2007 FedEx Orange Bowl Preview: Root For Wake, Bet On Louisville

January 1, 2007 – 11:16 pm by McD

Is there any reason to root for Louisville in this game unless you’re a Cards fan? Wake is this season’s biggest surprise (with the possible exception of Rutgers), especially because they win without really doing anything. It seems like every team they play is suddenly worse in every facet of the game. No one can tell why, but Wake just gets it done week in and week out. Head coach Jim Grobe is even staying in Winston-Salem despite the possibility of better offers. How can you not root for a team with a coach that says he’s “a Wake Forest guy” and he’s not talking about basketball? We’re out and out rooting for Wake, not that we have anything against Louisville or its fans. But this is just too good.

(5) Louisville (11-1, 6-1 Big East)
Offense, offense, offense. Louisville has a lot of it and it should be on full display again on Tuesday night. Quarterback Brian Brohm has had pressure put on him all year and he’s handled it well. It’s on him to carry the offense, especially since super-back Michael Bush was hurt in week one. What kind of expectations have been placed on him by Louisville and its faithful? Take a look at his profile on the team site and look at the top paragraph. That’s right, he is “expected to contend for the Heisman Trophy this year.” Man, that’s tough considering Troy Smith already won it.

Still, Brohm has done pretty well this season, not Heisman-good, but good. He’s completed 62.7% of his passes for 2738 yards and 16 touchdowns against 8 interceptions, he also missed two games. His main targets are wideouts Harry Douglas (60 rec 1100 yds 6td) and Mario Urrutia (53 rec 929 yards 6 td), but it’s obvious that this team is full of playmakers on offense. However, Wake has a tendency to get teams involved in ugly games. The question is: can they overcome their finesse tendencies and beat an opponent without looking pretty?

(13) Wake Forest (11-2, 6-2 ACC)
After Rutgers didn’t make a BCS bowl, we think Wake is the Cinderella story of the season. This is especially true because no one but the biggest football junkies and degenerate gamblers should be able to name a player on the Demon Deacon roster, yet they’re in a BCS game for the first time in school history. That fact probably works in Wake’s favor. They really don’t do anything outstandingly well, but they win games with solid efforts from everyone who gets onto the field. They’re a football oddity; they give up a ton of yards on defense, but not a lot of points. And they don’t gain a lot of yards or score a lot of points on offense, but they still manage enough of both to win. They’ve also managed a two loss season with 42 freshmen on the roster and only 15 seniors.

It all starts and ends for on defense for Wake. If their D plays well – and they have all season -Wake’s offense will get just enough to get the win. The Demon Deacons rank 9th in the nation in scoring defense. However, they allow 312.2 yards of offense per game, by far the most of the top 10 defensive units. So how do they get out of trouble? They also happen to have 22 interceptions, including two returned touchdowns. That’s tied with Ohio State as the most of the top 10 defenses. Linebacker Jon Abbate is their leading tackler with 105 (42 solo) and is the heart and soul of Wake’s D. If you watch the game, you’ll see him make plays all over the field. Safety Patrick Ghee and corner Riley Swanson are the big play-makers in the secondary. Ghee has 3 interceptions and Swanson has 4 interceptions to go with 12 passes defensed.

Analysis:
The biggest matchup here is Wake’s defense against Louisville’s offense. It’s imperative that Wake’s D continues to do what it has done all year long: keep the other team within striking distance so that the offense doesn’t have to score a ton of points. If this one turns into a shootout, Wake doesn’t stand much of a chance, unless Louisville’s defense completely collapses (not out of the realm of possibility).

The biggest key for Louisville offensively is to make sure they don’t abandon the run early if Wake makes some plays. Wake is going to try to control the ball offensively and limit the amount of plays Louisville runs. To beat them, Louisville needs to fight fire with fire. The longer Wake’s defense is on the field, the less their offense will be able to dominate possession and the more likely it will be that Louisville can score a ton of points. The way to do this? Run the ball, Louisville, run the ball. No one except the 2002-2003 Oakland Raiders have been able to totally dominate the ball while doing nothing but pass. They got an MVP season out of Rich Gannon, essentially perfected the short passing game, had Jerry Rice AND Tim Brown on the team, and still didn’t win the big one (God Bless the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). Louisville can still make plays in the passing game, but as the saying goes: pass to score points, run to win.

Prediction:
Wake makes some noise defensively and scores a few points, but the Cardinals make one more big play. Louisville 31 Wake Forest 24.

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