With a bowl spot secure, the no. 23 Wake Forest Demon Deacons will set their sites on bigger things as they get set to face the NC State Wolfpack in an in-state rivalry game this weekend. Kickoff is set for noon EST on Saturday, November 2 at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Fans can watch the game on ESPN.
Current odds list the Demon Deacons as 7.5-point favorites at home with an over/under of 61.5 points. Click here to check out all of this week’s college football betting odds.
With their 22-20 win over Florida State two weeks ago, the Demon Deacons secured a bowl bid for a fourth consecutive season. That is a first for the program and a huge accomplishment for head coach Dave Clawson and company. Of course, the Demon Deacons still have five games left in the regular season to chase a 10-win season and perhaps even an ACC title. If the Demon Deacons can sweep their remaining games, including a game against Clemson in a few weeks, they would win the ACC Atlantic division. Of course, Wake Forest would be wise to take things one step at a time and worry about NC State.
The Wolfpack also had last week off, only they spent their bye week thinking about their 45-24 loss to Boston College. While NC State is still 4-3 overall, they are just 1-2 in ACC play and 1-3 against power-conference teams this season. All three of those losses have come by double figures, so the Wolfpack has struggled when the competition level has been kicked up a notch. To make matters worse, NC State faces back-to-back games against ranked teams with Wake Forest and Clemson on the schedule over the next two weeks. On the bright side, the Wolfpack has five more games to get the two wins they need to qualify for a bowl game. An upset win over Wake Forest this week would go a long way toward getting them back to a bowl game.
Most people don’t realize the history behind the NC State-Wake Forest rivalry. These two teams have the longest continuous rivalry in the ACC, meeting every single year since 1910 when NC State was known as North Carolina A&M. The Wolfpack has a substantial lead in the all-time series, although the Demon Deacons have been victorious the last two seasons, including a 27-23 road win in Raleigh last year. Also, the home team has dominated this rivalry for most of the current century, as NC State has just one win in their last eight trips to Winston-Salem.
Voters continue to put Wake Forest in the top-25, but I’m still not buying the Demon Deacons. If you take away wins over lowly Rice and FCS opponent Elon, Wake’s four wins this year have come by a combined 14 points. Straight-up, I have no problem taking the Demon Deacons at home, but I’m not going to lay down more than a touchdown. I’ll take my chances with the Wolfpack keeping this game close against their rivals and beating the spread.
NC State’s biggest problem this year has been finding a quarterback. Matthew McKay and Bailey Hockman have both been given chances and failed to hold onto the starting job. The Wolfpack will now turn to Devin Leary to start against Wake Forest. Obviously, the redshirt freshman has limited experience. But he looked sharp coming off the bench against Boston College, throwing for over 250 yards and three touchdowns in less than a full game of action.
I actually have a good feeling about Leary starting for NC State. The Wolfpack have capable wide receivers, especially Emeka Emezie, who can cause trouble for just about any defense in the ACC. Obviously, it’ll help their young quarterback if NC State can establish a running game. However, the Wake Forest defense has proven to be vulnerable both on the ground and through the air this season. Remember, the Demon Deacons are just a few weeks removed from giving up 62 points at home against Louisville.
On the other side of the ball, Wake Forest also has a question at quarterback. Jamie Newman has started for most of the season before going down with a shoulder injury. Sam Hartman, who started for most of 2018, has played well in his place. Coming out of the bye week, it’s unclear if Newman is healthy enough to play. Even if he is, the Demon Deacons could still choose to stick with Hartman. With the Demon Deacons struggling to run the ball consistently since the start of ACC play, this game will depend on either Newman or Hartman to lead the way. Of course, NC State has a solid defensive line that’s capable of getting after the quarterback, so it won’t be easy for the Demon Deacons to move the ball consistently.
All things considered, I don’t trust Wake Forest enough to lay down more than a touchdown. Leary provides a huge X-factor if his first start goes poorly, NC State could get blown out. But with Wake Forest having an unreliable defense and lackluster running game, I think the Demon Deacons will have to sweat out a close win against the Wolfpack. I like Wake to win but NC State to beat the spread.