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SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
10/03/2006 01:14:00 PM

'Wake' Up the Echoes

Oakland Arena
Riley Swanson and the rest of the Wake Forest defense have been surprisingly stout this season.
Saturday is another one of those days where it seems the football gods decided to go overboard on big games. LSU-Florida. Tennessee-Georgia. Oregon-Cal. Oklahoma-Texas. It will make for an action-packed day, but couldn’t they have spread things out a little better? We sure could have used a couple of those games last Saturday.

The unfortunate byproduct of this big-game glut is that we won’t be treated to what would have been a truly surreal scene: The GameDay guys broadcasting live from outside Groves Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. That’s right, folks. On nearly any other weekend, one could probably have made the case that Saturday’s much-anticipated (in the Carolinas, at least) Clemson-Wake Forest showdown qualified as the Game of the Week. Shoot, it’s the Game of the Year in the ACC to this point.

The Demon Deacons, if you haven’t heard, are 5-0 for the first time since 1987. No, they haven’t played anyone, but c’mon, give ‘em their props. While there were signs going into the season that Wake, which returned 16 starters, might surprise some people -- a certain college football writer predicted as much back in June -- what’s remarkable is that they’ve done it despite losing quarterback Ben Mauk and tailback Micah Andrews to injuries. In their place, however, redshirt freshman Riley Skinner is completing 65.3 percent of his passes and DeAngelo Bryant ran for 105 yards against Ole Miss. Most of all, though, the defense has been phenomenal, allowing just 10.6 points per game (10th nationally).

Wake Forest hasn’t started a season 6-0 in 62 years. Common sense says the Deacons’ run will end this weekend against 15th-ranked Clemson (4-1), which itself has been on an absolute tear lately. The Tigers are averaging 240 yards a game on the ground, and their defense, despite losing three key starters to injury, ranks ninth nationally in yards allowed (239.6 per game). But wait ... there’s an added twist to this drama. For whatever reason, Wake has had Clemson’s number of late, beating the Tigers the last two times they’ve visited Winston-Salem (2003 and 2005) despite the fact that Clemson wound up going a combined 17-8 in those seasons while Wake finished below .500 in both.

All of which means Saturday’s game will be the biggest thing Groves Stadium has seen since ... I don’t know, since they built the place? Believe it or not, I’ve had the good fortune of covering a game there. The year was 1996, and Jim Caldwell’s Deacons, in one of three wins they’d post all season, stunned a Gary Barnett-led Northwestern team that would wind up sharing the Big Ten championship. The backdrop is very picturesque. Lots of trees. But I’m not sure the stadium, which seats 31,000, is all that much bigger than Hoover High School’s. This shouldn’t be altogether surprising, considering Wake is the nation’s smallest BCS-conference school (4,200 students).

Which is why it’s nice to see the Deacons getting their moment in the sun. Even if that moment only lasts another week.
posted by Stewart Mandel | View comments |


Posted: 3:38 PM   by Tin Man
OK, Stew, I appreciate the rarity of hyping a Wake Forest game, and you do it with just the right finesse. Still, Wake vs Clemson will be meaningful to students, alumni, and fans of both schools... and a few gamblers. Whereas, last weekend's showing by Georgia Tech in beating then then undefeated host Hokies (doesn't it feel/sound like your hacking up phlegm when you say that?) is a better candidate for ACC game of the season. Now, if Clemson continues winning, and the Jackets sting 'em in Death Valley, well, THAT might be the game of the season.

Speaking of the bad-ass-ground-hornets, do you think this team's performance is eclipsing their head coach's capabilities?
Posted: 5:16 PM   by Anonymous
tin man wrote, "Speaking of the bad-ass-ground-hornets, do you think this team's performance is eclipsing their head coach's capabilities?" Allow me to speak for Stewart - Given that he name Chan Gailey one of the five worst coaches ( http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/writers/stewart_mandel/06/28/mandel.mailbag/1.html), the answer is probably yes. Of course, Stewart's prophecy may still be fulfilled, with this win a high point in an another erratic Yellow Jacket season.
Posted: 9:51 PM   by Anonymous
GT's success has more to do with Gailey allowing his OC and DC free reign. He's delegated authority and probably saved his job. They're tearing up recruiting right now as well.
Posted: 12:36 AM   by Anonymous
You could pick a worse place to watch a game, and easily find an ACC school whose won loss record is worse, and whose coach is an embarrassment to the state. Actually, there are two such schools within a 3 hour drive of WFU.

As you say, hurray for the underdog for another week or two, and hurray for a school known for never putting the win column ahead of good sportsmanship... and at least in BBall, still winning its fair share of games.
Posted: 1:07 AM   by Anonymous
Inside the Stats: 3 Responses. That's what you get when you write about a game like this one. Someone's got a case of the Mondays.
Posted: 1:20 AM   by Anonymous
Its cool ur giving Wake Forest some love man. Props. ur ish is the best man, 4 reals
Posted: 6:53 AM   by Anonymous
Who has Wake beaten? They won't be ranked by the end of the season.
Posted: 11:56 AM   by Anonymous
Wake Forest : Best head coach in the ACC.
Posted: 1:02 PM   by Anonymous
georgia tech's recruiting isn't touching Clemson's right now.....and I don't think Wake has a legitimate shot at beating them Saturday
Posted: 1:07 PM   by Anonymous
I'm going to this game from Texas - my daughter is a freshman at Wake - and I can't wait to watch some ACC football. I am missing the Texas-ou game and I have to tell ya that there is NOTHING like that game....

But my daughter has a 20 game winning streak going (her Texas high school team won state last year) so Clemson is in trouble....

Go Deacs.
Posted: 2:07 PM   by Anonymous
As someone posted earlier, Grobe is the best HC in the ACC.. I would love to see my team get him in a couple of years.

Wake up 14-3 with 10:00 to go in the 3rd, yep, no legitimate chance at all :))
Posted: 4:59 PM   by Anonymous
So far, the ACC game of the year was Tech vs Tech. With the Miami Hurricanes downgraded to at least a Tropical Storm, UVA mediocre, and Duke and UNC waiting for basketball season, that game probably decided the Coastal division.

Still, Clemson vs. Wake didn't disappoint. Wake could have easily won that game had they been able to hang on to the football. Not bad against a team with as much talent as Clemson, but they always play Clemson tough.

We'll see if Wake is for real if they can beat NC State next week, who seems to have seen new life since starting conference play.

The Atlantic division is still wide open. Even FSU still has a chance.
Posted: 8:40 PM   by J_R
Stewart... Well, you did say you didn't claim to know the answer... Care to try again? You can keep guessing until SC loses or plays Ohio in the title game. Fair enough?

10-3-06, quote Mandel

With Ohio State cruising, there seems to be a lot of debate over which is the second-best team in the country. I don't claim to know the answer, but I do know this: It isn't USC.

10-3-06, quote Mandel

2 Auburn Tigers

10-7-06, quote Mandel

Unranked Arkansas' wide-open offense dealt No. 2 Auburn a surprisingly easy 27-10 loss
Posted: 11:26 PM   by Anonymous
Is Chan still the 3rd worst coach in the nation?
Posted: 11:47 PM   by Anonymous
Nice blogs today Stewart. Hope you're feeling better.
Posted: 12:11 PM   by Anonymous

Your friend in Iowa city was right. Russell did find a way to screw it up. He appears to be incapable of managing a game. Why Lsu refuses to play flynn (or at least giving him a shot) is beyond me.

Also, 289 yards and 21 points for an offense is nothing to write home about-espeically if you get 5 turnovers.

I suspect both Tennessee and Arkansas will get at least 290 yards when they play Lsu.
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