Last Saturday the Fedora era for North Carolina football began with a huge win over Elon, but for many so called analysts the 2012 campaign starts this weekend as Carolina heads to Winston-Salem to face an Atlantic Coast Conference and in state foe in Wake Forest. This will be the second game for both programs, both winning their first game of the year, UNC 62-0 against FCS Elon while Wake Forest 20-17 against FCS Liberty. North Carolina leads the all-time series versus Wake Forest 68-34-2, while in the new millenium the two programs are 4 and 4 against one another, including the 49-24 Tar Heels victory in Kenan last year.
The keys to the game…
No turnovers. Wake Forest is a team that usually does not beat itself, in order for North Carolina to win this game they have to do the same and not turn the ball over. There is no doubt that what UNC did in their first game of the season was impressive, no matter who was their opponent, but now they have to refocus and be ready for a team that will be a lot more competitive than Elon, along with a team that is in their conference and in the same state. Add to all of this the fact that the game is not in the friendly confine of Kenan Stadium, but the first away game for the team this season. Just like I said last week with a so-so defensive unit the UNC offense the coaching staff must make sure that the offense does not make mistakes and give Wake short fields.
Go, Gio, Go! Last week I said “Run, baby, run”. This week I am using Bernard’s name, since after scoring on a run, on a pass and on a punt return just saying run is not enough. The offense will go as far as Giovani Bernard sets up for them, meaning that if the Tar Heels can not get the rushing game going the passing schemes will be a lot harder to develop as the opponent’s defense will focus on Bryn Renner a lot more. The running back left the game early against Elon, then it was said that there was something with his knee, followed by both the coach and the player himself saying he was fine. When the squad released its injury report and Bernard was not listed, but we will see when he hits the gridiron how well his knee his.
Winning in the trenches. With an experienced offensive line and playing against an unexperienced one North Carolina needs to be able to win the battle of the trenches against Wake Forest. Wake does have nose tackle Nikita Whitlock, an undersized defensive lineman that uses his speed to get the work done. Stopping him will go a long way for UNC. On the other side, Carolina’s defensive tackle Sylvester Williams can easily have another great game against Wake Forest, creating problems for both the running and passing schemes.
Set the pace early. Let’s face it, all know that Wake Forest is a much bigger obstacle for Carolina than Elon was, but if Carolina can put their tempo in effect from the get go then there is no way that the opposition can keep up with this high powered, fast paced team. On the other hand if the Demon Deacons can will their way into the game early they might just thinking that last week was a fluke for both squads and believe that they can stay in this one, and even win it, And as I said above, they will have a full capacity stadium of fans believing that with them.
In all, if you are going to check around the internet, all the power rankings have North Carolina higher than Wake Forest, ranging from a high of 4th (out 12) to a low of seventh. On the other side Wake Forest had a best of seventh to a low of eleventh overall. Again this was off of the pre season thoughts of both programs and what they did in the first week of action, but it also means that most of the so called experts believe that the Tar Heels are a better team in this game. it will be up to the players donning the carolina blue to prove that those ranking were correct.
Last week there was a bit of a connection between Elon and UNC as the Phoenix head coach had been part of the N.C. State coaching staff years back. In this game too there is a bit of connection when it comes to the head man for Wake. Carolina head coach Larry Fedora (`97-98) and Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe (`84-`94) both spent time as assistant coaches under Fisher DeBerry at Air Force. In this one I have to think that the Heels’ fan base will come back down a bit as their team will definitely be in a much tougher game than they were a week prior, but in the end it will be North Carolina football coming home with the “W” as they defeat Wake Forest by the final of 31 to 21 in a game that will keep going back and forth for a while but will be won behind the legs of Bernard. For more on Carolina football and/or basketball make sure to come back often to isportsweb!