When the ACC's top two rushing attacks go head to head Saturday, which defense will break first: Georgia Tech's or Wake Forest's?
As porous as the Yellow Jackets' rush defense has been through the first four games, with each opponent rushing for a minimum of 141 yards, the Demon Deacons have been worse.
In the past two games, losses at Stanford and at Florida State in which Wake Forest has allowed 99 points, it has allowed 504 yards on the ground.
"It's a problem, there's no question about that," Deacons coach Jim Grobe said. "Now we're facing possibly the best rushing team in the country."
Tech (2-2, 1-1 ACC) actually is the fourth-best rushing team in the country, averaging 320.5 yards per game on 5.9 yards per carry. The two teams will play at 7 p.m. in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Tech coach Paul Johnson said that the Deacons' issues against the run could be attributed to falling behind quickly to the Cardinal, 41-10 at halftime, which allowed Stanford to run a lot in the second half. The performance against FSU was different, with the Seminoles holding a 10-point lead in the third quarter. But they, too, were able to run out the game.
However, there's not an excuse for the game that preceded those two losses: a 54-48 win against a Duke team that hasn't matched that point total in combined losses to the other two FBS (formerly Division I-A teams) it has played this season.
Wake Forest's issues on defense are two-fold: Its line is very small, averaging 256 pounds on the two-deep, and it's very inexperienced, featuring five players who are third-year sophomores or younger.
"But it's tough on a coaching staff when you know the thing you need is more experience, and the only way you can get it is to learn on Saturday," Grobe said.
Center Sean Bedford, who had to leave Saturday's game after sustaining a deep bruise when the shin of a N.C. State player slammed into his shin, said that the smaller stature of Wake's defensive linemen won't affect Tech's game plan. In fact, it may help Tech's players to remember their fundamentals going against quicker players.
And B-back Anthony Allen said there's not much they will do to try to take advantage of Wake Forest's inexperience, other than to keep running the option and try to get themselves into a more aggressive state of mind.
Really, the theme for the players this week is to focus more on improving what they are doing, rather than what Wake Forest may do.
"We really can't worry about what they did the past two weeks, we have to worry about what we've done the past two weeks," Allen said.
According to Tech coach Paul Johnson, the offense made 42 errors in Saturday's loss to N.C. State and the defense 43. He has said throughout the week -- repeating something he said after the loss to Kansas -- that he wants his team to play with some urgency. Inside linebackers coach Joe Speed said if a mistake is to be made, make it at 100 mph.
Despite focusing on themselves, there is potential to be forced into making mistakes. The Deacons are rushing for 238.5 yards per game this season and will look to avenge last season's 30-27 overtime loss at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
To take pressure off its defense, Wake Forest will try to run the ball. Johnson said he thinks they are a run-first team. The Jackets have been susceptible to runs up the middle this season on draw plays or delayed handoffs. Because the Deacons run the option, they likely will try to exploit that weakness with similar plays.
Repeating what Bedford and Allen said, nose tackle Logan Walls said if the defensive linemen will focus on what they are supposed to be doing, it should help reduce the errors that are allowing teams to rush for an average of 155.2 yards per game against the Jackets.
"Everybody has to get their job right," Walls said. "If everybody does that, that should stop most of it."
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