WHO: Michigan State (6-6) vs. Wake Forest (8-4)
WHAT: The 10th New Era Pinstripe Bowl
WHEN: December 27th at 3:20 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York
THE SKINNY: Michigan State and Wake Forest will meet for the first time when they step onto the field at Yankee Stadium, home to Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The ACC-Big Ten matchup sees two programs that arrive in the postseason under much different circumstances. Wake Forest is looking to win nine games for the first time since 2007 as Dave Clawson has the Demon Deacons continuing to take steps forward as a program. Meanwhile, Mark Dantonio has Michigan State back in a bowl game for the 11th time in his 12-year run as head coach of the Spartans, although this year Michigan State slid their way to postseason eligibility by having to defeat Maryland at home in the final game of the season.
Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke hasn’t exactly had a banner season in East Lansing. He leads a struggling Michigan State offense with 16 touchdown passes to 12 interceptions, but hopes to end his collegiate career on a high note. Lewerke has been roughed up at times this season but will get to start the final game of his career. How long he remains the quarterback for Michigan State remains to be seen as Dantonio has said he will not shy away from playing sophomore Rocky Lombardi if a change of pace is necessary. A jolt on offense is always welcome for Michigan State as the Spartans rank 101st in the nation in total offense. Fortunately, the defense helps keep games from getting too out of hand most of the time, and that could be the case here.
Clawson is all about improving the offensive structure, and that is just what has been done with Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons come into the bowl season ranked 12th in the nation in total offense with 474.4 yards per game. But they will also be banged up for the game with leading wide receiver Sage Surratt out due to season-ending shoulder surgery. That will likely make Kendall Hinton a go-to option for Wake Forest. Hinton may be lacking in touchdowns (3) but he is certainly going to rack up yardage (70 receptions for 953 yards). Wake Forest’s quarterback situation will also be something to watch with starter Jamie Newman banged up and Sam Hartman preparing to go if needed.
Although Wake Forest’s offense will be tested physically by the Spartans, there may be enough scoring drives in them to edge Michigan State in the Bronx.
THE PICK: Wake Forest 20, Michigan State 17
For the first time in over a decade, No. 24 Wake Forest is 7-1. And if all goes as they hope, Wake Forest could be returning to a New Years Six bowl game for the first time since that 2007 season.
Wake Forest (7-1, 3-1 ACC) had no problem taking care of NC State (4-4, 1-3 ACC) on Saturday afternoon. The Demon Deacons jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and went on to polish off a 44-10 victory by shutting out the Wolfpack in the second half. Jamie Newman had a big day with 287 passing yards, 3 passing touchdowns, and two rushing touchdowns. Jack Freudenthal was on the receiving end of all three touchdown passes, and Kendall Hinton led all players with 97 receiving yards while Sage Surratt caught a game-high nine passes. The Wake Forest passing offense averaged seven yards per attempt, which was more than double the average of a woeful NC State passing attack. Devin Leary managed to complete just 17 of his 45 pass attempts for 149 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions on the day.
NC State had three turnovers in the game and Wake Forest capitalize don them. Wake Forest scored 17 points off those turnovers, including an early fumble on a kickoff return to setup a quick touchdown after already owning a 7-0 lead.
Now with wins against NC State and UNC (in a non-conference matchup), Wake Forest has a chance to sweep the in-state competition just as they did in 2007. All that is left to pull off is a win at home against Duke on Nov. 23. But for now, Wake Forest has other business to attend to. A road trip to Virginia Tech is up next for Dave Clawson and his program next week. A trip to Blacksburg can never be taken lightly, especially with Virginia Tech potentially getting better as the season progresses. After that is a big division showdown at Clemson. Regardless of what happens against Clemson, Wake Forest is beginning to look like a team that could be representing the ACC in the New Years Six bowl.
the last time Wake Forest played in a big bowl game was after winning the ACC championship in 2007. Winning the ACC this year would require getting around Clemson, which may prove to be difficult in a few weeks, but it is becoming more and more clear that Wake Forest is the second-best team in the ACC.
NC State may not be thinking about an elusive conference championship, but the Wolfpack still have a chance to go bowling. But next week will be no easier for the Wolfpack. NC State visits Clemson next week for a primetime matchup.
Wake Forest’s quarterback depth will be a tad more shallow the next few weeks. Quarterback Kendall Hinton will be out of action for anywhere between two and four weeks, according to the school on Monday. Hinton suffered a sprained ligament in his left knee over the weekend against Delaware. It was his second start for Wake Forest.
With the announced timeline for his injury recovery, Wake Forest will be without Hinton for games against Indiana and North Carolina State at a minimum. Additional lost time could cost Hinton a chance to play against Syracuse and Florida State in the weeks to follow. With Hinton out of action, Wake Forest will run the offense with John Wolford, who previously lost the starting job to Hinton.
Hinton completed 11 of 19 pass attempts in his appearances in three games so far this season, accounting for 174 passing yards and one interception. While his passing numbers may not be great, what he brought to the running game is what stood out.Hinton rushed for 390 yards and seven touchdowns last season and was off and running this year with 125 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Last season, Hinton appeared in 10 games for the Demon Deacons and passed for 929 yards and four touchdowns with five interceptions, while Wolford led the passing offense.
The Wake Forest quarterback pool is rather shallow in depth. Tyler Cameron, who was second on the Demon Deacons in passing last season, has left the program and is joining the Florida Atlantic Owls. He does so as a graduate transfer, which seems to be a rather trendy option this offseason. That will make him eligible to play at FAU this season.
“Tyler is intelligent and made use of his athletic ability to earn a degree from Wake Forest in just three years,” FAU coach Charlie Partridge said in a released statement (via Palm Beach Post). “It is that same drive that affords him the opportunity to return home and work toward a post-graduate degree. He will certainly add experience and depth in the quarterback meeting room.”
Cameron actually has two years of eligibility remaining at FAU, thanks to graduating from Wake Forest in just three years. FAU is returning three-year starter Jaquez Johnson, but Cameron will fill out some depth at the position and have time to get adjusted to his new surroundings.
The loss of Cameron also leaves Wake Forest pretty thin at quarterback. At this moment, the official team roster available on the team’s website lists just three quarterbacks; John Wolford, Kyle Driscoll, and Kendall Hinton. Wolford was Wake Forest’s leading passer last season, as a freshman. Wolford passed for 2,037 yards and 12 touchdowns, but was intercepted 14 times. He is the quarterback Dave Clawson will continue to mold his program around in 2015.