Last season: 8-5 (4-4); beat Navy in EagleBank Bowl
Coach: Jim Grobe (ninth season, 15th overall)
Player to watch: QB Riley Skinner. It seems he has been around forever. Certainly not a gunslinger but better than a game manager, Skinner likely will leave Wake Forest as its top career passer if he can remain healthy this season. He also has a good chance to lead the Demon Deacons to four straight bowls — heady stuff at a perennial doormat.
Key game: Oct. 3 vs. N.C. State. It’s the second of four straight Wake will play in the Atlantic Division and probably the Demon Deacons’ trickiest test in the first half. Skinner and Russell Wilson are the league’s most efficient QBs, so the meeting figures to be well-played.
Outlook: Rather than selling the naming rights for its field to a bank, Wake Forest would be better served to affix Grobe’s name to it. The man has worked miracles, and now it’s time for another: revamping a defense that lost Aaron Curry, Alphonso Smith and five other starters. Never fear; Wake probably has a bunch of fourth-year juniors you’ve never heard of who will fill in quite capably.
Prediction: 7-5, 3-5
Last season: 9-5 (5-3); lost to Vanderbilt in Music City Bowl
Coach: Frank Spaziani (first season)
Player to watch: RB Montel Harris. The Eagles’ offensive line is a sure thing, their quarterback not so much. Toss in a 69-year-old offensive coordinator (Gary Tranquill), and no program in the ACC figures to imitate a 1970s Big Ten team as much as BC. That means Harris, who ran for 900 yards as a true freshman, could be in for a big year.
Key game: Sept. 26 vs. Wake Forest. As with Maryland, the Eagles’ conference home opener could be a harbinger of things to come. No one seems to know just what BC will be at season’s end, but it seems a bit in flux for now. Snag a victory against a possible bowl team in the first month, and the perception of the Eagles will improve.
Outlook: The ACC’s most tumultuous offseason occurred in Chestnut Hill, where Jeff Jagodzinski was fired for interviewing for a pro job, quarterback Dominique Davis left school and uber-talented linebacker Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with cancer. Into the breach steps Spaziani, an affable lifetime assistant whose top option QB when healthy (Dave Shinskie) hasn’t played football in seven years. Expect a step back from the Eagles.
Prediction: 6-6, 2-6