100% Cotten: Falling Forward

Jan. 29, 2006

With the release of the Wake Forest football schedule for Fall 2006, like many of you, I couldn't help but let my mind drift forward, out of the middle of a tough stretch of basketball, to the colors of autumn and the sixth season of Demon Deacon football under Coach Jim Grobe. I spoke with him after the induction of Michael McCrary and Stephanie Neill-Harner into the Wake Forest University Sports Hall of Fame on the eve of the Virginia Tech basketball game, and he seemed generally pleased with how the schedule had shaken out. I think his good mood, though, was perhaps as much a product of the recruiting season winding down as anything else, but his spirits were high nonetheless. I couldn't help but feel optimistic about the season to come.

Back to the schedule. I really like the feel of the 2006 schedule. It has a sort of rhythm to it as it alternates from sets of two home games to sets of two road games before finishing the last month bouncing from home to away every other week. And there's an open date after game seven with N.C. State which will help the Deacs rest, heal and get psyched for the renewal of the Carolina rivalry in Chapel Hill - on my birthday. I think I already know the one thing I'd like as a gift.

The Demon Deacons will have a chance to use Groves Stadium and a probable new Field Turf playing surface to get off to a positive start. Back to back home games against Syracuse and Duke are first up for the Deacons who will be out to shake back to back defeats against Georgia Tech and Miami to close out 2005. Then, road trips to new destinations Oxford, Mississippi, and Storrs, Connecticut, will test the Deacons before they return home for another two-game homestand versus the Liberty Flames and Clemson Tigers. The next two games are back on the ACC road at State and Carolina which will sandwich the open date on October 21. Finally, November hits. And the preamble to basketball is a slate of games at home against Boston College, at Florida State, home with Virginia Tech and at Maryland on Thanksgiving weekend.

For the Deacon fan that must have everything, attending the games with Syracuse, Ole Miss and Liberty is a chance to be a part of history in the making. Wake Forest has never played any of the three teams. The game against UConn marks only the second time the Deacs and Huskies have met. And in addition, the Deacons have never ventured into the states of Mississippi or Connecticut to play any team.

The expansion of the ACC and the resulting scheduling quirks will mean that the Clemson Tigers get to make a return trip to Groves Stadium after losing to Wake there this past season. I'd be willing to bet that Tommy Bowden isn't smiling. The Deacs have beaten the Tigers the last two times the two have met in Winston-Salem, and the 2006 game will make the third time in four seasons that Clemson has had to travel to Winston-Salem. But that scenario is balanced out by the Deacs' return to Tallahassee to face Tommy's dad Bobby for the second year in a row and third season out of four. I guess it's only fair.

Is Virginia still a member of the ACC? The Cavaliers are nowhere to be found on the Wake Forest schedule again - for the third season in a row. Wake and UVA have not met since the Cavs took advantage of a late Deacon turnover and kicked a field goal in the waning moments to win 27-24 in Charlottesville.

It's great to get the Tar Heels back on the schedule. I think most Wake fans would agree that Carolina is the rivalry they most enjoy. And welcome back Virginia Tech. The Hokies return to Groves Stadium for the second time as an ACC member. Tech survived its first trip to Wake Forest 17-10 on the way to the ACC crown in 2004. The Vick-less Hokies come calling November 18.

And the season ends at Maryland in Game 12. The Deacs haven't won at Byrd Stadium since 1998. That's a long time ago, and November 25 is a long way off.

Football must wait. There's a basketball season to mend before then.

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