The Wake Forest Demon Deacons have had a somewhat surprising solid season in 2011. If not for a week 1 meltdown in the fourth quarter at Syracuse, Wake would be 5-1 with their only loss to Virginia Tech last week by three touchdowns. Similarly, the Duke Blue Devils are off to a surprising start, going 3-3 after 6 games, which for Duke is actually pretty good. Both teams have a legitimate shot at making a bowl game, which makes game that much more important for both teams.
The line opened with the Demon Deacons as 2 point favorites but that was quickly bet up to 3 points where books are currently listing the game. The line feels a little low considering Wake’s dominance in the series. For a free pick this Saturday, consider fading the Blue Devils and backing the slight road favorite.
In fairness, I suppose it would be difficult to find any D-IA football team in the country that hasn’t dominated its games with Duke. Regarding Wake Forest specifically, they’ve beaten Duke the past 11 times. A few of the games have been close but surprisingly, Duke traditionally loses by more when they’re playing at home. For recent history, in the past 2 years Wake has won by 6 and 10 points, and this year’s Demon Deacons team is better than either of those teams.
Wake has by far the most impressive win of either team. They beat Florida State two weeks ago 35-30 to move to 4-1 on the year. Similar to almost every single overachieving team for all time, the Demon Deacons won the turnover battle in that game, finishing at +5. For the season they have just 5 total turnovers, the same number Florida State gave up in one game. That makes me think this Wake Forest team is zoned in; for whatever reason, they’re very focused this year. I don’t see them looking past Duke.
Quarterback Tanner Price has been phenomenal so far. He’s thrown for over 1,600 yards with a completion percentage of 61.5%. His touchdowns to interceptions is 12:3 and his quarterback rating is 148. On the ground Josh Harris and Brandon Pendergrass share the load; Harris is averaging 4.5 yards per carry, Pendergrass 3.7. And perhaps the most underrated receiver in the country is Chris Givens. He has 40 catches for 739 yards and 6 touchdowns in a fairly conservative offensive style.
The Blue Devils have been respectable, thanks in large part to quarterback Sean Renfree. Renfree has thrown for just under 1,600 yards with a completion percentage of 69%, which is outstanding. At the same time, however, Renfree has just 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. That’s another reason I’m inclined to lean towards Wake – Duke has been able to move the ball but hasn’t scored a lot of touchdowns. And with a defense as bad as Duke’s they need to be able to score in bunches just to compete.
There’s a part of me that thinks this line is almost too good to be true (see: Utah at Notre Dame, 2010). But when I look at the past margins of victory for Wake, the game is rarely a blowout. In fact, in 2006 when Wake Forest won the ACC, they beat Duke 14-13. So I can understand why this is a small line. But I still like the way Wake has played this year and think that Duke is getting a little too much credit. Further, Duke rarely has much of a home field advantage. Compared to a big high school in Texas, the stadium looks average. And no one goes to Duke football games. They even lost to Richmond at home in week 1. Sure, the Spiders are a good D-IAA team but there’s no reason any D-IA team should lose at home to a D-IAA team. Consider backing the road favorite and laying a few points.
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