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Wake Forest (4-3) at Navy (5-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: October 24th, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (30,000) -- Annapolis, Maryland. Television: CBSCSN. Home Record: Wake Forest 4-1, Navy 3-0. Away Record: Wake Forest 0-2, Navy 2-2. Neutral Record: Wake Forest 0-0, Navy 0-0. Conference Record: Wake Forest 2-2, Navy 0-0. Series Record: Wake Forest leads, 7-3.
GAME NOTES: The Wake Forest Demon Deacons and the Navy Midshipmen are set to collide in a non-conference affair from Annapolis.
Wake Forest has fallen a bit shy of its own expectations this season, as the team is 4-3 overall and 2-2 in ACC action. Last weekend's game against Clemson was truly embarrassing, as the Demon Deacons fell by a 38-3 final on the road. That ugly defeat halted a modest two-game win streak for Wake, which suffered both of its previous losses this season by three points.
As for Navy, a FBS Independent, it has won its last four games to move to 5-2 overall, one win shy of bowl eligibility. Last weekend, the Midshipmen showed a great deal of poise and persistence in a 38-35 overtime victory over SMU on the road. Their only two losses to date have come on the road to Ohio State and Pittsburgh, and the setback in Columbus versus the Buckeyes came by just four points.
Wake Forest owns a 7-3 series lead over Navy, which includes a 29-19 win last season.
Wake Forest only managed 178 offensive yards against Clemson last weekend, so it is no surprise that the team was held without a touchdown in the game. Quarterback Riley Skinner, a talented and experienced leader, struggled under center, completing just 11-of-24 passes for 82 yards and two interceptions. The fact that Wake was 4-of-17 on third down conversion attempts, didn't take care of the ball and still kept possession for nearly 36 minutes is perplexing. Wake Forest is averaging 25.6 ppg this season to go along with 390.6 total ypg. The Deacs are used to getting strong play from Skinner, who has completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 1,776 yards with 15 touchdowns against nine interceptions. Marshall Williams is the top target on the outside, as he has made 34 catches for 485 yards and five touchdowns. As for the ground attack, Wake has employed a backfield by committee approach rather than relying on one player to carry the load.
Clemson continually pounded the ball on the ground against Wake Forest, and the result was 195 yards on 33 carries and four touchdowns. The Tigers added a score through the air, as the Demon Deacons looked completely helpless at times defensively. Wake did post a pair of fumble recoveries and four sacks, but the overall effort of the defense was poor. Opponents are scoring 24.1 ppg while gaining 364.0 total ypg this season against a mediocre Wake Forest defense. The Demon Deacons are allowing 233.9 passing ypg, and they have surrendered 14 passing scores while posting only five interceptions. While Wake hasn't been dominant against the run, that aspect of the defense has been a bit more steady. The Deacs are allowing foes to make good on 42 percent of their third down conversion attempts, and that stat could certainly stand some improvement.
As is always the case, Navy relies heavily on the run to move the ball and score points. The Midshipmen are averaging 32.8 ppg this season, and of the 367.3 ypg that they are gaining, 279.0 ypg have come on the ground. They have already scored 30 offensive touchdowns, 27 of which have been rushing scores. Ricky Dobbs is the quarterback of the Mids, and he has rushed for 579 yards and 16 touchdowns. As a passer, Dobbs has connected on 52.4 percent of his throws for 618 yards and three touchdowns with only two interceptions. The fact that Navy has only turned the ball over seven times this season while also making good on 49 percent of its third down conversion attempts have been two keys to success thus far. The Midshipmen rushed for 331 yards in the overtime victory over SMU last weekend. Vince Murray led the ground assault with two touchdowns, and Dobbs added a pair of scores.
While Navy is converting nearly half of its attempts on third down, it is holding opponents to a 28 percent success rate, impressive by any standards. The Midshipmen do have room for improvement defensively, however, as they have been fairly mediocre thus far. They have just eight sacks and 10 takeaways, and are permitting 22.3 ppg and 317.3 total ypg. Ross Pospisil has been a strong performer for the Mids, as he has posted a team-high 53 tackles, including five TFLs and 2.5 sacks. Last weekend, the defense struggled against the SMU rushing attack, as the unit surrendered 176 yards on just 27 attempts, an average of 6.5 yards per rush. Fortunately, Navy was much better against the pass, holding the Mustangs to 19-of-41 efficiency. Still, the fact that four touchdowns were permitted to the SMU offense is a bit concerning.
Navy is more than capable of beating Wake Forest this weekend, but the fact that Skinner played so poorly last weekend suggests that he will bounce back strong. Expect the Demon Deacons to take care of business on the road.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wake Forest 27, Navy 24
10/21 10:34:23 ET