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Meet Wake Forest, which will sic the Claw on you

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

Once upon a time, there were Daves across the Mid-American Conference, and they captured the attention of a nation. Indeed, some said that the MAC Daves were bigger than ska music, difficult as that is to imagine today.

Dave Doeren was the first to bring his act to the ACC, taking the job at NC State in 2012. Dave Clawson left Bowling Green for Wake Forest a year later. The Daves both won the MAC title the year before leaving for bigger Davetunities.

Both had a lot of work to do at their new gigs, and in Clawson’s case, that meant first constructing an offensive line that could in fact block other human beings. In 2014, the Deacs averaged 1.3 yards per carry. They ran for a grand total of 479 yards all season. It’s easy to forget how comically inept they were.

Clawson’s program took its lumps early on but reached bowl eligibility in his third year and will be making its fourth consecutive post-season trip in 2019. It took time to overhaul parts of the roster, but Clawson found himself some solid quarterbacks to aid the process. He’s in his sixth season and his teams have yet to finish a year with a winning ACC record, but that’s likely to change soon.

This is Clawson’s best team, and is perhaps not surprisingly led by the best quarterback he’s had—a quarterback who, incidentally, broke onto the scene with his performance in Carter-Finley Stadium last year.

Jamie Newman, now a junior, is averaging nearly 300 yards passing per game, completing 67.5% of his throws, and has 17 touchdown passes against five picks. The good news for NC State is that Newman has been banged up and might not play this weekend, though I suspect he will.

The bad news is that even if he doesn’t play, Wake has a competent replacement in Sam Hartman, who led the team to a win over Florida State last week.

To make matters worse, the Deacs have a pair of outstanding receivers. I was hoping to discover that they had no receivers and the quarterbacks had to complete passes to themselves most of the time. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and NC State’s secondary will be forced into having to do things.

Sophomore Sage Surratt already has 881 receiving yards, which makes him the most productive receiver in the ACC and gives him the fifth highest receiving total in FBS. He also ranks second nationally with an average of 125.9 receiving yards per game. So there’s a pretty good chance he’ll crack the 1,000-yard mark on Saturday.

On the other side, the Deacs have another matchup problem in 6’5 Scotty Washington, who is likely to set career bests in receptions and yardage. Between them, Surratt and Washington have accounted for 16 touchdown grabs this season. They’re a really, really tough tandem to handle even for a good secondary.

On the ground, Wake has senior Cade Carney, who ran for 1,000 yards in 2018 but hasn’t been as effective this year. He’s averaging under 4.0 yards per carry and the Deacs average 4.25 per rush as a team, which ranks 79th nationally—a couple spots behind NC State.

While that offense has been good, Wake’s defense has had its share of problems. The Deacs are allowing 6.1 yards per play to FBS teams, and three opponents have cracked 7.0 YPP this season. Wake managed to win two of those three anyhow.

Wake’s pass defense in particular has been a liability, giving up 16 touchdown passes in seven games. Opposing quarterbacks have a 146.9 passer rating and have averaged 7.8 yards per attempt. There definitely are some chunk plays to be had against this Deacs back end, but NC State’s passing game may not bother taking advantage. Who knows. Gotta love this kind of edge-of-your-seat suspense from game to game!

Maybe Devin Leary will prove to be a revelation, an incomparable seed-tosser, and the author of his own legends. But I have a feeling that this will not be the case, at least not immediately, and NC State will eventually sputter too often to keep up with Wake Forest.

I don’t appreciate how you’ve turned this entire situation around on us, Dave Clawson. But I sure do hope that a power-five school in another conference does.