One good reason: Wake Forest

July, 17, 2012
7/17/12
2:30
PM ET
WAKE FOREST

We’ve reached the end. If you don’t know by now what this series is, pay better attention. Last but not least, I present the Deacs:

The series concludes today with one good reason why …

Wake Forest will win the Atlantic Division. Gems on defense. Wake Forest has several talented players on defense who don’t get a lot of ink, but are legitimate all-conference candidates who can make game-changing plays. Cornerback Merrill “Bud” Noel is coming off a season in which he was named the ACC’s Defensive Rookie of the Year and led the country in pass deflections with 19. Noseguard Nikita Whitlock had a breakout season last year in which he led the Deacons in tackles for loss (14.0) and tied for the team lead in quarterback sacks (3.5). He also had 64 tackles. Whitlock is a little bit undersized for his position, but he compensates for it with his quickness. Three of four starters return at linebacker, including Scott Betros, who led the group with 59 tackles last year.

Why it won’t: Eight starters must be replaced on offense. Most importantly, the Deacs have to replace four starters on the offensive line -- questions that didn’t entirely get answered this spring. Center Garrick Williams is the lone returning starter up front. In addition, Wake Forest also must replace its leading rusher and four of its top six receivers. Coach Jim Grobe has said he wants to improve the ground game this year, and that could be difficult considering the offensive overhaul. Tailback Josh Harris enters the fall as the likely starter, but his durability has been a question and he has suffered from a nagging hamstring injury throughout his career.

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