Wake Forest vs Texas A&M Preview and Prediction: Belk Bowl
Wake Forest vs Texas A&M Preview
Two teams aiming to end the season the right way will clash in the Belk Bowl when Texas A&M and Wake Forest meet for the first time Friday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
Texas A&M is waiting for their $75 million man to officially take over as coach (Jimbo Fisher)–but in this year’s bowl game the Aggies will be led by interim coach Jeff Banks who has been the special teams coordinator and tight ends coach. He took over after the dismissal of Kevin Sumlin.
“We’re trying to prepare our team to beat a very good Wake Forest team,” Banks said. “We’ve got our hands full. We’ll get our guys excited to play.”
Jimbo Fisher is taking over as Texas A&M’s new coach after leaving his position at Florida State. Fisher, whose former team defeated Wake Forest during the regular season, is expected to attend the bowl game, but he hasn’t been part of the bowl preparations.
Banks said Fisher has been an asset while also allowing the current staff to finish the task.
“He has been very sensitive to us and very complimentary,” Banks said of the incoming coach.
It’s the second year in a row that Wake Forest’s bowl opponent has an interim coach. Last year, the Demon Deacons defeated Temple 34-26 in the Military Bowl after Owls coach Matt Rhule left for Baylor.
For Wake Forest, this is a coveted opportunity to play about a 90-minute drive from campus.
“You play in (this bowl), you’re going to play a good team,” said Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford, who has thrown for 25 touchdowns with six interceptions this season. “They’re a brand name. … A chance to get eight wins is huge.”
Wake Forest isn’t a postseason regular, holding a 7-4 mark all-time in bowls.
The Demon Deacons are battle-tested however, after dealing with some premier teams in the ACC.
Clemson, Florida State and Louisville are all in Wake Forest’s division and head coach Dave Clawson knows his team has what it takes to handle the elite competition.
“We played premier teams in our conference,” Clawson said. “Sometimes you play these bowl games, you have to convince your team they’re good. Playing Texas A&M out of the SEC West, that’s not an issue.”
They will be better prepared against A&M if running back Cade Carney plays, which he is rumored to be available. Carney missed most of the second half of the season with a multitude of injuries.
The Aggies also received a lift when wide receiver and potential first round pick Christian Kirk said he would play in the bowl game despite a growing trend of elite players skipping the postseason in order to prepare for the draft and avoid potential injury.
“I haven’t won a bowl game since I’ve been at A&M,” he said in the Houston Chronicle. “That’s something I definitely want to do. It sucks losing bowl games — it’s a terrible feeling.”
“We’re the same ones who have been coaching for 12 games,” Banks said. “As far as my future is concerned, I’ll figure that out when it’s time to figure that out, which is after this bowl.”
Texas A&M lost its regular-season finale 45-21 at LSU for its third setback in its last five games.
“I think we have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder to finish this the right way,” Banks said.
A&M has more talent than Wake Forest, but that doesn’t always translate to victories at the end of the season–whichever team is more focused and plays harder typically wins the game. The Demon Deacons have had more consistent quarterback play from John Wolford as opposed to the Aggies duo of freshman (Nick Starkel and Kellen Mond) and that could be the deciding factor in this matchup.
Wake Forest 31 Texas A&M 30