Can Mark Dantonio commence the rebuilding process with a Bowl victory vs Wake Forest?

Wake Forest is hard to measure.

It would be fair to say the ACC is the weakest of the Power 5 conferences, underscored by the fact Clemson is the only ACC team ranked in the Top 10. Of course, Clemson stands head and shoulders above the balance of the ACC with an unbeaten record of 13-0 and rank #3 in both the Coaches Poll and the AP Poll.

Meanwhile Virginia is the only other team from the ACC to be ranked nationally, yet the Cavaliers barely scratch the Top 25 with a #24 ranking in the Coaches Poll and #27 ranking in the AP Poll. So, on average, the ACC doesn’t measure up to the other Power 5 conferences. By comparison, the Big Ten has 6 member schools in the Top 20 alone. In that context, the ACC doesn’t get much respect.

Yet Wake Forest is silently in the shadows of the ACC posting an 8-4 record overall as well as a record of 4-4 in the ACC including victories vs Boston College, Florida State and North Carolina. Wake finished #3 in the ACC Atlantic Division, behind Clemson and Louisville, and finished in an unusual 6-way tie for 5th place overall in the ACC with a record of 4-4 along with Boston College, Florida State, Miami, North Carolina and Pitt.

On Offense, Wake Forest rank #1 in the ACC in Pass Offense at nearly 300 Yards per game thereby surpassing Clemson. Wake Forest also rank #2 in Total Offense, averaging nearly 475 Yards per game just a tick behind Clemson.

Yet Defense is Wake Forest “Achilles Heel”. Wake rank #9 amongst ACC teams in Rushing Defense (yielding 163 Yards per game)…#9 Scoring Defense (yielding 29 Points per game)…and #10 Pass Defense yielding nearly 250 Yards per game.

The Bowl matchup:

Wake Forest possess an explosive Offense, but on paper their Offense seems to be countered by the Spartans Defense.

The Spartans strength of course is Defense. Against formidable Big Ten competition, the Spartans yielded an average of just 217 Yards Passing and just 26 Points per game. So on paper, the Spartans Defense seems to be a favorable matchup vs Wake Forest and their up tempo Offense. On paper, the Spartans Defense has an advantage.

On the other hand, the Spartans inconsistent Offense has been their “Achilles Heel” of sorts. The Spartans Offense averaged just 112 Yards Rushing in Big Ten competition, combined with just 227 Yards Passing and just 19.8 Points per game, and combined with a negative Turnover Margin of minus (-0.44), it underscore “why” the Spartans have posted a dismal Big Ten record of 4-5.

Yet, the Spartans have ample talent and athleticism, considerably more than Wake Forest, nevertheless, the question will become: “can the Spartans inconsistent Offense move the chains and score enough points to post a victory?”.

Mark Dantonio needs this bowl victory more than any in his history!

We all know the story…

Mark Dantonio inherited a broken football program in 2007 that compiled a dismal Big Ten record of just 24-40 (38%) with just one winning Big Ten season between 2000 and 2006. Then Mark Dantonio rebuilt the program and from 2010 to 2015 Mark Dantonio climbed a mighty mountain and compiled a remarkable Big Ten record of 39-9 (82%) including 3 Big Ten titles and a College Football Playoff invitation.

Yet since that time, the Spartans have been unable to stay atop the Big Ten posting an exceedingly dim Big Ten record of just 17 wins and 19 losses. But what does the rise and fall of the last 10 years portend? Can Mark Dantonio rebuild the Spartans once again?

Tomorrow’s bowl game is a pivot point. Mark Dantonio is determined to rebuild the program and he has chosen to “stay the course” as it relates to scheme and staff, so a bowl victory vs Wake Forest would instill major optimism amongst Spartan faithful that perhaps Mark Dantonio can correct course.

So, by every measure, Mark Dantonio needs this bowl victory more than any in his history, and tomorrow will determine which story will be written.