Going into the year, this game was seen as an easy one among a tough stretch of Notre Dame, Louisville, Florida State and Clemson in a span of five weeks. As it turns out, the Orange has lost the first three of those games, and going to Death Valley is a very tough task. So, in order to save its bowl chances the Orange cannot afford to lose this weekend at Wake Forest.
The Demon Deacons, simply put, are not a very good team. This offseason their head coach of 12 years, Jim Grobe, stepped down. In comes Dave Clawson after stops at Fordham, Richmond, and Bowling Green. He takes over a Wake Forest team that went 4-8 last season, and this year has a true freshman under center. This is a team that SU beat in the Carrier Dome 13-0 last season.
With that said, this is a must-win, and a game the Orange should be able to win even with the offensive struggles it has had this year. Look at last week’s game against Florida State. The offensive showed some life, and if a couple plays went differently, the Orange could have been in it. AJ Long played well in partial action last week. This week, he is the starter and will be taking every snap – barring an injury.
Big picture: this is a game the Orange needs to take if it has any hopes of making a bowl. With a loss this week at Wake, the team would almost certainly be staring a six game losing streak in the face after a trip to Clemson next week. After that, the Orange would need to win out to even get to 6-6 and bowl eligibility. That would mean beating NC State and Duke at home, then Pitt and BC on the road. That surely sounds like a tough task given what the Orange has shown so far this year.
A win against Wake Forest would at least give the Orange some wiggle room. It would mean the team could lose one of its last four and still get to bowl eligibility. But, as we saw last year, just getting to 6 wins and being eligible for a bowl doesn’t mean the team necessarily will go to one, or deserves one.
This week can be pivotal, both for the team and the fans. With a loss at Wake, another looming with a trip to Clemson on the way, and basketball season heating up, there could be a drop off in attendance and overall fan interest for the last two home games of the season. With a win, there is a new sense of optimism, even if the team sits at 3-5 coming home for NC State and Duke that maybe the Orange can pull out 3 of 4 games and make to another Pinstripe Bowl.
Posted: Seth Goldberg