2007 Orange Bowl - Louisville vs. Wake Forest

Posted Dec 14, 2006

2007 FedEx Orange Bowl - Louisville vs. Wake Forest

Wake Forest (11-2) vs. Louisville (11-1)

January 2nd, 8:00 p.m. ET, Fox

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What about an eleven-win season and an ACC championship doesn't the world get?

All Wake Forest has done is answer every challenge and shut up every critic with one of the most amazing seasons since Northwestern's Rose Bowl run in 1995, but the Orange Bowl seems like it has the potential to be one of the biggest duds of the bowl season.

Why is this still such a shock? For one, it's the first double-digit win year in the program's history. Second, it's hard to really believe the team can still win when its averaging just over 300 yards per game, has no passing attack, and is still, well, Wake Forest.

National Rankings
Wake Forest Louisville
Total Offense
98th  301.23 ypg 2nd  476.83 ypg
Total Defense
39th  312.15 ypg 41st  315.33 ypg
Scoring Offense
74th  22.23 ppg 3rd  38.92 ppg
Scoring Defense
10th  14.69 ppg 19th  16.58 ppg
Run Offense
44th  152.92 ypg 10th  190.33 ypg
Run Defense
22nd  104.31 ypg 21st  104.25 ypg
Pass Offense
107th  148.31 ypg 7th  286.50 ypg
Pass Defense
72nd  207.85 ypg 75th  211.08 ypg
Turnover Margin
5th  1.08 52nd  0.08
Wake Forest
Syracuse W 20-10
Duke W 14-13
at Conn
. W 24-13
at Ole Miss W 27-3
Liberty W 34-14
Clemson L 27-17
at NC State W 25-23
at No. Car. W 24-17
Boston Coll
W 21-14
at Florida St W 30-0
Virginia Tech L 27-6
at Maryland W 38-24
ACC Championship
Georgia Tech W 9-6
Kentucky W 59-28
at Temple W 62-0
Miami W 31-7
at Kansas St
W 24-6
at MTSU W 44-17
Cincinnati W 23-17
at Syracuse W 28-13
W Virginia W 44-34
at Rutgers L 28-25
South Florida
W 31-8
at Pitt W 48-24
Connecticut W 48-17
Position Ratings
relative to each other
WF 5 highest
1 lowest
3 Quarterbacks 5
3 RBs 4
3.5 Receivers 4.5
5 O Line 4
3 D Line 4
4 Linebackers 3.5
3.5 Secondary 3
5 Spec Teams 3
5 Coaching 5

The team has gotten the job done with a great defense that seems to get every bounce its way, and makes every big play needed, to go along with an amazing field goal kicker and an opportunistic offense that runs the ball effectively behind a tremendous offensive line, but it's going to take something special to pull this one off.

There's one thing missing from all the teams Wake Forest has played in its improbable year: an offense.

The only team in the ACC that can move the ball is Clemson, and the Demon Deacons ended up losing to the Tigers in a crushing fourth quarter collapse. Boston College ranks 47th in the nation in total offense, Florida State 73rd, Georgia Tech 78th, and it only gets worse from there.

Louisville has the nation's second ranked offense averaging 477 yards per game.

The Cardinals haven't had problems moving the ball all season long except in the loss at Rutgers, and even then they came within an eyelash of pulling the win off that, had they done it, would've put them in Glendale to face Ohio State for the national title.

While they backed into the Orange Bowl after Rutgers lost to West Virginia in the regular season finale, no one's questioning their inclusion in the BCS. This is an explosive team loaded with weapons all over the place, while the defense has done just enough not to screw things up.

Considering Wake Forest hasn't scored more than 38 points in any game this year and Louisville averages 39 points per game, this might seem like a blowout waiting to happen, but that's what everyone assumed would happen throughout the year and the Demon Deacons always came through. Would a win over Louisville finally convince the non-believers that this team can actually play? Maybe, but even a hard-fought, close loss should do the trick.

The ACC could use the win after going 0-4 in the Orange Bowl since the BCS era began. This is supposed to be the showcase game for the conference, and to lose to the Big East, even against a powerhouse of an offensive team like Louisville, would only prove how the gap has been closed between the two leagues. Considering the bitter feelings the Big East has for the ACC for raiding the marquee teams, a win would be sweet. A blowout win would even be more enjoyable.

It's the best story of 2006 vs. a team who has finally arrived on the national stage. For all those hoping for a good game, maybe the clock won't strike midnight just yet.

Players to watch: Is this Brian Brohm's last game in a Louisville uniform? While the general consensus is that Notre Dame's Brady Quinn will be the first quarterback taken, if Brohm were to turn pro after his junior year he might be taken soon after and could go in the top ten depending on how hot a prospect Ohio State's Troy Smith becomes in the off-season and if LSU's JaMarcus Russell leaves early. A tough player with miraculous healing powers, Brohm might not want to roll the dice with one more year (especially after seeing how Michael Bush's calculated gamble backfired) and could use the Orange Bowl as his big showcase. He's big, mobile in the pocket, has every throw in the book, and is very, very smart. When you hear the term "manage the game," no one does that better than Brohm.

Also thinking about leaving early as a redshirt sophomore is 6-6 WR Mario Urrutia, who has the speed to go along with his unmatched size. While still considered a bit of a raw commodity by the pros, he has first day talent. All indications are that he'll be back at the U of L along with running mate Harry Douglas, who led the team with 60 catches for 1,100 yards and six touchdowns getting hot down the stretch with 16 grabs for 349 yards and five touchdowns over the final three games. While he doesn't provide matchup problems like Urrutia, Douglas can be equally dangerous.

To stay with the Cardinals, Wake Forest must get the best performance of the season out of its secondary, particularly corners Alphonso Smith and Riley Swanson. These two can move, but they're not all that big and had mega-problems with Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson in the ACC title game giving up eight catches for 117 yards. Brian Brohm is not Georgia Tech QB Reggie Ball; he'll be accurate on a consistent basis, so Smith and Swanson, along with safety Josh Gattis, will be in the spotlight all game long.

Offensively, Wake Forest QB Riley Skinner has to be effective on third downs. The Demon Deacons can't win a firefight, but it can win if its offense can keep the chains moving with an effective running game and an accurate day from Skinner. The freshman stepped in after starter Ben Mauk got injured and completed 66% of his throws and rarely made mistake with only four picks with two coming in the win over Boston College. While he doesn't run much, he doesn't take sacks and gets time to work behind Steve Vallos and the ACC's most effective offensive line. If Skinner stinks, this will be an ugly blowout.

Wake Forest will win if... the formula holds. Yeah, the offense will have to open it up a bit and the defense needs to turn its game up a notch, but this is the ACC champion and it's good enough to win this game. Everything just has to go right. The Demon Deacons committed fewer than five penalties a game for around 45 yards, lost a mere 15 turnovers on the year, netted over 38 yards per punt (ninth in the nation), got every big kick from Sam Swank, and ran the ball when it had to.

The D has to force at least three turnovers. Cincinnati kept it close against U of L with three takeaways and holding on to the ball for 36:43. Syracuse had the ball for 31:54 and forced three turnovers and made it a game. Wake Forest can't beat Louisville straight up and needs to be error-free and control every aspect of the game. It can do it.

Louisville will win if... it gets up right away and the run defense is at least decent. This is an awful matchup for Wake Forest. Louisville's defensive front seven is quick enough and tough enough to hold its own against the Demon Deacon running game, while passing game is way too effective and diverse to be kept under wraps. If Skinner has to throw 30 times to try to mount a comeback, it's not going to be pretty.

The only times the Wake offense exploded was when the ground game rumbled rumbled tearing off 296 yards against Maryland and 240 against Ole Miss. 31 yards against Clemson ... loss. 62 against Virginia Tech ... loss. 57 against Duke ... miracle win, should've been a loss. 91 yards against Georgia Tech ... a 9-6 win. Get up 14-0 right off the bat, keep the Wake Forest running game from going nuts, go home a winner of a BCS game.

What will happen: For the umpteenth time this year, Wake Forest doesn't have the manpower to win a game like this. It's a very, very good team that will play its heart out, but it doesn't have the type of defense that can take away all the Louisville weapons. That doesn't mean the upset can't happen. Boston College threw for 402 yards on the Demon Deacons and even after giving away two late turnovers, is still trying to figure out how it came out with a loss. Expect the machine to explode. The Wake offense will be creative and do everything possible to get its playmakers in space, and it does have playmakers, but it won't be enough.

Line: Louisville -9 ... CFN Prediction:
Louisville 27 ... Wake Forest 17

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FedEx Orange Bowl Player Profile: ... Amobi Okoye team bowl history and more