Remember Wake Forest? That shrewd, effective team that maximized its opportunities and was completely lethal in close games?
A lot of Demon Deacons fans probably wonder, too.
When Wake lost 28-27 on Saturday to Navy, it was the Deacons' ninth straight loss by four points or less. All nine of those setbacks came since mid-November 2008. Wake is 9-4 in games decided by five points or more in that stretch.
That's crazy enough. But considering Wake was 17-8 under Jim Grobe in four-point (or less) games before this stretch, it's downright befuddling.
Take a look:
ACC SCHOOLS IN FOUR- AND SEVEN-POINT GAMES, 2001-Nov. 1, 2008
ACC SCHOOLS IN FOUR- AND SEVEN-POINT GAMES, Nov. 6, 2008-Present
So, to attempt to answer the original question, what's wrong with Wake?
Grobe pointed to two factors on today's ACC teleconference --- an inability to make plays in the fourth quarter and facing good teams. There's no arguing the first part, and really not the second, either. Of the seven close losses coming into this year, six were against eventual bowl teams (a setback against Baylor in 2009 was the exception). Georgia Tech and Navy seem to be bowl-bound as well this season.
As for anything deeper? Maybe it's just an extreme regression to the mean. Wake (with the help of quarterback Riley Skinner, kicker Sam Swank and a defense that was stout in timely ways) was 6-2 in games decided by four or less in 2006, 2007 and the first two-thirds of 2008.
Perhaps, though, there is no good thorough and exhaustive answer. Wake, though, would probably like to have one. Either that, or a four-leaf clover or a horseshoe to get back to grinding out close wins like they have for much of Grobe's tenure.
(EDIT: Just want to clarify this in an argument in the micro --- i.e. Why can't Wake Forest win close games in the last two years --- and not an argument in the macro wondering why the Demon Deacons could well be on their way to a second straight losing season.
If there is a flaw in any of these numbers, it's that opponents' record isn't included. So beating an overmatched team in a tight game --- like Maryland's 14-7 defeat of Delaware in 2008 --- is included just the same as squeaking out an upset of a top-five team.)