Dec. 3, 2006
MIAMI (AP) - Picked to finish last in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Wake Forest pulled off a championship season that stunned many onlookers.
The Demon Deacons' reward for their record-setting year? A season-ending matchup with one of the nation's highest-powered offenses.
No. 5 Louisville (11-1), which won the Big East title and took a Bowl Championship Series berth for the first time, was picked Sunday to face No. 15 Wake Forest (11-2) at the Orange Bowl on Jan. 2 in Miami.
It's the first Orange Bowl appearance for both schools, the first time either has been part of a BCS game, and the first meeting between the programs.
"I think it's huge for our program to be playing in the Orange Bowl and with the history that it has," Wake Forest linebacker Jon Abbate said Saturday after the Demon Deacons clinched their berth by beating Georgia Tech in the ACC title game. "It doesn't get bigger than that. I think it's a great opportunity for us to prove one more time, you know, what this team is all about."
Louisville earned its BCS berth late Saturday night, with much help from West Virginia - which beat Rutgers 41-39 in triple overtime to deny the Scarlet Knights what would have been an almost-certain trip to the Orange Bowl.
This is the ninth straight bowl trip for Louisville - while Wake Forest has been to only six other postseason games, most recently beating Oregon 38-17 in the 2002 Seattle Bowl. The Cardinals are 5-7-1 all-time in bowl games; the Demon Deacons 4-2, including three straight wins.
It appears to be a matchup of a strong offense against a strong defense.
The Cardinals are averaging nearly 39 points and 477 yards per game - stats that both rank among the top three out of 119 Division I-A teams. Louisville's only loss of the season was to Rutgers, a game where the Cardinals blew an 18-point lead and, with it, perhaps a chance to play No. 1 Ohio State for the national championship.
Meanwhile, Wake Forest held nine opponents to 17 points or less, winning each of those games, and kept Georgia Tech to a season-low six points in winning the ACC championship.
Already, this is the winningest season in Wake Forest history, which looks even more impressive when considering that the Demon Deacons lost starting quarterback Ben Mauk and running back Micah Andrews to injuries early in the year.
The teams have one common opponent this season. Both beat Syracuse, with Louisville winning 28-13 at the Carrier Dome and Wake Forest opening its year with a 20-10 home win over the Orange.