Meineke Car Care Bowl

Meineke Car Care Bowl

2007 Meineke Car Care Bowl Preview
by Josh Nagel

Connecticut (9-3) vs. Wake Forest (8-4)

Conference Matchup: Big East vs. ACC
Date: Dec. 29
Location: Charlotte, N.C.
Spread: Wake Forest -3.5

This game might as well be called the Coaching Speculation Bowl, as much of the commentary is sure to focus on where each coach might be - or by kickoff already is - headed. UConn's Randy Edsall and Jim Grobe earned their distinction as "sexy speculative pick for big-time openings" after each coach took another step in rebuilding once-moribund programs with another strong season. After slipping to 4-8 last year, the Huskies bounced back to finish 9-3 and win a share of the Big East title, despite an embarrassing 66-21 loss on national television to West Virginia to end the season. Meanwhile, the Deamon Deacons proved that their BCS appearance last year was no fluke, shaking off an 0-2 start to finish a respectable 8-4 with wins over Florida State and Maryland. Edsall reportedly was Georgia Tech's first choice but he declined. The Yellow Jackets eventually hired Navy's Paul Johnson. Grobe evidently was the top choice of Arkansas, but he pulled out of the mix and the Razorbacks turned to Bobby Petrino. However, unlike Edsall, Grobe has stated publicly that he is willing to entertain other offers - and Edsall's silence on the topic is never a guarantee he will stay with the Huskies -- so it remains to be seen where both of these coaches are employed come the second week of January.

Connecticut can cover if: The Huskies were the quiet surprise of the Big East, starting their season with five-straight wins over weak competition before a big stretch run that included consecutive wins over projected conference frontrunners Louisville, South Florida and Rutgers. Their lack of competitiveness against West Virginia was a shame, because the viewing public did not get to see the positive side of what is a generally solid team. Both teams show a balanced offense, though the numbers suggest UConn might be somewhat stronger in the passing game. Quarterback Tyler Lorenzen is solid and poised, throwing for 2,269 yards and 13 touchdowns against just five interceptions. He also has 304 yards rushing and a TD. Wake Forest leads the nation with six interceptions returned for scores, so Lorenzen will have to take care of the ball. But the teams mirror each other in a lot ways; they each average 28 points per game and have the proverbial bend-but-don't break defenses that yield about 350 yards per game but are adept at avoiding giving up big plays. The Huskies should be all right if they can protect the ball and overcome the disadvantage of playing essentially a road game in this bowl. Of course, they will have to overcome any potential distraction if Edsall's future is still a hot topic, or if he has bolted for another job already by kickoff.

Wake Forest can cover if: The Deacons have had a penchant for being erratic this season; their early home loss to Nebraska looks even worse considering how pitiful the Bill Callahan-led Huskers ended up, and they failed to give much of an effort in a 44-10 loss to Clemson late in the season. Wake Forest plays a physical brand of football and features a balanced offense led by sophomore quarterback Riley Skinner, whose 71.9 percent completion rate was second only to Texas Tech's Graham Harrell. Skinner threw for 1,936 yards and 11 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. Skinner has been helped by the emergence of a quality rushing attack led by freshman Josh Adams, who had 887 yards and 10 touchdowns. Micah Andrews and Kenneth Moore combined for 674 rushing yards and five touchdowns. On defense, cornerback Alphonso Smith is tied for the nation lead with eight interceptions, three of which he returned for scores. If the Deacons play to their potential, they appear to be a slightly more balanced and talented team than Connecticut.

General Notes: The teams played each other last year, with Wake Forest winning 24-13. Wake Forest is 6-1 ATS in its last seven games and 5-1 ATS against teams with winning records. The Huskies are 6-1 ATS in their last seven following a loss.

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Meineke Car Care Bowl

Connecticut Huskies (9-3) v. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (8-4)

Hard to believe the smallest school in the FBS has put together back-to-back winning records of 11-3 and (to this point) 8-4. Thanks to the outstanding coaching of Jim Grobe, Wake Forest is once again going bowling and looking to finish a relatively satisfying year despite not getting back to the ACC Championship Game and squandering a chance at a birth in a BCS game as the conference representative against the Virginia Cavaliers in mid-November. In the meantime, the Connecticut Huskies continued their mind-boggling progression toward achieving collegiate football excellence, finishing 9-3 in a regular season which saw a huge win posted against a top-ranked University of South Florida Bulls squad then followed up with an impressive victory over Big East-favorite, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. A loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers prevented the Huskies from obtaining their first conference title and an automatic bid to a BCS bowl game, but leaves them as the runner-up to the conference title and in position to achieve their first double-digit winning season since joining Division IA football six years ago.

Sizing Up Connecticut: This Big East team is probably one of the best teams that no one knows anything about. In a vein similar to Jim Leavitt and the University of South Florida, UConn football has seen a meteoric rise to prominence, the Huskies finishing 2007 with its best season since moving up to Division IA status six years ago and even at one point having its name included in the hunt for a BCS birth out of the Big East before being beaten soundly by West Virginia in their regular season-finale in late November.  The Huskies are a defensive powerhouse, finishing second in turnover margin in the conference and hosting the second best scoring defense in the Big East. Offensively, Connecticut features a balanced attack that features Tyler Lorenzen at quarterback (2269 yards passing, 13 touchdowns, and five interceptions) and a powerful duo at tailback with sophomores Andre Dixon and Donald Brown II (1558 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns combined between the two).This is a team that can definitely play with the best, as was shown in three consecutive wins over Louisville, South Florida and Rutgers. UConn, with outstanding head coach Randy Edsall (a strong candidate for the Georgia Tech coaching position, but one which he ultimately turned down to remain with the Huskies), should be well prepared to take up arms against Jim Grobe’s Demon Deacons, though Dixon and Brown could find it frustrating to move the ball against Wake Forest’s front-seven.

Sizing Up Wake Forest: Many will look at 2007 and say that it was a disappointing year for Jim Grobe and the Demon Deacons. After going 11-3, grabbing the ACC title, and playing in the Orange Bowl in 2006, Wake Forest had a “modest” year at best as a follow up this season, finishing 8-4 and losing big games against Boston College and the Nebraska Cornhuskers to open the season. Still, there were plenty of positives to accentuate the year, especially with quarterback Riley Skinner continuing his progression as a quarterback and true freshman Josh Adams showing signs of being on the verge of a major breakout at the tailback position (887 yards and 10 touchdowns). Being a team that likes to spread the ball around, Adams was just one of several players for Wake Forest that saw significant work out of the backfield in 2007, including oft-injured, but still dynamic senior Micah Andrews and amazing senior wideout Kenneth Moore, who, as the team’s leading receiver (899 yards and five touchdowns), also managed 41 rushes for 318 yards and three additional scores. John Tereshinski also offered up a solid target in the middle of the field and had a fantastic showing against Maryland in which he caught five balls for 55 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, Wake Forest ranked in the bottom half of the ACC throughout the year, but was proactive against the run, keeping opposing rushers to just over 100 yards-per-outing; the Demon Deacons are much weaker against the pass, but still play with aggression, finishing third in the conference for takeaways via interception (behind Boston College and Virginia Tech) with 18.

Who Should Shine:  UConn will get things done as a team unit, but its defense in particular should hold up strong against the a Wake Forest team that, at times, struggled to move the ball against strong defensive lines. Kenneth Moore will get plenty of opportunities to make things happen and should be a main focus for those watching the game. Also check out the next generation of tailback in Josh Adams, a lighting-quick runner who is dangerous both running and receiving. Kicker Sam Swank is one of the best at his position and is deadly from just about anywhere on the field, hitting 17 of 20 on the year; he could be a major factor for the Demon Deacons should the game remain close heading into the fourth quarter.

The Pick:  This comes down to a defense for UConn that should play lights every down versus an offense in Wake Forest that can move the ball at will no matter who it decides to get the ball to. Key to this one with be Riley Skinner – will the defensive pressure on the part of UConn be too much to handle? Aside from Florida State and Virginia, Wake Forest hasn’t seen any team with this much power and speed on the defensive side of the ball. Skinner will have to be deadly accurate with his throws and not get rattled like he did against Clemson. On the other side of the ball, look for Lorenzen to do just enough to keep his team close, especially if Wake Forest finds success in getting the ball into the endzone. Donald Brown should be at full strength for this one and considering his 129 yard performance against West Virginia, ought not to have any trouble grabbing yards by the handful against Wake Forest. This will be a low scoring game overall and one rather reminiscent of the magical upset of USF at the end of November. UConn wins thanks to defense, 21-17.

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Meineke Car Care Bowl
By Brian Edwards

Meineke Car Care Bowl

Wake Forest (8-4 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. Connecticut (9-3 SU, 7-3 ATS)

How they got there:

Wake Forest is going bowling again thanks to eight wins in its last 10 games. The Demon Deacons proved that 2006, when they won the ACC and went to the Orange Bowl, was no fluke. Even better, head coach Jim Grobe once again spent early December spurning job offers from other schools.

UConn was one of the nation’s biggest surprises, garnering a share of the Big East title. The Huskies won outright as underdogs three times. They started 5-0 before dropping a 17-16 heartbreaker at Virginia.

Nevertheless, Randy Edsall’s team bounced back with three straight home wins over Big East foes Louisville, South Florida and Rutgers. UConn lost two of its last three games, including double-digit defeats at Cincy and West Virginia, but that makes the Huskies all the more motivated to finish strong and pick up a 10th victory in this spot.

On another note, Edsall was a hot name just like Grobe for schools with job openings. After an initial discussion with Georgia Tech about its opening, Edsall elected to stay in Storrs.

What to expect:

Wake Forest is led by sophomore quarterback Riley Skinner, who struggled early in the season after separating his shoulder in a season-opening loss at Boston College. But after missing a narrow home loss to Nebraska, Skinner led the Demon Deacons to six straight wins before – just like UConn – losing a gut-wrenching 17-16 decision at Virginia.

Skinner is completing 71.9 percent of his passes with most of those throws going to dynamic senior wide receiver Kenneth Moore, who had 87 catches for 899 yards and five TDs this season. Skinner doesn’t take too many chances down the field, throwing high-percentage passes that allow the wideouts to gain yardage after the catch.

Wake usually operates out of the shotgun, even when it runs the ball. The combination of Josh Adams and Micah Andrews carry the rushing load. The ‘over’ is on a 7-2 run for Wake Forest thanks to an offense that’s scored 31 points or more in four of its last six games.

UConn QB Tyler Lorenzen has been steady in his first year after arriving from the junior-college ranks. Lorenzen doesn’t make mistakes, producing a 13/5 touchdown-interception ratio. The Huskies feature a RB combo that consists of Donald Brown and Andre Dixon.

This game in Charlotte is just 70 miles from Wake’s campus. The Deacs should have somewhat of a home-crowd advantage, as they had sold more than 18,000 tickets at last count. Meanwhile, the Huskies are expected to bring about 10,000 fans.

Players to Watch:

The unsung hero on Wake’s offense is All-ACC center Steve Justice, who is one of the best in the nation. Adams, a redshirt frosh, ran for 887 yards and 10 TDs en route to earning ACC Freshman of the Year honors. He also was second on the team with 31 receptions.

Wake’s defense is led by CB Alphonso Smith and LB Aaron Curry. Smith was tied for the nation’s lead in interceptions with eight. Curry was a second-team All-ACC selection.

UConn senior LB Danny Lansanah is an excellent run-stuffer who flies all over the field. He is the heart and soul of the Huskies’ defense. Dixon is averaging 5.1 yards per carry, combining with Brown to find paydirt 11 times.

Bowl Records:

This is the first time in school history that Wake Forest is going bowling in consecutive seasons. The Demon Deacons lost 24-13 to Louisville as 10-point underdogs at last year’s Orange Bowl. The only other postseason appearance during Jim Grobe’s tenure came in 2002, when Wake stroked Oregon 38-17 in the Seattle Bowl as a seven-point ‘dog.

UConn is bowling for the first time since 2004. The Huskies destroyed Toledo 39-10 that year, cashing tickets easily as three-point underdogs at the Motor City Bowl.

Bowl History:

This is the sixth year that Charlotte has played host to the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Inside the Line: Wake Forest -2½, 48

Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened Wake as a 5 ½-point favorite with a total of 50 back on Dec. 3. However, the early action came in on UConn, forcing bookmakers to adjust the number to 3½ right away. By Dec. 7, most spots were at three and now the majority are at 2½.

Expert Opinion: - Jorge Gonzalez

“In the past, Wake has been excellent as an underdog and terrible as a favorite,” Gonzalez told VI. “That started to change a little bit this year, though. Jim Grobe and Co. failed to cash as a ‘dog at BC and at Clemson, but they were solid as ‘chalk’ against the lesser ACC teams."

“When you look at UConn, you are talking about one of the best upstart programs to emerge in the last few years. The Huskies are fired up to go bowling and that’ll make for an excellent matchup," Gonzalez added.

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UConn hopes to become regular bowl material
ASSOCIATED PRESS

CHARLOTTE, N.C.  -- Randy Edsall stood at midfield Tuesday, wheeling back and forth so the Connecticut coach could watch the offense and defense at the same time.

The Huskies were practicing on Christmas in preparation for their second bowl appearance in four years, and it was evident from Edsall's focus and short whistle blasts that he remains motivated by the doubters who said postseason football would never happen at his school.

Six years after UConn (9-3) moved to the highest level of college football, the school is enjoying its best season, which will end Saturday against Wake Forest (8-4) in the Meineke Bowl.

''It's very satisfying, because there were a lot of people that never thought that UConn could compete at this level in terms of football,'' Edsall said. ''To do what we've done in such a short period of time, it's very gratifying. To be co-Big East champs and going to a second bowl in six years of being in existence, to a lot of people, that's never happened.''

Edsall was hired in 1999 as UConn prepared to move from what was then Division I-AA to the big time. The move was complete in 2002. The Huskies moved into a new stadium a season later and beat Toledo in the Motor City Bowl in 2004, the same year they joined the Big East.

Then came consecutive losing seasons, including an ugly 4-8 mark last year. The doubters spoke up again: UConn couldn't consistently compete in a Bowl Championship Series conference.

The bandwagon of naysayers filled up this summer when the Huskies were picked to finish seventh in the eight-team Big East.

''I knew we'd be better than that. I knew we'd be better than a year ago,'' Edsall said. ''We had two tough years in terms of a lot of injuries. There was some instability at some positions.''

Edsall solved his quarterback problem with Iowa State transfer Tyler Lorenzen. Behind his 13 touchdown passes, the running back tandem of Andre Dixon and Donald Brown and energetic middle linebacker Danny Lansanah, UConn started 5-0.

After a 17-16 loss to Virginia, the Huskies beat Louisville, South Florida and Rutgers in consecutive weeks to earn their first national ranking. UConn was in the running for a BCS bowl berth until blowout losses to Cincinnati and West Virginia in the final three weeks.

Edsall was courted briefly by Georgia Tech a month ago before announcing he'd stay at UConn. Edsall explained the decision by saying he had more work to do.

''You have to give a lot of respect for what coach Edsall has done for this university in a short amount of time,'' said Lorenzen, a junior. ''He expects a lot out of us. He pushes us really hard. But at the same time, he makes it fun.''

The fun was on display Tuesday. Players yelled and ran to midfield when Edsall ended practice and laughed during Edsall's address to the team.

The coach has planned a mixture of fun and work during the bowl week, including a visit Thursday to nearby Lowe's Motor Speedway, where players will be able to ride around in a stock car.

''He creates that family atmosphere where we really bond together,'' Lorenzen said. ''It's Christmas Day today, but that's all right. We're with our extended family. That's something special, and you don't find that everywhere.''

The key for Edsall is to make a bowl game a regular occurrence. It's been Edsall's theme since the Huskies began bowl practices earlier this month: prove the doubters wrong.

''The kids come to school to get their education, but to participate in these games, it's something you want them to experience year in and year out,'' Edsall said. ''This is the reward. You want to make this an annual appearance"

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UCONN vs. WAKE FOREST (Meineke Car Care)...Wake 5-1-1 vs. line last 7 TY, also much better as chalk in ‘07 (5-2) than previous years (4-16-2 previous 5). Wake 20-10-1 vs. line last 31 on board. UConn 8-3 vs. number this season and 4-2 as dog. Tech edge-slight to Wake, based on team trends.

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Meineke Car Care Bowl: UConn Huskies vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

- When you think UConn and Wake Forest, you think basketball Final Four, not bowl game. But the Connecticut Huskies and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons will both be gunning for a victory on December 29 when they meet at Bank of America Stadium in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Oddsmakers currently have the Demon Deacons listed as 3-point favorites versus the Huskies, while the game's total has not yet been posted.

Connecticut was destroyed 66-21 by the West Virginia Mountaineers last time out, as 20-point underdogs. The combined 87 points sailed OVER the posted total of 51.

Donald Brown II had 129 yards rushing with one TD in a losing effort for the Huskies.

Wake Forest intercepted two passes and forced five turnovers last time out as they defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 31-17. Wake Forest covered the slight 1-point spread, while the game's 48 points made it OVER the posted total of 46.

Josh Adams led the way with 24 carries for 102 yards and two touchdowns in the win.

Team records:
Connecticut: 9-3 SU, 8-3 ATS
Wake Forest: 8-4 SU, 8-4 ATS

Connecticut most recently:
When playing in December are 1-3
When playing on grass are 9-1
After being outgained are 6-4
When playing outside the conference are 7-3

Wake Forest most recently:
When playing in December are 2-0-1
When playing on grass are 7-3
After being outgained are 8-2
When playing outside the conference are 8-2

A few trends to consider:
Connecticut is 7-2 ATS in its last 9 games
Connecticut is 9-3 SU in its last 12 games
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Connecticut's last 7 games
Wake Forest is 6-1 ATS in its last 7 games
Wake Forest is 8-2 SU in its last 10 games
The total has gone OVER in 7 of Wake Forest's last 9 games

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Game Preview for Connecticut vs Wake Forest

GAME NOTES: Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte is the site of this year's Meineke Car Care Bowl which features the Connecticut Huskies of the Big East and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons of the ACC. With a soft non-conference slate and a solid showing in league play, the Huskies put together one of the finest seasons in school history. UConn not only tied a school record with nine wins during the regular season, but it also earned a share of its first-ever Big East Conference title. The team, however, had a chance to win the outright league championship, but it was punished by West Virginia (66-21), which then lost in its regular-season finale to help UConn earn a share of the title. Still, the successful campaign helped the Huskies land their second-ever bowl invite and their first since defeating Toledo (39-10) in the 2004 Motor City Bowl. As for Wake Forest, it rebounded from an 0-2 start by winning eight of its last 10 games to earn its spot in back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history. The Demon Deacons, who are 4-3 all-time in bowl games, won the ACC title last season and earned a spot in the FedEx Orange Bowl where they were downed by Louisville (24-13). Wake and UConn have split two prior meetings on the gridiron, with the Huskies posting a 51-17 victory in 2003 and the Deacs capturing a 24-13 triumph in 2006.

The UConn offense is nothing to brag about and the unit has only been able to produce 358.3 total ypg this season. The team is gaining a respectable 165.2 ypg on the ground, but it is throwing for a modest 193.1 ypg. The biggest strength of the unit is its ability to avoid mistakes, committing just 14 turnovers to this point. Quarterback Tyler Lorenzen isn't a big-time playmaker by any stretch of the imagination, but he has nice good job in managing the offense and protecting the football. For the season, has thrown for 2,269 yards, with 13 touchdowns against only five interceptions. He can also get outside of the pocket and make things happen with his legs, rushing for 304 yards and a score. Terence Jeffers and D.J. Hernandez are his primary targets and they have combined for 72 catches, 975 yards and seven scores. In the backfield, the team relies on the tandem of Andre Dixon and Donald Brown to carry the load. Dixon heads the club with 809 yards, while Brown is next in line with 749 yards, to go along with a team-high eight touchdowns. Dixon can also been a factor in the passing game, catching 24 balls for 280 yards and a score.

On defense is where UConn has been at its best this season, although the unit was exploited in the blowout loss to West Virginia in the regular-season finale. Still, for the season the Huskies have done a decent job in holding opponents to just 18.6 ppg and 346.3 total ypg. The team's strength is against the pass as it is limiting foes to just 187.8 ypg, while picking off 22 throws. Getting to opposing quarterbacks hasn't been a problem for the Huskies, who have notched 28 sacks to date. Danny Lansanah has had a big season for UConn and he leads the team in tackles (116) to go along with 13.5 TFLs and four interceptions. Julius Williams is the team's top pass rusher with 8.5 sacks, and Robert Vaughn is the squad's most dangerous player in the secondary with six picks on his resume'.

Much like UConn, the Wake Forest offense isn't going to strike fear into the hearts of its enemies, as the Demon Deacons are gaining a mere 334.4 total ypg. The team is averaging a solid 28.2 ppg courtesy of several touchdowns being scored by the special teams and on defense. Overall, the Deacs are producing a decent 143.2 ypg on the ground, while passing for 191.2 ypg. Redshirt freshman Josh Adams has played a big role on offense for Wake, and the talented back leads the team with 887 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. He also ranks second on the team with 31 catches. Quarterback Riley Skinner has been in charge of getting the ball to Adams, and he has completed a highly efficient 71.9 percent of his throws for 193.6 ypg. Skinner, however, has been prone to make some mistakes, throwing more interceptions (12) than touchdowns (11). Kenneth Moore has clearly been Skinner's primary target, as he leads the team in catches (87), receiving yards (899) and touchdowns (five). Moore is such and important part of this offense that he has even carried the ball 41 times, gaining 318 yards and logging three additional scores.

The Deacs have thrived on making big plays on defense and they have forced an impressive 34 turnovers, with 18 coming via interceptions. Of those picks, Wake has returned six for touchdowns to lead the nation. Overall, the Demon Deacons have done a solid job in holding their opponents to only 23.2 ppg and 351.0 total ypg. The defense has been at its best against the run, limiting foes to a mere 108.9 ypg on the ground. Chip Vaughn leads Wake with 100 stops and he has also broken up 14 passes. Alphonso Smith is the one guy opposing quarterbacks need to keep an eye on, as he is tied for the national lead with eight interceptions, three of which he returned for scores. Aaron Curry is another talented player on the WF defense, and he ranks second in tackles (96) and picks (four), and like Smith, he has returned three for scores this season.

Both teams are pretty evenly matched and that should make for a hard-fought and entertaining affair. Wake Forest has a few more playmakers who should make the difference.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wake Forest 27, Connecticut 17

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Wake Forest gets overlooked by bettors
TIM ROBERTS

When we last saw the Connecticut Huskies on the football field, they conceded 517 rushing yards in a 45-point loss in their season finale against West Virginia.

When the Huskies last faced the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, their opponent in this year's Meineke Car Care Bowl, they lost 24-13 as 6 ½-point home favorites over their ACC foes. That was just last year.

Yet if either team has captured the favor of early bettors heading into Saturday's opening bowl game, it's UConn. Wake Forest opened as a 3-point favorite for the annual postseason game in Charlotte, N.C., but the spread had fallen to 1 ½ points by Thursday.

ACC schools have excelled in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, going 4-1 straight-up (SU) and 3-2 against the spread (ATS) in the game's history (including its early incarnation as the Continental Tire Bowl). The ACC's record improves to 3-1 SU and ATS when its opponent hailed from the Big East conference.

Saturday afternoon should also resemble a home game for the Demon Deacons, a North Carolina-based team. Through Thursday, they'd sold three times as many tickets for the game as the Huskies.

Most importantly from a betting point of view, the move makes Wake Forest, one of the nation's top bets in recent history, a more attractive wager. Wake is 16-4 ATS as an underdog or when favored by less than a touchdown since 2006. The Deacs wrapped up the regular season on a 6-1 ATS run and won four of their last six games by at least two touchdowns.

When you listen to head coach Jim Grobe talk about his team and you understand why Wake has become a winner despite traditional inability to recruit the region’s most highly-touted prep players.

“The old formula holds true," Grobe told North Carolina's WRAL.com. "You play great defense, you play great special teams, and you don’t beat yourself on offense, and you’ve got a chance to win.

“We won an ACC championship (in 2006) playing good defense and having good special teams, and taking care of the football on offense... We’ve really done that again this year. Our offense has not been very explosive. In fact, we call offensive plays with the defense in mind. We don’t want to put our defense in bad situations.”

It's an unsexy approach to football that keeps individual numbers on the unremarkable side. That, in turn, keeps public bettors away, something the wise guys have been happy to exploit as long as Wake meets its own standards on the field.

And with respect to Grobe, the coach underestimates (perhaps intentionally) his own offense.

The Demon Deacons have recently recaptured last year's championship form, averaging 37.5 points in their four convincing wins in the second half of the season. Quarterback Riley Skinner, finally healthy, relived 2006 in the second half of the current season. Skinner completed 73.0 percent of his passes and threw only three interceptions in Wake’s final six games, guiding the Deacons’ misdirection offense.

It says a lot about Wake Forest that its biggest offensive star is its center, Steve Justice. A first-team All-American, Justice commences every play in a complicated offense that lines up in a shotgun formation more than half the time. He protects Skinner and opens holes for ACC rookie of the year Josh Adams with equal aplomb, but centers don’t compile stats, so casual fans underestimate Justice’s value.

The kicker is the Demon Deacons’ placekicking edge. UConn’s Tony Ciaravino hit a high percentage of his field goal attempts this season, remedying what had been an annual concern in Storrs. But accuracy, not distance, is Ciaravino’s forte. Not so with Wake’s Sam Swank, who makes 50-yard field goals look routine.

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MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL (at Charlotte, N.C.)

UConn (9-3, 8-3 ATS) vs. Wake Forest (8-4, 7-5 ATS)

A year after crashing the BCS party and playing in the Orange Bowl, Wake Forest has been relegated to the Meineke Bowl up the road from campus in Charlotte, where the Demon Deacons will battle a UConn squad making just its second ever postseason appearance.

Wake Forest, which went 11-3 last year and captured the ACC title, started out 2007 with consecutive losses to Boston College (38-28) and Nebraska (20-17). From there, though, the Demon Deacons closed on an 8-2 SU run, going 6-1 ATS in the last seven, to qualify for back-to-back bowls for the first time in school history.

A year after going 4-8, the Huskies enjoyed a historic season. They matched a school record for regular-season victories, got ranked in the Top 25 for the first time ever and earned a share of the Big East title. On the downside, UConn stumbled down the stretch, going 1-2 SU and ATS, including an ugly 66-21 loss at West Virginia as a 21-point underdog in the regular-season finale.

Wake Forest will be looking to atone for last year’s 24-13 Orange Bowl loss to Louisville as a 10½-point underdog. The Deacons are 4-3 all-time in bowl contests (3-3 ATS), including 1-1 SU and ATS in coach Al Grobe’s tenure.

Connecticut’s only previous bowl appearance was the 2004 Motor City Bowl in Detroit, where the Huskies defeated Toledo 39-10 as a 3½-point underdog.

These teams met last September in Connecticut, and the Demon Deacons scored a 24-13 upset win as a 6½-point underdog.

Wake Forest is 5-1 ATS in their last six when favored by a touchdown or less.

The Huskies are 27-10-1 ATS in their last 38 non-conference games, and they went 4-2 ATS as an underdog this year. But going back to 2004, they’re just 4-11 ATS as a road pup.

The favorite is 3-1 ATS in the past four Meineke Bowls.

Both teams field similar offenses – the Demon Deacons average 28.2 points and 334.5 yards per game, while UConn puts up 27.8 points and 358.3 yards per contest. Defensively, the Huskies allow just 18.6 points and 346.3 total yards, but 158.5 rushing ypg, while Wake Forest gives up 23.2 points and 351 total yards, but only 109 rushing ypg.

The over is 7-2 in Wake’s last nine overall (3-0 last three). However, the under is 5-2 in UConn’s last seven overall, 11-4 in its last 15 non-conference contests and 14-4-1 in Wake’s last 19 non-league games.

ATS ADVANTAGE: WAKE FOREST

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