As part of coverage leading up to the big game, lets take a look at how the season has unfolded for the Demon Deacons.
Results thus far:
Wake Forest enters the contest sporting a 4-4 record overall and a 3-4 ACC record through eight games played.
- Loss versus Clemson 37-13
- Loss at NC State 45-42
- Win versus Campbell 66-14
- Win versus Virginia 40-23
- Win versus Virginia Tech 23-16
- Win at Syracuse 38-14
- Loss at North Carolina 59-53
- Loss at Louisville 45-21
Like Wisconsin, Wake Forest had three games this season canceled due to COVID-19 complications. While the Badgers had their games scratched early in the season, the Demon Deacons have only played one game since November 15.
In terms of actual injuries, junior safety Nasir Greer is out for the season due to a knee injury for the defense. On offense, second leading receiver Donavon Greene is questionable for the Mayo Bowl with an undisclosed injury. The redshirt freshman wide-out has played very well this season, and his status will be interesting to watch in the days leading up to game.
Status of the offense:
At quarterback, Sam Hartman has put together a nice season in Winston-Salem. While his 58.9% completion percentage isn’t great, he has been very smart with the football all season long with 10 touchdowns and only one interception while averaging 238 yards per game through the air for Wake Forest. Only a redshirt sophomore, he has shown flashes at times this season, specifically in the scoring fest against North Carolina where he threw for over 400 yards and four touchdowns. His most recent performance against Louisville was not nearly as superb, but Hartman has plenty of weapons around him to move the ball and he is a very capable leader.
Joining Hartman in the backfield, Wake Forest has a really strong tandem of running backs. The duo of Christian Beal-Smith and Kenneth Walker III have combined for over 1,000 yards this season, and are each averaging over 80 yards per game. Both players can break open long runs, and Walker has tallied 13 touchdowns this season. The Demon Deacons rushing attack should test Wisconsin’s rush defense which has been very strong this season.
Out wide, Wake Forest has multiple pass catching threats. The opt out of star receiver Sage Sarratt was a huge blow to the offense, but there are still four different Deacs with over 200 receiving yards this season. Jacqueri Roberson is the primary option though, and he is a good one. The 6-foot-1 junior is averaging roughly 100 yards per game, and has five touchdowns in eight games. He will be one of the better pass catchers that the Badgers have seen this season.
As previously mentioned, the injury status of redshirt freshman Greene is something to monitor leading up to the game. He is second on the team with 460 yards receiving in seven games.
Overall, Wake Forest enters the Mayo Bowl averaging 37 points per game (No. 19 nationally, No. 3 ACC) and should represent one of the better offenses that the Badgers have played this season. With a fairly balanced attack, and big play capability out wide and in the backfield, Wisconsin’s defense will be tested by Dave Clawson’s group.
Status of the defense:
Wake Forest has been hit hard on defense this season with injuries and COVID-19 issues. Starters have been in and out of the lineup for most of the season, resulting in less than stellar numbers for the group.
As a unit, the defense has allowed 31.6 points and 456.9 yards per game, both numbers standing much higher than expected going into the year.
As a group Wake Forest averages just over two sacks a game, with Carlos (Boogie) Basham leading the way with five sacks from his spot along the defensive line. In terms of other personnel, Miles Fox and Jacorey Johns have also been active along the defensive line.
At linebacker JaCquez Williams and Ryan Smenda have garnered a decent number of tackles, but they have not been great overly disruptive in terms of generating big plays and turnovers.
The secondary is a spot where the Demon Deacons have been hit really hard with players being unable to consistently play. As previously mentioned, Nasir Greene’s injury was a pretty big hit to the defense. His loss stings even further with Trey Rucker and Zion Keith also missing a lot of time with an injuries of their own.
Redshirt senior Traveon Redd has been on the field fairly consistently, which has helped the group, but freshman Nick Anderson has been tasked with a lot of playing time as a walk-on. Anderson has played well with three interceptions and 55 tackles, and has been a bright spot for the secondary.
Two other players in the secondary to keep an eye on are cornerbacks JaSir Taylor and Caelen Carson. Both players have been very good this year, and likely have the advantage one-on-one against Wisconsin’s wide receiving targets if Danny Davis III and Kendric Pryor are unable to go.
While Wake Forest has definitely leaned on their offense this season, the team has been very good in the turnover department. In a wild year like 2020, the Demon Deacons are No. 2 in the country with a +1.62 turnover margin. Not only has the offense done a good job of avoiding turnovers, the defense has been very opportunistic this season as well.
Wisconsin was able avoid turnovers in a win last week — their first win since mid-November — while Wake Forest has not won since all the way back to Halloween. Which team looks more crisp to cap off a really weird season will likely determine the game.