this Wake offense. In fact, so will the Hokie offense. But that’s another topic for another day.
The Wake Forest Defense – By The Numbers
After being shredded by Louisville, the Wake Forest defense has played very well in its last two games against Florida State and NC State, but on the whole it has not distinguished itself on the season. Here are their numbers against Power 5 competition…
Scoring Defense: 26.8 ppg, No. 43
Rushing Defense: 181.2 ypg, No. 79
Passing Defense: 238.8 ypg, No. 67
Total Defense: 420 ypg, No. 65
Yards per Play: 5.66 ypp, No. 54
The Wake Forest defense actually allows more yards per play than their own offense gains. They’ve been a bit of a bend-but-don’t-break defense at times. Against Louisville, they broke, and against their other Power 5 opponents, they did not.
Defensive Players to Watch
DE Carlos Basham, Jr. (6-5, 275, r-Jr.): 11.5 TFL, 6 sacks. Basham was a lightly recruited player from Roanoke, but he has blossomed at Wake Forest. He will be excited to play in front of family and friends. Overall, he’s the No. 8 rated defensive player in the ACC per Pro Football Focus.
CB Amari Henderson (6-1, 180, r-Sr.): Henderson leads Wake Forest with four interceptions, and he is the No. 8 rated cornerback in the ACC per Pro Football Focus.
LB Ja’Cquez Williams (6-2, 220, r-Jr.): Williams replaced the injured Justin Strnad, who was lost for the season with a bicep injury after the first seven games of the season. Williams has four career starts, but only one this season.
A Trend That Has to Change
Take a look at these numbers…
Wake’s Offensive Plays: 678
Wake’s Defensive Plays: 576
Virginia Tech’s Offensive Plays: 559
Virginia Tech’s Defensive Plays: 596
In Tech’s most recent game against Notre Dame, the Hokies ran just 64 offensive plays to Notre Dame’s 91. The Irish gained 442 yards, which seems like a lot, but averaged just 4.9 yards per play, which would rank just No. 77 in the country against Power 5 teams. The Tech defense is doing a pretty good job right now.
Everyone wants to talk about how the Virginia Tech defense matches up against Wake Forest, but the key is probably how well the Hokie offense does. Can they keep the football? This is a game that could be decided by the number of offensive snaps each team takes.
Overall Experience Comparison
There are all sorts of ways to compare experience. Wake Forest redshirts nearly everybody (have I ever mentioned how much I like Dave Clawson?) and plays very few true freshmen. Let’s compare the percentage of snaps by true freshmen for both teams, starting with Wake Forest…
Snaps by true freshmen: 685
Total offensive/defensive snaps: 14,133
Percentage of snaps by true freshmen: 4.8%
And now for the Hokies…
Snaps by true freshmen: 1,702
Total offensive/defensive snaps: 13,109
Percentage of snaps by true freshmen: 13.0%
Virginia Tech is at an experience disadvantage against pretty much everybody, but that’s especially true against Wake Forest.
I’m sure he could put it more eloquently than I always manage, but I’m sure that Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson would agree with my “Always Be Redshirting” philosophy. Here’s how their roster breaks down…
Senior Class: 9 of 13 players redshirted
Junior Class: 15 of 17 players redshirted
Sophomore Class: 23 of 28 players redshirted
There are also 22 redshirt freshmen on the roster, and only four true freshmen appear in this year’s two-deep.
Clawson knows that to maximize the potential of the program, he needs to make heavy use of the redshirt. It allows your players to develop over a longer period of time, both physically and mentally, and there’s a lot to be said for having a large number of fourth- and fifth-year players on the field, which is what the Demon Deacons have this year. It helps when those players are smart, too. Sage Surratt was once committed to Harvard. Jamie Newman was heavily recruited by Vanderbilt. Smart, experienced football players are hard to beat, unless you can completely out-talent them, or you have equally experienced players.
The Hokies don’t have equally experienced players, and though Tech recruits well, they don’t recruit so well that they can completely out-talent a team like Wake Forest, especially if that team is experienced.
That being said, Justin Fuente is a smart football coach. He can look at the numbers the same as I can and realize that controlling the football is the key to Virginia Tech’s victory. Could the Hokies possibly win a shootout of 40-50 points? Sure, it’s always possible. But a better chance of winning comes by controlling the ball, limiting Wake Forest’s possession, and keeping the game in the low-30s, or preferably the 20s. Whether or not Tech can execute the type of plan that can help them win a game like this remains to be seen, but I’ll feel a lot better about it if Hendon Hooker is 100% and ready to rock and roll.
Outside of Clemson being unbeaten, not a lot has made sense in the ACC this year. I’d certainly feel a lot better if the Hokies had Jermaine Waller in the first half, too.
I picked UNC to beat Tech 27-24, and the Hokies won. I picked Notre Dame to beat Tech 27-24, and VT was winning with 30 seconds left. Since we’re spinning the wheel of destiny for each game this year anyway, I might as well keep going.
Chris’s Prediction: Wake Forest 27, Virginia Tech 24
Will Stewart’s Take: Dave Clawson clearly knows how to run a program like Wake. This is his sixth year in Winston-Salem, and he is hitting his stride. Not much was expected of the Deacs, who were projected sixth in the ACC Atlantic in the preseason media poll, but two months into the season, they are all that stands between Clemson and another Atlantic title. (The two teams play November 16.)
Clawson looks like an excellent coach, but here’s a bit of Dave Clawson trivia: going into this season, his career record in 19 seasons as a head coach was only 118-115. Hmmm. Not sure how that relates to this game, but it’s interesting, and it does make me pump the brakes a little bit on my Dave Clawson man-crush.
Anyway, back to the topic. Here we go again: Notre Dame started 12 seniors and 7 juniors against the Hokies, and they squeaked out a narrow win at home over VT. Wake will start 9 seniors and 5 juniors against Tech, not quite the huge age advantage that the Irish had, but a significant one nonetheless. (Virginia Tech is expected to start 1 senior and 8 juniors.) Wake doesn’t have as many junior-senior starters as Notre Dame, but I also think Wake is a better football team.
I said on this morning’s podcast that I see this as a similar outcome to the Notre Dame game, with Wake Forest winning a close one. I also said this is the last time I’ll pick the Hokies to lose this season on their way to a Coastal Division title (don’t @ me, bro!).
Will’s Prediction: Wake Forest 31, Virginia Tech 24