Season wrap: Wake Forest


Record: 6-6, 5-3 ACC

Overview: Despite a heartbreaking overtime road loss to Syracuse in the season opener, it was clear from the start this was a better team than Jim Grobe had in 2010. Just how much better, though, wasn’t evident until the second half of the season, when the Deacs found themselves in position to win the Atlantic Division title one year after finishing 3-9. Wake Forest following that season-opening loss with four straight wins, and by Nov. 12 were playing then-ranked No. 9 Clemson for the division title. The Deacs shocked the ACC and pushed Clemson to the final minute, losing 31-28 on a game-winning field goal as time expired. It was a disappointing finish to the season, with four losses in their final five regular-season games, but the 31-10 win over Maryland assured the Demon Deacons they would return to a bowl game for the first time since 2008. Wake Forest finished in a tie for second place in the division, and couldn’t have done it without the upset of then-No. 23 Florida State on Oct. 8. Much of Wake Forest’s progress can be attributed to the maturation of a young team, particularly players like quarterback Tanner Price and defensive back Merrill Noel. The Deacs came within a field goal of playing for the ACC title, but it was still a successful season that exceeded the expectations of many.

Offensive MVP: WR Chris Givens. He led the ACC in receiving yards per game (106.3), and was third in receptions per game (6.4). He enters the bowl game having caught a pass in 27 straight games and has 1,276 receiving yards this season, passing Florida State's Peter Warrick and Maryland’s Marcus Badgett to move into fourth place on the ACC single-season receiving charts. His 1,276 yards are already a Wake Forest single-season record.

Defensive MVP: OLB Kyle Wilber. His 36 career tackles for loss are the eighth-most in school history. He had 10.5 total this year, and 43 total tackles. He also had 3.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.

Turning point: The 34-27 win over NC State on Sept. 10. It was only the second game of the season, but it determined which direction Wake Forest was heading this year. After the overtime loss to Syracuse, the Deacs avoided a here-we-go-again mentality and rebounded for an important, early Atlantic Division win. NC State threatened a comeback, but unlike in the Syracuse game, Wake Forest didn't fold. Instead, they went on a four-game winning streak that included an upset of Florida State.

What’s next: Wake Forest will face Mississippi State at 6:40 p.m. ET on Dec. 30 in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. It will be the fifth bowl appearance for the Deacs under coach Jim Grobe, who has more bowl appearances than any other coach in school history.