Could Wake Forest football bounce back in 2024?

Florida State v Wake Forest
Florida State v Wake Forest / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

Wake Forest football just had its 2024 spring game last weekend, and though it didn’t tell us a ton (most don’t), it told us the main thing fans wanted to hear: The quarterback play is on the rise.

When the Deacs are coming off of a season that saw them score under 20 points in half of their games, they should greet a transfer like Hank Bachmeier with open arms due to his experience alone. But, when you see him making the big-time connections he made last Saturday, the claim that he’s the right choice to lead them back to relevance is only substantiated further.

And hey, even if none of it carries over to the fall, the return of Michael Kern hopefully should no matter what.

Despite Kern’s college career not being nearly as storied as Bachmeier’s, he obviously has an edge in regards to time spent in Wake’s offensive system. Not only that but assuming his display in Wake’s 2023 finale against Syracuse wasn’t a total fluke, him at least being a sizable upgrade from Mitch Griffis has been nothing short of confirmed.

At this point, all of this optimism for the future probably has you asking yourself the big question: Could 2024 see the Demon Deacons come back from the dead? Perhaps, but we first have to establish what exactly it means for a team of Wake Forest’s historical standard to do so.

Before going 4-8 last year, Wake had proudly recognized its bowl streak on multiple occasions, having made seven straight. In that span, they finished with a negative record just once, and it was in 2020, a year that many would argue shouldn’t even be recognized as legit (the Deacs only played nine games, and they were one of many squads affected by player opt-outs).

With that having been the bar, I see no reason as to why it shouldn’t be the bar going forward. So, we’re simply looking to see if Wake Forest has a realistic lane to the postseason, or in other words, if Wake can win six games.

But, while the state of the offense is important when determining that, another crucial part of the equation is the schedule it’ll be facing—and my, what a schedule it is.

Wake Forest’s 2024 schedule is no easy ride

The Deacs get things started as they have the past couple of years, hosting an FCS weakling (this year’s victim being North Carolina A&T). After that though, things get testy and fast, as it’s then a one-two punch of Virginia and Ole Miss.

Don’t get me wrong, the Cavaliers are terrible, but they showed an increase in formidability against multiple ACC powers as their 2023 campaign progressed, beating UNC before scaring both Miami and conference runner-up Louisville. That visible improvement makes their visit to Winston-Salem a bit more of a wild card for me.

As for the Rebels, their favoring over Wake should come with little pushback, as they’re entering the fall after an 11-win run that they pulled off in the cutthroat SEC.

From there, the Demon Deacons catch a much-needed couple of breaths thanks to a bye week and the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns. Yet once again, the confidence won’t last for long, as they’re then swiftly hurled back into a firestorm, with this one involving their road opener against rival NC State and a visit from Clemson.

I know that rivalry games are tough for both parties and that the Tigers have been struggling to escape the Deacs as of late, but today, the skill gaps appear just a tad too steep on paper for me to predict anything other than a pair of L’s here.

That brings us to the halfway point of Wake Forest’s season and puts its grittiest battles in the rear-view mirror. With that said, there only being three “sure” losses spotted so far means we’re on the perfect pace for that bowl berth. However, just because the worst times are behind us doesn’t mean the ones ahead are simple by any stretch of the imagination—though they do start out that way.

The next team on Wake’s agenda is the UConn Huskies, and if you know anything about how the college football world has treated them lately, then you know they should hardly be a threat. Speaking of which, many would probably feel compelled to put the team after them, the Stanford Cardinal, in a similar boat, but I’m not fully sold on going that far.

Stanford reminds me a lot of Virginia; both are teams coming off of ungodly seasons, but are more than meets the eye when it comes to facing the Demon Deacons.

Yeah, the Cardinal aren't good, but they—just like the Cavaliers—proved on multiple occasions that they know how to play ball (see: Arizona, at Colorado, Washington). Combine that with them being unfamiliar opposition and having home field advantage, and you got quite a challenge for a squad of Wake’s most recent quality. With all of that in mind, this will be wild card No. 2.

After another bye week, the Deacs have a November stretch that feels all too familiar

Every year, once the college football season drifts into November, Wake fans nationwide begin to sweat from head to toe, as the Demon Deacons enduring a brutal send-off has become an unofficial tradition. This year will be no exception, as the Deacs have a November slate that consists of the following showdowns: Cal, at UNC, at Miami, and Duke.

It’s good that the Golden Bears are the first of this bunch, as we just got done breaking down the criteria that made Stanford a coin-flip. Simply put, Cal is virtually no different; it’s a new opponent, superior to Stanford yet still competitively lame, and has to go on the road—straightforward stuff by now.

Keeping with that theme, some other easy games to break down are the ones in Chapel Hill and Miami Gardens, as consecutive away games against visibly stronger foes paint a twice-coated picture of defeat by rather self-explanatory means.

That just leaves rivalry week, and it arrives with what will always be a big one for fans: A date with the Duke Blue Devils in Winston-Salem. When remembering that the Devils have won their last two meetings with Wake, that may come off as intimidating, and it surely is to at least some degree. But let’s not throw in the towel just yet.

For starters, Duke’s wins were decided by a whopping total of six points, so neither of them highlighted any convincing superiority over the Deacs. But also, the heart and soul of Duke’s recent relevance, head coach Mike Elko and quarterback Riley Leonard, have both moved on to greener pastures.

In short, the optics of a team in Duke’s current condition facing an improving Wake Forest at Allegacy Stadium are so bad that I’m not saying the Demon Deacons can win, I’m saying they will.

So, in conclusion: The offensively bettering Deacs need to win six games, and today we’ve learned that they, at the absolute least, should win four. Beyond that, they have three that are less predictable but could very well go their way. Finally, of those three, Wake hosts two of them, and the one it doesn’t was arguably the worst of the trio in 2023.

Earning a bowl berth (that could involve finishing with a positive record) off of such circumstances isn’t a guarantee, but if Wake football gives the slightest hoot about being taken seriously again, it better become one, because that is about as accommodating as their upcoming lineup could ever be.

Way-too-early Top 25 projections for 2024. Way-too-early Top 25 projections for 2024. dark. Next