Wake Forest (3-3) at Virginia (2-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 20, 12:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Scott Stadium (61,500) -- Charlottesville, Virginia. Television: ACC Network. Home Record: Wake Forest 3-1, Virginia 2-2. Away Record: Wake Forest 0-2, Virginia 0-3. Neutral Record: Wake Forest 0-0, Virginia 0-0. Conference Record: Wake Forest 1-3, Virginia 0-3. Series Record: Virginia leads 34-13. .
GAME NOTES: For the first time since 2008 the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and the Virginia Cavaliers will meet on the gridiron as the two square off at Scott Stadium in an Atlantic Coast Conference matchup.
After a 2-0 start, Wake Forest has begun to slide with losses in three of its last four games, including three losses to ACC opponents. Thanks to a 28-27 win over North Carolina in the second week of the season, the Demon Deacons do have one win in conference play. Wake Forest has been competitive in the recent losses, with both of the past two losses decided by seven points or less.
Virginia also opened the season 2-0 but has been even worse than Wake Forest since, with five straight losses. That includes an 0-3 mark against conference foes, including a 27-20 loss to Maryland last time out. The struggling for Virginia is especially surprising considering the Cavaliers went 8-5 overall last season, including a respectable 5-3 in conference play.
Virginia holds a dominating 34-13 edge in the all-time series. Virginia has generally had the Demon Deacons number with 27 wins in the last 33 meetings overall including a 17-game winning streak 1984-2000 which is tied for the longest such streak between two ACC opponents.
Offense has not been a strength for Wake Forest this season. The Demon Deacons are second to last in the ACC in both scoring (23.0 ppg) and total offense (333.3 ypg). Wake Forest has been especially weak when throwing the ball, averaging only 210.2 yards per game, the third worst mark in the conference.
Tanner Price has been the starter under center in all six games this season with less than stellar results thus far. Price has completed only 52.1 percent of his pass attempts for 1,225 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions. Among quarterbacks in the ACC with at least 115 pass attempts, Price's quarterback rating of 114.9 is last in the conference.
It hasn't helped that Price's best receiver Michael Campanaro has been out for the last few weeks with a right hand injury and is not expected to return versus Virginia. Before the injury Campanaro had led the ACC in receptions with 36. In Campanaro's place Terence Davis has taken up the mantle as the squad's most productive receiver with 13 receptions, 230 yards and a touchdown in the last two games. He had only five receptions for 50 yards previously.
Josh Harris and Deandre Martin have shared duties in the running game. Harris leads the squad in attempts (88) and yards (377), while Martin has contributed 279 yards rushing a team-leading five touchdowns.
Wake Forest has been marginally better on defense than on offense. The Demon Deacons are eighth in the ACC in total yards (422.3 ypg) and ninth in scoring defense (31.0 ppg). That high scoring average has been largely due to Wake Forest's inability to keep teams from getting deep into the red zone and then converting. Wake Forest has been scored on 92.3 percent of the time its defense has been backed up in the red zone, the worst mark in the conference. Stopping the pass has been a relative strength with Wake Forest fourth in the ACC against the pass (216.0 ypg).
Justin Jackson has been one of the few bright spots on defense with a team- high 47 tackles and 3.0 sacks. He is also tied for the team-lead in tackles for loss (4.0) with Joey Ehrmann and Kris Redding.
Virginia has been better in comparison to Wake Forest offensively speaking, racking up 423.1 yards of total offense per game. However that has not equated to a significant advantage in scoring, with the Cavaliers putting up 23.1 points per game.
There still seems to be a bit of uncertainty at quarterback for Virginia. After Michael Rocco started the season and struggled, Phillip Sims was brought in. Sims has taken the majority of the snaps in the last two games and has completed 53.4 percent of his passes for 747 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. In the Cavaliers' most recent loss to Maryland, Rocco still threw 11 passes, completing five, one of which went for a touchdown after coming in for a benched Sims. It is likely Sims will get the start on Saturday but a continued controversy does not bode well.
Kevin Parks and Perry Jones have formed a nice backfield tandem while the Cavaliers figure out things under center. Parks has been the primary ball carrier with team-highs in carries (93), yards (475) and touchdowns (three). Jones has rushed for 318 yards and two scores but has been the more important back in the passing game. Jones is second on the team in receptions (23).
Darius Jennings (26 receptions, 370 yards, TD) has been the most productive receiver in terms of yards. However Jake McGee (263 yards, four TDs) and E.J. Scott (316 yards, three TDs) have been the more targeted receivers in the red zone.
The biggest issue facing Virginia this season has been an inability to stop teams from putting points on the board. The Cavaliers have surrendered an ACC worst 33.0 points per game this season. That statistic is even more perplexing considering the Cavaliers are ranked fourth in total defense (377.4 ypg). Along with giving up too many points Virginia has struggled with getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks with only six sacks this season. That is the second worst mark in the ACC.
Steve Greer has been one of the more consistent defenders for Virginia with team-leading totals in tackles (62), tackles for loss (5.5) and sacks (2.0). However Greer has only 19 solo tackles. It is Anthony Harris (29 solo tackles, 50 total) who has been able to bring opposing players down most effectively. LaRoy Reynolds has also been making his impact felt after missing a pair of games earlier this season. Reynolds has four tackles for loss in the last two games and 13 tackles overall.
At this point it doesn't seem as if either of these squads will factor in the ACC title chase, but if either hopes to earn bowl invites a win in this game is vital. Wake Forest has not impressed much on either side of the ball and although Virginia has the less impressive record playing at home, the Cavs may have enough to get the win here.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia 23, Wake Forest 20
10/17 10:53:59 ET