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Syracuse and Wake Forest Make for Strange Bedfellows (and Compelling Football)

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The latest matchup between Syracuse and Wake Forest adds another crazy chapter...

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

As a freshman in 2006, I couldn't believe it. Syracuse's first game -- my first game as a student -- would not be televised. I'd miss the Orange taking on Wake Forest, that quirky opponent from the ACC that played tough but never amounted to much.

That game ended up televised, and Syracuse lost 20-10.

Wake Forest won the ACC Football Championship that season, in what was easily the weirdest outcomes in conference history.

I bring this up because it was the first instance in a series of incredibly strange, almost nonsensical occurrences in now-annual football series between two similar schools. Both originally had religious ties (Syracuse with the Methodist church and Wake Forest with Baptists). Their small private school status makes them unlikely football contenders. And oh, they both received applications from your author back in 2005. That may make the title here -- "strange bedfellows" -- null and void to some. But by and large, we have our "crew": Boston College and Pitt. And Wake has theirs: Duke, and to a lesser extent NC State and North Carolina. We shouldn't intersect, except for our annual matchup by way of ACC divisional play.

... Except that annual matchup has turned into some pretty compelling football.

Starting in 2011, the Orange and Demon Deacons have played four football games in five years. Syracuse has won them all, but that's not the full story. Not by a long shot.

2011: Syracuse comes back from 15 down in the fourth quarter to beat Wake Forest 36-29 in overtime. The Deacs got stuck in an elevator before they made it to the Carrier Dome that evening. The Orange knocked the team's best player, QB Tanner Price, out late in the game. My now-typical ritual of ALL CAPS tweeting during games begins.

2013: The Orange do nothing well at all in a miserable-to-watch victory over Wake at the Carrier Dome. But the one thing they do accomplish? Injuring Wake's best receiver of all-time, Michael Campanaro. From the time the senior leaves, it's a different game. The Deacons can't move the ball and SU grabs the shutout.

2014: I fly 3,000 miles to Winston-Salem, N.C. because "sure" and watch Syracuse do virtually nothing on offense while playing tough on defense. The Orange knock John Wolford (the team's best offensive weapon) out of the game in the first half, and SU rides two defensive scores to a seemingly dominating 30-7 victory. Without the defense and the absence of Wolford, the entire tenor of that game changes.

2015: Syracuse and a freshman QB, Eric Dungey, plod through the first half down 17-13. An injury to Wake's best player (K.J. Brent) helps stall the Deacons offense until he returns. A Deacs personal foul energizes SU, which follows it up with an 89-yard touchdown soon after. Wake Forest never gets back on the scoreboard and loses 30-17.

***

Hopefully the above explains the weirdness of this series, now just five matchups old but every bit the wacky, stupid thing we've always wanted with someone but never got with Pitt. Boston College is our RIVAL and that's fine and enjoyable (I mean, we do have a trophy). But somehow, someway, the Deacons have become our weirdest and most entertaining Rival, if that makes sense.

Next year we head back to Winston-Salem to see if we can make it five straight and probably do our now typical play-in game for last in the Atlantic. With luck, Syracuse won't injure Wake Forest's best player in the process. But based on the above that, and something else partly stupid too, will inevitably occur. And y'know what? We'll enjoy it (especially if we win again).