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Gator Bowl Opponent At A Glance: No. 17 Wake Forest

Find out more about the Demon Deacons ahead of next week’s matchup against Rutgers.

NCAA Football: ACC Championship-Pittsburgh vs Wake Forest Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

No. 17 Wake Forest Demon Deacons

10-3 record; 7-1 ACC Atlantic Division Champions


Old Dominion W, 42-10

Norfolk State W, 41-16

Florida State W, 35-14

At Virginia W, 37-17

Louisville W, 37-34

At Syracuse W, 40-37 OT (like for like opponent, Rutgers 17-7)

At Army W, 70-56

Duke W, 45-7

At North Carolina L, 55-58

N.C. State W, 45-42

At Clemson L, 27-48

At Boston College W, 41-10

ACC Championship: Pittsburgh L, 21-45

Statistical Rankings (Nationally)

Scoring Offense: 5th; 41.2 points per game

Passing Offense: 12th; 307.6 yards per game

Rushing Offense: 67th; 161.5 yards per game

Total Offense: 11th; 469.1 yards per game

3rd Down Offensive Conversion Rate: 6th; 48.8%

Scoring Defense: 94th; 30.3 points per game

Passing Defense: 58th; 221.8 yards per game

Rushing Defense: 114th; 202.0 yards per game

Total Defense: 98th; 423.8 yards per game

3rd Down Defensive Conversion Rate: 70th; 38.8%

Turnover Margin: 26th; +7

Penalties per game: 60th; 6.00 per game

Series History: Wake Forest leads 2-0 all-time, including 28-14 at RU in 1997 and 17-10 in Raleigh-Durham

Vegas Line: Wake Forest -11.5 opening line

Key Contributors

Passing: QB Sam Hartman: 276-469, 58.8%, 3,924 passing yards, 301.8 yards per game, 36 TD, 14 INT

Rushing: RB Christian Beal-Smith: 581 rushing yards, 4.7 yards per carry, 7 TD; RB Christian Turner: 463 rushing yards, 4.0 yards per carry, 5 TD;RB Justice Ellison: 482 rushing yards, 4.9 yards per carry, 6 TD; QB Sam Hartman 342 rushing yards, 3.1 yards per carry, 11 TD

Receiving: WR Jaquarii Roberson: 71 catches, 1078 yards, 15.2 yards per catch, 8 TD; WR A.T. Perry: 61 catches, 1166 yards, 19.1 yards per catch, 14 TD; WR Taylor Morin: 39 catches, 563 yards, 14.4 yards per catch, 5 TD

Defense: LB Luke Masterson: 78 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble; LB Ryan Smenda Jr.: 77 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, 3 forced fumbles; DB Traveon Redd: 63 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries, 2 forced fumbles; DL Rondell Bothroyd: 61 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, 7 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 forced fumbles, 1 blocked kick; DB Ja’Sir Taylor: 54 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 2 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries; LB Chase Jones: 42 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 0.5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 forced fumbles

Brief Synopsis:

The Demon Deacons have scored 40 points or more in eight games this season, including 70 points in the win over Army. Offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero is from Glen Rock, N.J. and has been at WFU since 2014. They run a run-pass option offense (RPO) and QB Sam Hartman has had a big season. The fourth year signal caller leads the ACC with 33 pass completions of 30+ yards, which ranks second among FBS quarterbacks. Hartman has thrown for 8,962 yards and 69 touchdowns in his career at Wake Forest.

A.T. Perry and Jaquarii Roberson give the offense two dynamic 1,000 receivers while the run game is by committee led by Christian Beal-Smith, Christian Turner, and Justice Ellison. Wake Forest became the 82nd team in college football’s modern era (post-World War II) to score 500 or more points in a single season. The Demon Deacons’ 536 points ranked fifth in the country this season.

With the offense throwing the ball so often, they are prone to mistakes and have thrown 15 interceptions and given up 32 sacks,

Defensively, the Demon Deacons are pretty poor and allow over 30 points per game. They are average against the pass but struggle against the run.

Special Teams play has been average with their one strength being kick returns, as they average 23.5 yards per return which is 30th best nationally.

Overall, this is a bad matchup on paper and the circumstances of this game give an even greater advantage to Wake Forest. Their firepower on offense could pose a major problem for Rutgers, especially not even knowing for sure what the two deep will look like for this game. While WFU has trouble in defending the run, the Scarlet Knights have struggled with a consistent ground game and Isaih Pacheco needs a waiver to even play. Aside from a lack of preparation time, the Demon Deacons are making their seventh consecutive bowl appearance.

We will have plenty of additional coverage on Rutgers football and its Gator Bowl opponent Wake Forest in the week ahead.