The Wake Forest Demon Deacons survived a scare in the season opener last week, beating a solid Utah State squad 38-35 to improve to an all-important 1-0. The Deacs will hit the road for Week 2 to face an improved Rice Owls team in Houston. Though Rice fell in its season opener to Army, the Owls were competitive throughout, losing 14-7 following an 18-play, 96-yard Army touchdown drive that melted 9:21 off the clock in the fourth quarter.
Wake Forest at Rice
Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 6 at 8 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Wake Forest -18
When Wake Forest Has the Ball
The Demon Deacons operate at one of the fastest paces in the country offensively. In Week 1, Wake Forest ran 58 times and threw 47, racking up 579 total yards in the process. Though the yardage looks good on paper, the Deacs averaged just 5.51 yards per play, which ranked No. 75 nationally.
Nevertheless, Wake Forest has plenty of talented playmakers. Quarterback Jamie Newman is one of the top dual-threat QBs in the ACC. Last week, Newman threw for 401 yards and three touchdowns without an interception and added 36 rushing yards on 21 carries. He connected with receiver Sage Surratt seven times for 158 yards and a touchdown, and he also tossed a TD pass to 6-5 red-zone threat Scotty Washington and threw the game-winner to converted QB Kendall Hinton on a fourth-down play with 1:11 to go. Powerful running back Cade Carney gained 105 rushing yards on 25 carries in the win.
Though Army ran for 231 yards, Rice held the vaunted Black Knights rushing attack to 4.1 yards per attempt — the third-best rate of the 26 FBS defenses that surrendered more than 200 yards on the ground in Week 1. The Owls weren’t often tested through the air last week but struggled in 2018, ranking last in Conference USA and 125th in the country in pass defense (280.1 yards allowed per game).
When Rice Has the Ball
Rice didn’t have the ball much in Week 1, and the Owls were limited to just 44 plays against Army. Head coach Mike Bloomgren, known best as the former offensive coordinator at Stanford, relies heavily on the ground game. Running back Aston Walter carried the football 18 times for 72 yards, and teammate Nahshon Ellerbe needed just nine attempts to gain 103 on the ground thanks to a 54-yard touchdown. Unfortunately, Ellerbe later left the game with an unspecified injury and is questionable to play in Week 2. Redshirt freshman quarterback Wiley Green completed 7-of-14 pass attempts for 62 yards, connecting with Austin Trammell four time for 40 yards.
Wake Forest surrendered 596 yards of total offense to Utah State, appearing vulnerable to both the run and the pass. The Demon Deacons allowed 416 passing yards on 48 attempts (an average of 8.7 per pass, which currently ranks No. 110 on the FBS leaderboard) and gave up 180 rushing yards on 31 carries (5.81 ypc allowed, No. 117 nationally). However, the Deacs forced three interceptions, the first of which occurred in the red zone and the last securing the victory on the sixth play of a last-minute Utah State drive.
Both Wake Forest and Rice played close, hard-fought games against quality opponents in Week 1. The Demon Deacons looked explosive offensively, and despite Rice’s surprising performance, it seems unlikely the Owls can match the speed and athleticism the Deacs possess on offense. And though the Owls could keep it close early by relying on a controlled, methodical rushing attack, it will be difficult to catch up if Wake Forest puts together a few quick scores.