College Football: Wake back in contention
WINSTON-SALEM ó Less than three weeks ago, Wake Forest’s chances of winning an Atlantic Coast Conference division title looked pretty bleak.
Yet look who’s back among the ACC’s Atlantic Division contenders: the Demon Deacons, who ó thanks to the latest jumbling of the league standings ó are in position to make a run at their second division title in three years.
Wake Forest (6-3, 4-2) is tied with No. 20 Florida State atop the division standings, with the Demon Deacons holding the tiebreaker edge due to their 12-3 win against the Seminoles on Sept. 20.
All Wake Forest needs to do to return to the ACC Championship game in Tampa, Fla., is win its final two league games ó at N.C. State on Saturday and at home against Boston College on Nov. 22 ó then wait to see what happens with Florida State and Maryland, which sits one-half game back.
“Sounds simple, doesn’t it?” Demon Deacons head coach Jim Grobe said. “We’ve got a tough job coming up. I don’t think our players will overlook anybody right now.”
Wake Forest pulled back into title contention with two straight wins ó a tough 33-30 overtime victory against Duke on Nov. 1, and a 28-17 win over Virginia last week ó and its opponents’ remaining games may play into its hands.
The Seminoles (7-2, 4-2) still must face division foes Boston College and Maryland before ending the season against in-state rival No. 3 Florida on Nov. 29.
The Terrapins (6-3, 3-2) still have three league games remaining ó against No. 17 North Carolina on Saturday, the Seminoles the next week and the Eagles on Nov. 29 ó and would be knocked out of title contention with a loss.
“Back in August it all seemed like a dream,” Grobe said. “But now there’s a little bit more sense of urgency to our practices and our meetings. There’s a feeling that the players realize that this is an important time of the year.”
Yet it getting into this position, the Demon Deacons have faced their ups and downs.
Ranked 23rd in the Associated Press’ preseason poll, Wake Forest climbed as high as No. 16 in the rankings before losing to Navy in the fourth game of the season.
The Demon Deacons dropped to 21st in the AP poll after that loss, but had climbed back to No. 19 when they suffered back-to-back league losses to Maryland and Miami.
That knocked Wake Forest out of the Top 25 and apparently out of contention for the Atlantic Division title, and prompted a “players only” team meeting two days after the Miami loss.
“When we dropped from the rankings, everybody was wondering how we were going to rise up again,” said redshirt sophomore linebacker Matt Woodlief. “We had to quit blaming each other, and be one team like we started the season. It’s been that way ever since.”
After the ups and downs, the Demon Deacons aren’t looking past N.C. State (3-6, 1-4), which has not won a league game at home this season, but they do know that the division title is still up for grabs.
“We know what’s at stake,” redshirt sophomore wide receiver Marshall Williams said. “That makes us a more dangerous team, because we taste Tampa Bay … and we know how badly we want to get there. We know what we’ve got to do to get there.”
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