Five fearless predictions for Friday’s Belk Bowl, Texas A&M vs. Wake Forest, at Bank of America Stadium:
1. Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk goes off
This isn’t the Texas A&M offense that fans nationwide came to love during Johnny Manziel’s time in College Station but it’s still a heck of a scoring unit, and the most dangerous weapon remains wide receiver Christian Kirk. Kirk may only be 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, but his speed makes him a threat to score almost any time he touches the ball, both on offense and on returns. Considering Wake Forest’s defense allowed more than 26 points per game, Kirk should be in store for a big day in what could prove to be his last college game. Look for him to tack on at least 75 yards and a touchdown onto the 730 yards and seven scores he already has this season.
2. John Wolford scores a passing and rushing TD
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For all the talented quarterbacks in the ACC – Kelly Bryant, Lamar Jackson and Ryan Finley, to name a few – it says something that Wake Forest QB John Wolford was named to the conference’s second team. He’s accounted for over 3,400 yards of offense and 35 touchdowns for the Deacons, and this team goes where he leads them. Wolford is the leading man for a Wake Forest offense that averages more than 30 points per game, and he should continue that success against the Aggies. Wolford will have at least one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown, but if the Deacs are really going to win this game, he’ll almost certainly need more than that.
3. Aggies have at least three sacks
Texas A&M’s defense hasn’t been as vaunted this season as in years past, but it’s still capable of doing one thing almost better than any other team in the country: sacking the quarterback. When I asked A&M defensive lineman Landis Durham, who leads the team with 8.5 sacks in 2017, if he thought he and his teammates would have success rushing Wolford, he couldn’t help but grin. The Aggies average more than three quarterback takedowns a game and with a noticeable size advantage against a smaller Wake Forest offensive line, they’ll have at least three sacks Friday ... if not more.
4. Cam Serigne gets the ACC record
While Wolford is sort of the face of Wake Forest’s football revival, tight end Cam Serigne has been the man doing the dirty work on the field. In his time in Winston-Salem, he’s set records for the most career receptions and the most yards at his position in conference history. He’s also tied the career TD record for ACC tight ends with 20; against Texas A&M, he’ll take sole possession of that one, too. Wolford said on Thursday that Serigne’s been in his ear about the record, and for good reason – for the Deacons to win, they’ll need their best weapon to have one of his best games.
5. It’s a shootout in Charlotte
Lots of offensive talk up to now and ... well, that’s a sign of things to come. Neither defense has a reputation for shutting down opponents and both offenses average more than 30 points per game. Not that I’m a gambling man, but the total (over 64.5) feels not just within reach, but within expectation. Both teams will put points on the board and if this truly does turn into a shootout, the edge goes to the team with the best odds of stopping the quarterback. Texas A&M will have a timely stop late, likely by sacking Wolford, that swings this high-scoring affair in the Aggies’ favor.
Prediction: Texas A&M 34, Wake Forest 30
Texas A&M vs. Wake Forest
Bank of America Stadium
Friday, 1 p.m.