It may not have the same importance as last Saturday night's game in South Bend, but Wake Forest at North Carolina is a sneaky-big game in the ACC. Both teams have two losses in the league and the winner will still be hanging with the league's top group of teams.
Wake Forest, after dropping their first two games on the season, comes in riding a four-game winning streak while North Carolina has been more up and down. The Tar Heels rebounded from their loss to Virginia on Halloween by pounding rival Duke and staking claim to the Victory Bell.
Wake beat Carolina in a non-conference game last year, but the Tar Heels hold a 69-36-2 series edge.
Wake Forest at North Carolina
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 14 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: North Carolina -13
When Wake Forest Has the Ball
While North Carolina piles up more yardage than Wake, the Deacs are averaging 37 points per game this season compared to the Tar Heels' 40. Granted, scoring 66 against Campbell skews the numbers, but Carolina wasn't burdened by playing a healthy Clemson as Dave Clawson's team to open its campaign.
The Demon Deacons score their points more methodically than the Tar Heels. Their running back duo of Kenneth Walker III and Christian Beal-Smith have combined for exactly 1,000 rushing yards (and 15 touchdowns), while quarterback Sam Hartman has been efficient, completing 62 percent of his passes. He has only four touchdown passes, but he hasn't thrown a pick. When Sage Surratt opted out this year, wide receiver became a concern for Wake Forest. But Jaquarii Roberson and freshman Taylor Morin have developed into quality options and Donavon Green is averaging more than 19 yards a catch.
North Carolina's inconsistency this season can be traced back to the performance of their defense. Statistically, it doesn't look too bad. The group is fifth in the ACC in total defense, but the Tar Heels have given up more than 400 yards in four of the last five games and in the one that they didn't, NC State gained 392. Run defense has been the big issue in recent weeks and even Duke finished with 185 yards on the ground. Chazz Surratt is a fine linebacker, but his numbers are down from last season and his up-and-down play has mirrored the entire defense.
When North Carolina Has the Ball
The Tar Heels averaged 7.2 yards per carry while rushing for 338 yards versus Duke. That is a good sign for UNC, who only had 93 yards on the ground the week before in Charlottesville. It was the third time this season that Michael Carter, Javonte Williams, and Co. have eclipsed the 300-yard rushing mark in a game.
And look for that to be a big aspect this week as well. The Demon Deacons are allowing 180 rushing yards per game with three of their opponents gaining in excess of 200 yards. Thanks in large part to end Carlos Basham Jr., who has five sacks, and freshman safety Nick Anderson, who is tied for the ACC lead with three interceptions, Wake is better at defending the pass.
However, the Deacs have not faced a quarterback like Sam Howell since they saw Clemson's Trevor Lawrence in week one. The UNC backs were the story on Saturday, but Howell had another solid day with 235 passing yards and three touchdowns. After featuring Dyami Brown in previous weeks, Howell finally clicked with Dazz Newsome against Duke with the senior receiver catching six passes with one resulting in a score.
Another thing that Wake will have to watch is Carter and Williams in the passing game. The pair combined for seven catches this past week and have 32 receptions on the year. Their versatility is a reason why they have combined for 22 touchdowns (17 of those belonging to Williams) thus far with four of those coming via the pass.
Dave Clawson has built a program that year after year churns out winning seasons and bowl appearances. Once again, Wake Forest may not be the prettiest team in the land, but at the end of the year, the Demon Deacons will have more wins than losses and will be playing extra football come bowl season. But they won’t get one of those wins this week. Despite virtually no fans in attendance, North Carolina has been a much better team at home in 2020 and this game is at Kenan Memorial Stadium. The offensive line will open holes for Javonte Williams and Michael Carter while Sam Howell works more on the short and intermediate passing game in a Tar Heel victory.
Prediction: North Carolina 37, Wake Forest 21
Podcast: Week 11 Preview and Predictions
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.