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Syracuse football 2023 opponent preview: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Are we sure this team isn’t based off a version of Scrooge who stayed bitter?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 09 Wake Forest at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s Troy Nunes days until the 2023 Syracuse Orange Season kicks off! His number 11 is also important for another reason: it’s how many opponent previews you Absolute Magicians should have read so far. If you have some catching up to do, no worries: here’s the Colgate, Western Michigan, Purdue, Army, Clemson, North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Pitt, and Georgia Tech previews for your viewing pleasure!

That brings us to the final team Syracuse will face in the regular season. They’re a peculiar bunch in numerous ways, from their roster construction to the mascot on their uniforms. But no one can deny the remarkable fight they continue to put up, regardless of the circumstances. Meet SU’s (second-to-) last foe of 2023, the...

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

School: Wake Forest University

Nickname: Demon Deacons

Mascot: The Demon Deacon

#BRAND Slogans: #GoDeacs, “Welcome to Deactown”

Alternate #BRAND Slogan Suggestions: #DapperDeacons (It’s in their practice facility) or “Permanent False Advertising”

Recommended Blog: Blogger So Dear

Conference: ACC

History vs. Syracuse: This series is one of the newest in the ACC. Wake first played SU in 2006, and it later became an annual affair when the Orange joined the Atlantic Division. The Deacs ride a three-game winning streak entering the next matchup, but they are only 6-6 overall. Three games have gone to overtime, all hosted by Syracuse: a rally lead by Ryan Nassib in 2011, Trill Williams’s scoop and score in 2019, and a Demon Deacon victory thanks to A.T. Perry’s third touchdown of the day in 2021.

Boston College v Wake Forest Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Coach: Dave Clawson, 10th season. I may joke a ton about the look of the mascot, but Clawson is the exact opposite of that caricature - a damn good coach with tons of charisma who molded this team into a consistent winner. Originally from Youngstown, NY, Clawson was hired as the Deacs’ head coach in December 2013, inherited a program with no winning records and just one bowl appearance in five years. After a brief rebuild, WF qualified for seven straight bowl games, winning five of them, and appeared in the 2021 ACC Championship. He was locked up long-term after that magical season. Prior to that success, Clawson held assistant roles at UAlbany, Buffalo, Lehigh, Villanova, and Tennessee, along with head coaching gigs for Fordham, Richmond, and Bowling Green.

2022 Record: (8-5) (3-5)

Recapping Last Season:

The Deacs started off the season hot, winning their first three games and taking Clemson all the way to Double OT before suffering their first loss. Wake Forest rebounded off the well-fought defeat to beat FSU, Army, and Boston College and secure an early bowl berth. After playing fairly well to start the year, the defense struggled down the stretch, and the Deacs lost four of five to end the regular season. Clawson managed to rally his men in the Gasparilla Bowl, as Wake topped Missouri 27-17 and ended another successful season with a positive performance.

The Deacs were one of the best offenses in college last year, averaging over 300 passing yards and 36 points per game. QB Sam Hartman unleashed daggers all over the field, totaling 3,701 yards and 38 TDs. His main connection was A.T. Perry, who terrorized the ACC for a second straight 1,000-yard receiving season. He also had four other receivers all haul in over 500 yards as opponents had no idea how to stop the air raid. Justice Ellison and Christian Turner split the carries and accumulated over 1,200 yards combined. TL;DR: they were very good.

Unfortunately for Wake Forest, their own defense couldn’t quite counter a good passing game either. While the secondary was excellent, breaking up 63 passes, they still surrendered around 275 passing yards per game. Injuries plagued the unit much like they did SU last year. Rover Coby Davis had his sixth-year ended in September, and after a great freshman campaign, safety Nick Andersen missed all of 2022 with his own injury. Despite those losses, there were still MANY contributors worth mentioning - so many I honestly just have to show you the stat sheet this time. But I’ll finish off my #KickersMatterToo trend by saying Matthew Dennis was outstanding: 56/57 on PATs, 12/14 on FGs.

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

2023 Season Outlook:

The Deacs host Elon, Vandy, Georgia Tech, Pitt, Florida State, and NC State this fall. Road trips are to Old Dominion, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Duke, Notre Dame, and 'Cuse.

Hartman followed the siren’s call to Notre Dame (seriously, they haven’t sent the NFL a starting QB since Montana), leaving a very young quarterbacks room to battle for the right to lead. Sophomore Mitch Griffis has the most experience of the bunch. Perry is still wearing the same colors, just with the Saints - but aside from him, the receiving options are still plentiful. Turner transferred out, giving Ellison greater responsibilities in the backfield.

There was a mass exodus among defensive backs, with the top pair transferring out and two more running out of eligibility. The only guys who came back through the portal are a pair of FCS guys. After hearing that, would you think the defense is still in good shape? Well, since last year’s backups got plenty of work, the answer seems to be yes.

Syracuse Game Date: Saturday, November 25

Location: JMA Wireless Dome, Syracuse, NY

Odds of Orange Victory: 50%

Very Early Outlook vs. Syracuse:

Ever heard the expression “greater than the sum of its parts” before? That’s exactly what Wake Forest continues to be under Clawson. They may not blow anyone away in terms of recruiting, but the Deacons get every last ounce of talent out of those who don the Old Gold and Black. Sounds familiar...

Like the game against Pittsburgh, this one should be a very even matchup. You could easily argue that the Deacs should be favorites with a well-rounded roster, as opposed to the top-heavy Orange. Most predictions I’ve seen say the opposite, giving SU around a 60/40 chance. What I expect to be different this time is the Dome crowd, which hasn’t had something to cheer about this late in November in quite a few years. Get the students back to campus, let Orange fans enjoy their first Saturday in the Dome in two months (thx ACC), and let’s end this with another defensive TD because why not.

I appreciate everyone who read and commented on these previews! It’s some of the writing I’ve enjoyed doing the most since joining TNIAAM. Thanks Orange_Sundevil for putting together a great visualization of how SU and their foes stack up - please check that out as well if you haven't already. Football coverage starts for real next week with Dino’s press conferences and player interviews.

And as always, Go Orange!