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Wake Forest vs. Vanderbilt Prediction: Sam Hartman Returns for Demon Deacons' Road Test Against Surging Commodores

Hartman makes his season debut for this intriguing ACC vs. SEC matchup.

Wake Forest had little trouble in its season opener, dispatching FCS VMI 44-10 while Vanderbilt enters this game 2-0 after dominating win over Hawaii followed by a victory at home against Elon. As well as Demon Deacons redshirt freshman quarterback Mitch Griffis played against the Keydets, the team is set to receive a huge boost with the return of Sam Hartman, who has been cleared after being sidelined due to a non-football-related medical condition.

Related: College Football Predictions for Every Game in Week 2

Meanwhile, the Commodores are 2-0 for the first time since 2018 after outscoring Hawaii and Elon 105-41. Vanderbilt also is looking for a fourth straight win over Wake Forest after defeating the Demon Deacons 23-21 back in 2013, the teams' most recent meeting. The Commodores lead the overall series 10-6.

No. 23 Wake Forest at Vanderbilt

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 10 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Live Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Spread: Wake Forest -13
Tickets: As low as $20 on SITickets.com*

When Wake Forest Has the Ball

In his first collegiate start, Mitch Griffis completed 21 of 29 passes for 288 yards, three touchdowns, and no picks. As encouraging a performance as it was, Griffis will give way to Sam Hartman, a preseason first-team All-ACC selection by Athlon. Last year, Hartman threw for 4,228 yards and 39 touchdowns, ranking in the top seven nationally in both categories. Even if Hartman shows some rust after missing time due to his medical condition, he should have plenty of opportunities to find his rhythm against a Vanderbilt defense that has given up nearly 300 passing yards per game through its first two contests.

Hartman also won't be asked to do it all by himself either. Running backs Christian Turner (13 att., 100 yds., 2 TDs) and Justice Ellison (13, 80) are both coming off of strong games in the opener.

When Vanderbilt Has the Ball

Through two games, the Commodores are averaging 52.5 points and 512.5 yards per game. Yes, the quality of competition needs to be taken into consideration, but after scoring a total of 189 points in 12 games and ranking 118th in FBS (312.8 ypg) in total offense, the early production has to be encouraging.

Quarterback Mike Wright has been the focal point of Vanderbilt's attack. Last Saturday against Elon, Wright set a new school single-game record with six touchdowns. He was 18-of-29 for 245 yards and four scores passing, to go along with 84 yards (on 11 carries) and two more touchdowns on the ground.

Ray Davis also has helped out on the ground, as the former Temple transfer (who used to go by Re'Mahn) is averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Wake Forest held VMI to just 83 rushing yards last week, but the Commodores will represent a step up in competition. It will be critical for Vanderbilt to try and control the line of scrimmage so it can get its running game going because it's not as equipped as the Demon Deacons when it comes to airing it out.

Final Analysis

Vanderbilt has an extra game under its belt and plenty of momentum after starting out 2-0. But Wake Forest is an entirely different challenge, especially with Sam Hartman back at quarterback. He may show some rust early, but the Demon Deacons' offensive firepower should eventually gain the upper hand as the ACC picks up a win over the SEC.

Prediction: Wake Forest 42, Vanderbilt 21

Podcast: Complete Week 2 Preview, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also is podcasting for Land-Grant Holy Land. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.

*Price as of publication.