Recent history suggests that Vandy won't have too much trouble with the Demon Deacons. The two teams have met in each of the last two years, and the 'Dores have escaped with a 2-0 record and an aggregate 96-28 score in their favor. That puts James Franklin's team in a good position to extend their seven-game November winning streak to eight.
That past - and Wake's 4-7 record - have set this showdown up to be a classic trap game for the Commodores. Vandy is riding high after defeating Tennessee for the second straight year, and while this team's philosophy is to focus on a 1-0 week, the UT win in their rear view and a bowl bid down the road could have some players overlooking the Deacons. Wake has taken Duke and Miami into deep waters this season and beaten a bowl-eligible Maryland program. Despite their struggles, they have an opportunity to end Vandy's regular season on a sour note.
To get a better idea of what Vanderbilt can expect on Saturday, I enlisted the help of an expert. J.P. Mundy runs Blogger So Dear, the best Wake Forest site out there. He knows this team inside and out, and he was kind enough to answer our questions in order to prepare for Saturday's brunch-time showdown.
1. 2013 will mark the second straight year without a Demon Deacon bowl bid. Is there a sense of disappointment around this team, or are Wake Forest fans able to see something in this team that brings optimism for 2014?
Things here are in a state of emergency, football-wise. A fan base already upset with the performance of the athletic department is aghast at what has happened in the last five years. Five straight losing seasons with one bowl appearance) usually costs staffers jobs. We shall see. There is no optimism for next year because recruiting is a disaster. Wake fans have no idea what the plan for next year is.
2. Tanner Price seems to be playing his worst late in the season, completing just 41% of his passes and posting a 1:5 TD:INT ratio in his last three games. What's the reason behind his poor play? Why has he been unable to follow up on a promising sophomore campaign in 2011 in which he threw for more than 3,000 yards?
In Price’s defense, the guy has never had a stable offensive line to establish a run game and pass protect. Hell, at any given time the last two seasons he’s had only one viable receiver (Michael Campanaro), since tight end Spencer Bishop had to augment the blocking so much. However, Price still is doing things that good four-year starters probably shouldn’t do. He is still taking bad sacks at bad times and had a stretches again this season with inaccuracy. At one point, he was struggling throwing the bubble screen, which was the go-to play for Campanaro.
Wake has one of the worst rushing offenses in the NCAA and averages only 92.5 yards per game on the ground. Is that the function of an underperforming offensive line, or tailbacks who can't get the job done? Can the Deacons take advantage of a Vandy defense that has struggled against opposing runners?
Yes, yes and I don’t know. Wake’s line is not good enough to generate a ground game, and I’m not sure that Josh Harris or Dominique Gibson are going to do anything different on Saturday. Although, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Harris left Wake with one huge game to kind of bookend his career.
3. Jim Grobe is a former ACC Coach of the Year and led this team to a BCS Bowl. However, he hasn't had a winning season since 2008 and he hasn't been able to bring high-level recruits to Winston-Salem. How secure is his job right now? Are there any candidates that you think would make a good replacement for the 13-year veteran coach?
I think Grobe’s job is secure only because donations haven’t slipped. He’s a good guy and great on the fundraising trail. That being said, I imagine his bosses will mention something about revamping the recruiting program during the offseason. Anyone watching the Duke game would see that talent disparity. Additionally, there needs to be one offensive play-caller, and I don’t know that he’s currently on staff. All are good coaches, but offensive scheme and play-calling is a huge issue.
4. Who should the Commodores be focused on stopping from the Wake Forest defense? Are the Demon Deacons prepared to stop a gameplan run exclusively on receiver screen passes to Jordan Matthews?
Nikita Whitlock. Mr. Whitlock is ticked off at how this season went and wants to go out with a bang. That’s bad news for Vandy. Schematically, coach Franklin is going to need to get a little more creative. The defense is Wake’s strong suit and they’ll figure that stuff out rather quickly. Unless of course, they are on the field all day.
5. Tickets for this game are currently being sold on StubHub for $4. Which one of us should be sadder about that?
Vanderbilt. I’m of the opinion that the Franklin era is short-lived in Nashville, and I think ‘Dore fans should embrace every win. Look to Wake’s example: the days of wine and roses can be awfully short.
6. Finally, what's your prediction for Saturday's game?
I just don’t know. If Vanderbilt doesn’t take care of the ball, the Deacs will make them pay. That’s the only way I see Wake winning. That being said, I don’t see a Wake win here. Vandy wins 21-10.