Sports

Belk Bowl Preview: Wake Forest v. Texas A&M

Tomorrow,  the Demon Deacons will face off against the Texas A&M Aggies at the Belk Bowl in Charlotte. This is the second consecutive year the Deacons have been to a bowl game under coach Dave Clawson and Wake Forest is looking to win consecutive bowl games for the first time since 2007/2008. Let’s look at the matchup.

The Opponent

The Texas A&M Aggies will enter Friday’s game against the Demon Deacons in what many would consider a state of absolute turmoil. Following a disappointing 7-5 regular season campaign, head coach Kevin Sumlin was relieved of his coaching duties earlier this month. The Aggies made a huge splash bringing in his replacement, luring Jimbo Fisher away from ACC powerhouse Florida State with an albatross of a contract, totaling 10 years and 75 million dollars, all guaranteed. In the wake of all this, interim head coach Jeff Banks is tasked with refocusing the team one last time for the 2017 campaign. Freshman quarterback Nick Starkel will lead the Aggies after starting the last four games of their regular season. In these contests he’s thrown for 10 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, completing under 60% of his passes on the way to a 2-2 record (1-2 SEC.) The Aggies rank 74th in the FBS in rushing yards, led by running backs Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford, who tallied 1226 yards and 18 touchdowns as a duo. On the passing side, Christian Kirk has taken the bulk of the receptions, catching 56 balls for 730 yards. The Aggies defense ranked 63rd in total defense led by linebacker Tyrell Watson and safety Armani Watts. Texas A&M will be one of the most talented teams Wake Forest has played this season, traditionally bringing in recruiting classes that compare favorably to that of ACC powerhouses such as Florida State and Clemson.

The Matchups

Wake Forest had a similar opportunity last year against Temple, as the Owls were under an interim head coach after losing Matt Rhule to Baylor. Hopefully, the Deacons can capitalize on what could very well be a disorganized squad that is far from their home in Texas. Senior John Wolford will need to capitalize on what has been a very suspect Aggie secondary, while additional plays on his feet may be needed to truly blow the game open. If an older Wake Forest defense can confuse the freshman signal caller Nick Starkel, as many of their SEC opponents did, and generate additional opportunities for the Deacons explosive offense, the game could get out of hand quickly.

Prediction

Wake Forest has everything going for them in this game. Their team is more experienced and has more stability at the coaching position, and the game is not even two hours away from Winston-Salem. If Wake Forest can avoid coming out slow and avoid the unforced mistakes that plagued the team in the season finale against Duke, they will have a very good chance to come out with a bowl win against a talented SEC squad. The keys hinge on the defense, as confusing the Aggies’ freshman QB will allow the Deacs to win fairly easily. Personally, I trust Clawson’s squad to get that done.

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