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Previewing Wake Forest: Demon Deacons show some forward progress, and that's enough (for now)

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Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

I wrote this little ditty for Wake Forest, so inspired was I by the Deacs' baby steps forward as a program. It is to the tune of "She'll Be Coming 'Round The Mountain."

When you suck at football regression is your friend 
Yes when you suck at football regression is your friend 
When you really suck at football, then you really suck at football
But at least you've got regression, your best friend

The improvements aren't huge, mind you, but they were inevitable for a Wake Forest team that had to carry around a historically bad offense. There was absolutely no where for the Deacs' offense to go but up. I mean look at these here national rankings:

Wake Offense Off. S&P+ national rank Yds/Play
(national rank)
Yds/Rush
(national rank)
Yds/Pass Att.
(national rank)
2015 104
4.9 (109) 3.2 (122) 6.5 (92)
2014 128 3.4 (128) 1.3 (128) 5.5 (124)

Dead last in three of those categories. Here's what I wrote about the Deacs last year in a desperate attempt to put their lack of production in context:

Wake Forest is not simply last at 3.2 yards per play, it is super way last. The team that ranks 127 in YPP, SMU, averages nearly four yards per snap.

wakeypp2014

In the total offense category, the Deacs are averaging a shade over 200 yards per game, more than 62 yards behind the team that ranks next-to-last. Wake Forest is just on an entirely different tier of ineffectiveness. This is not football, it's sorrow.

It is still astounding that Wake Forest managed only 479 rushing yards for the entire 2014 season. On three occasions they finished a game with negative rushing yardage. This, inevitably, has changed for the better, as the Deacs are already past 800 yards on the ground in 2015.

Four times this season they've managed to hit 100 yards or more on the ground, which they managed one very lonely time last season--when they hit 100 yards precisely and went no farther. Wake ranked dead last in Rushing S&P+ in 2014, as you can imagine, but the Deacs are up to 64th this season.

That's an encouraging step, even if it's not the sort to have a significant impact on how their year plays out. I mean, 3.2 yards per carry is still a bad number, but compared to last year, it's a damned breakthrough. This is a ground game that at least has a pulse.

Quarterback John Wolford no doubt appreciates some support, since he was left to die on the vine for an entire year. And he's been much more effective in 2015, completing 64.5% of his throws while averaging 8.0 yards per attempt. He remains mistake prone, averaging an INT thrown every 25 attempts, but his overall efficiency is much better. Now if Wake Forest can only keep the man healthy, they'll be on to something.

Wolford's season in a nutshell was his effort against Syracuse, when he completed two-thirds of his passes for 373 yards and averaged 8.3 per attempt ... but also threw three interceptions.

But really the thing to hold on to if you're Wake Forest is how they can do things now! Rush for 200 yards in a game? They can do that! Throw for almost 400? They can do that! There's still a lot they have to fix on the offensive side, but the mere fact that they appear capable far more frequently is a start. They have graduated from horror show to not-good-but-sometimes-okay, and hey, man, they can feel good about that.

Wake Defense Def. S&P+ national rank Yds Allowed/Play
(national rank)
Yds Allowed/Rush
(national rank)
Yds Allowed/Pass Att.
(national rank)
2015 46
5.4 (61) 4.2 (67) 7.6 (88)
2014 37 5.2 (36) 4.4 (74) 6.4 (21)

If Wolford felt like he was all alone with no one to save him, imagine how Wake Forest's defense felt in 2014. The Deacs had a solid year on that side of the ball--that unit was certainly good enough to help lead an average offense to a bowl game--but had almost no margin for error.

Finally, toward the end of the season, they said "enough is enough," taking matters into their own hands and giving us an all-time #goacc moment in the process. They did the same earlier this year, when the Deacs beat BC 3-0. (Boston College is another team with a good defense that's being wasted by a poor offense.)

This unit definitely can pose problems for NC State, but Wake Forest's defense has also had some inexplicable no-shows. Like giving up an average of 9.1 yards per play to UNC, or 7.3 to stinkin' Syracuse. NC State's extra week of preparation should come in handy here, and it had better come in handy, because this losing streak in Winston-Salem is killin' me already.