The #15 North Carolina Tar Heels (8-1, 5-0 ACC) travel to Winston-Salem to take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-3, 2-3 ACC) tomorrow night at 7:30 pm on ESPN2.
This is a well-anticipated ACC matchup where the Tar Heels look to gain their 6th road win of the 2022 season, and advance to 6-0 in the ACC, maintaining their undefeated status in the conference. Though a tough ACC road atmosphere awaits the Heels, and the last time UNC won in Winston-Salem was in 2004.
It’s been 18 years, is it about time to break the streak?
The past two years the Heels have faced Wake Forest have been offense-dominated matchups where former QB Sam Howell led his team to incredible comebacks.
In 2020, UNC put up 28 fourth-quarter points to win 59-53. Similar to the year before, 2021 saw the Heels score 24 in the 4th to narrowly upset the Demon Deacons 58-55.
It seems as if this year will have a similar storyline, as both defenses have struggled to prevent big plays, and both offenses have thrived with a plethora of playmakers.
The Demon Deacons are currently ranked 39th in total offense, and 65th in total defense, compared to the Heels ranked 8th in total offense and 122nd in total defense. The staggering contrast for UNC has been a continuing theme this season: a dominant offense that carries an inconsistent and strained defense.
But I will say this, UNC’s defense has stepped up when it matters, even when they waited until the very last second to do so.
The Sam vs. Sam battle passes on to a new face for the Heels, as Drake Maye looks to lead his team past the doubts and unfortunate streaks that were present in past seasons.
Here are my keys to this game for the Heels:
1. Limit Wake’s passing attack
Hartman has many veteran weapons in his arsenal that have led to a successful air offense for the Demon Deacons. Junior A.T. Perry leads the Deacons in receiving with 47 receptions for 711 yards and 6 touchdowns, and helped them to put up a fight against #17 NC State on the road with 12 receptions for 159 yards and a touchdown. If the Heels’ defense can pressure Sam Hartman in any capacity, they might be able to disrupt the normal flow of Wake’s offense, and force them to resort to the rushing facet of their RPO.
2. Get the Offense Going Early
As I said earlier, this game will most likely be an offensive back-and-forth, the winner awarded to which team capitalizes the most on their possessions. The Heels’ offense needs to get into a groove as soon as they can, so that they do not fall behind in the scoring saga of this predominantly offensive game. Establish the passing game first, and once that is smoothly moving down the field, attempt the run.
3. Drake Maye. That’s it.
If Drake Maye continues to do Drake Maye things, there is no doubt in my mind he can lead this team, just as his predecessor Sam Howell did, to defeating the favored Demon-Deacons and defying all odds that were set for this team at the beginning of the season. UNC’s offensive line needs to keep protecting him, as he has plenty of options down the field who will make plays if they are given opportunities.
This was a tough one, since Wake is currently favored by 4, and I do think it could go either way. I believe it will be high scoring, but the Heels will come out on top and gain their 6th road win of the season.