Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Best Wake Forest Team Ever?

Since my alma mater is in the midst of a special season, I decided to take a look back and see if this is indeed Wake Forest's finest gridiron squadron. So set back and take a stroll down memory lane as I summarize each Wake Forest team that finished with a winning record since 1970.

Record: 6-5
Conference Record: 5-1
Point Differential: -50
Pythagorean Record: 4.02-6.98
Record Against Winning Teams: 2-4
D-I Wins: 6
Opponent's Record: 71-50-3 .585
Record in Close Games: 2-1

Most Wake fans know the 1970 season as our first and thus far only conference championship. What most fans don't know is that despite being ACC champions, the Demon Deacons were not invited to a bowl game. The ACC as a whole was down in 1970 (sound familiar?) with only North Carolina being invited to participate in postseason play. Wake's schedule strength is fortified by non-conference games against Nebraska (11-0-1), Florida State (7-4), Tennessee (11-1), and Houston (8-3).

Record: 6-5
Conference Record: 2-4
Point Differential: +40
Pythagorean Record: 6.80-4.20
Record Against Winning Teams: 1-2
D-I Wins: 6
Opponent's Record: 49-72 .405
Record in Close Games: 2-3

The ACC was once again down in 1971, but this time the Deacs couldn't take advantage losing several winnable conference games and once again staying home for the holidays. Head coach Cal Stoll did parlay his consecutive winning seasons at Wake into a gig at Minnesota where he lasted for 7 seasons never winning fewer than 4 or more than 7 games.

Record: 8-4
Conference Record: 3-2
Point Differential: -43
Pythagorean Record: 4.84-7.16
Record Against Winning Teams: 5-4
D-I Wins: 8
Opponent's Record: 76-57-3 .570
Record in Close Games: 8-1

I believe the expression is smoke and mirrors. The Deacons did beat several good teams--Auburn (8-3), Maryland (7-4), and North Carolina (8-3-1). However, take a look at than unbelievable record in close games. The Deacons caught every possible break in 1979 and were rewarded with a trip to the Tangerine Bowl, where they were slaughtered by a mediocre LSU team (7-5). Head coach John Mackovic stayed one more season before seeing the writing on the wall.

Record: 6-5
Conference Record: 3-4
Point Differential: -27
Pythagorean Record: 4.70-6.30
Record Against Winning Teams: 0-5
D-I Wins: 3
Opponent's Record: 48-39-4 .549
Record in Close Games: 2-1

Al Groh's lone winning record with the Deacs is built on the foundation of three non-DIA wins--Richmond, William and Mary, and Appalachian State.

Record: 7-4
Conference Record: 4-3
Point Differential: +16
Pythagorean Record: 6.04-4.96
Record Against Winning Teams: 0-3
D-I Wins: 5
Opponent's Record: 51-51 .500
Record in Close Games: 4-0

Another down year for the ACC. Only Virginia (8-4) and Clemson (10-2) went bowling. The Deacs couldn't go because they had only 5 D-IA wins. Deacs actually began the season 5-0 before stumbling to the finish line when the schedule toughened up.

Record: 6-4-1
Conference Record: 4-3
Point Differential: +44
Pythagorean Record: 6.59-4.41
Record Against Winning Teams: 1-4
D-I Wins: 4
Opponent's Record: 50-38-3 .566
Record in Close Games: 2-1-1

Another year, another pair of non-DIA wins (and one tie). The Deacs lone win over a team with a winning record was against the OBC in his second season at Duke.

Record: 8-4
Conference Record: 4-4
Point Differential: +6
Pythagorean Record: 6.16-5.84
Record Against Winning Teams: 0-4
D-I Wins: 7
Opponent's Record: 66-59-1 .528
Record in Close Games: 4-0

The story of the 1992 Independence Bowl champions is that they beat the teams they should. No wins against winning teams, but also no losses to teams with losing records. The buzz word for the 1992 season was resiliency. After a 1-3 start, the Deacs rattled off 6 straight wins before succumbing to NC State in the regular season finale. In the bowl game, they fell behind early to Oregon before rebounding for a thrilling 39-35 victory. The 1992 season marked the end of line for one of college football's finest and most underrated coaches, Bill Dooley. 3 winning seasons in 6 years at Wake--not too bad. He also enjoyed success at two other non-traditional (at the time) powers in North Carolina and Virginia Tech.

Record: 7-5
Conference Record: 3-5
Point Differential: +57
Pythagorean Record: 7.67-4.33
Record Against Winning Teams: 1-2
D-I Wins: 7
Opponent's Record: 65-73 .471
Record in Close Games: 2-1

What could have been. Consider this: Wake finished 7-5 in Jim Caldwell's penultimate season, and yet lost to Duke (3-8) and at home to Maryland (5-6). To get bowl eligible, it took a dramatic upset over a top-20 Georgia Tech team on Senior Fifth day. It all ended well though, with a Christmas Day win over Arizona State in the Aloha Classic.

Record: 6-5
Conference Record: 3-5
Point Differential: -19
Pythagorean Record: 5.09-6.91
Record Against Winning Teams: 2-5
D-I Wins: 5
Opponent's Record: 65-55 .542
Record in Close Games: 5-4

Jim Grobe certainly made a difference in his first season at the helm. Fresh off a 2-9 season, the Deacs matched their 2000 win total in the first two games, and seemed to be in every game (9 of 11 were decided by 7 points or fewer and 10 of 11 were decided by 10 points or less). Best moment of the season? Either the first win in Charlottesville since 1981 or the comeback win over a Tar Heel team with Julius Peppers.

Record: 7-6
Conference Record: 3-5
Point Differential: +29
Pythagorean Record: 7.15-5.85
Record Against Winning Teams: 3-6
D-I Wins: 7
Opponent's Record: 87-81 .518
Record in Close Games: 4-3

More of the same for Grobe in his second season. No terrible losses, as all of them came to teams with winning records, and lots of close games. Beat a pretty good Oregon team in the Seattle Bowl to boot.

Record: 10-2
Conference Record: 6-2
Point Differential: +95
Pythagorean Record: 8.73-3.27
Record Against Winning Teams: 2-2
D-I Wins: 9
Opponent's Record: 59-72 .450
Record in Close Games: 4-0

Is this the best Wake Forest team? Do Pi Phi's like to party? This is far and away the best Wake Forest team. They are aided by a relatively soft schedule and unblemished record in close games, but their point differential is legit. Wake's other good teams never had a point differential larger than 57 and usually (with the exception of 2001 and 2002--also Grobe-coached teams) blew games to teams that finished with losing records. Oh yeah, and let's not forget that 6-0 road record. Regardless of what happens in Jacksonville or in the bowl game, this is the best team in Wake's storied history.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have followed Wake since the mid-70s when I was transfered to W-S. An SEC fan, I adopted Wake to have an ACC team to root against with all the UNC, and State fans I had for neighbors.
I can definitely say this is the best Wake team I have seen. The 79 team wasn't as weak as you indicate, but this Wake team can compete every week. I am very impressed with Coach Grobe, and the offensive scheme he has developed. It is really fun to watch this group of players. They play with intensity, and make few mistakes. It will be great to watch them beat GT this coming Saturday. Go Deacs!! Bring the title home, and wear your rings with pride. It is a treasure you will enjoy forever.