Meineke Car Care Bowl Preview: Connecticut vs. Wake Forest

Meineke Car Care Bowl
Dec. 29, 10 a.m. PST
Connecticut (9-3) vs. Wake Forest (8-4)
Charlotte, North Carolina
Payout: $750,000
Spread: Wake Forest – 3

Does anyone else find it strange that these two teams both lost to Virginia by the score of 17-16? This is a weird season for college football. I’ve been trying to get UConn to forfeit its victory over Louisville because of a fake fair catch signal for months now and to no avail. It’s a fraudulent 9-3 in my mind and they shouldn’t have shared the Big East championship with West Virginia. Nevertheless it’s impressive that such a young program was even in position to tie for the league championship and that deserves congratulations. Their reward is, in effect, a road game against a solid ACC team that is a near mirror image. This game will feature a few anemic offenses trying to solve opportunistic defenses. The scoreboard operator can take the night off.

Connecticut wasn’t supposed to be here. Many picked them to struggle in the Big East this season but on the back of sophomore running backs Donald Brown and Andre Dixon, the Huskies are in position for a ten-win season. Brown, the bigger of the two backs, started the year as the workhorse. His 8 TD’s are evidence of how much he is used near the goal line despite carrying the ball less than Dixon in the second half of the season. Dixon leads the team in yards but has only scored three times on the ground.

Dixon also offers a better receiving threat out of the backfield, something the Huskies need desperately because of their lack of playmakers on the outside. The leading receiver is Terence Jeffers with just 42 catches but there are six players with at least 24 receptions. Quarterback Tyler Lorenzen has been steady but not spectacular. He has only thrown five interceptions all year. Since Wake Forest has been exceptional against the run this season, it’s imperative Lorenzen can get something going through the air in this game.

The Demon Deacons don’t have to travel too far for this game. 80 miles away from Charlotte in Winston-Salem the Demon Deacons may have found a new home in bowl season. It’s the first time in the program’s history they’ve played in back-to-back bowl games. If they can consistently finish near the top of the ACC they’ll be the Meineke Bowl’s first choice because of their proximity. Unless, of course, they lay an egg against UConn offensively and don’t sell their allotment of tickets for the game. Considering their offensive production and small student body, that’s a definite possibility.

The offense is run with a series of misdirection and end around plays to keep defenses off balance. Throwing is a secondary option because quarterback Riley Skinner isn’t very effective. His main target is Kenneth Moore who has 87 catches on the year. Unfortunately no one else on the roster even comes close to that number. The second leading receiver is freshman running back Josh Adams, who didn’t get significant playing time until week four. Adams, though only 180 lbs, has been a reliable runner but it’s the misdirection that makes this offense so difficult to defend.

Statistically it would look like UConn has had some trouble with the running game this season. However, the stats might be a tad inflated by the 517 rushing yards that West Virginia tagged them with in the final game of the season. That’s five hundred and seventeen yards rushing for those of you who missed it the first time. Take out that game and the average is far more respectable. Wake Forest doesn’t have anywhere near the type of athletes West Virginia can put on the field and UConn won’t have a relapse from that disaster here.

If the UConn offense proves to be more than one dimensional, they can steal a road victory. Wake Forest’s offense simply doesn’t have the weapons to run away with the game. Neither team can allow the other to linger around and wait for a big special teams play or turnover to change their fortunes. I think UConn is more likely to put Wake Forest away and has the ability to keep them from making a charge late in the game.

Prediction:
Connecticut 20 – Wake Forest 13

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