Tombstone Game: Clemson vs. Wake Forest prediction
|Friday, September 23, 2022, 7:00 AM- -|
It’s a big game in the conference and a big game within the division. It’s a game against a ranked team on the road. It’s a tombstone game. Enough said.
Clemson travels to North Carolina this weekend for a noon kickoff at Wake Forest in a key early-season showdown in the ACC Atlantic. The winner of this game has what is effectively a two-game lead over the loser inside the division. A loss doesn’t mean there is no chance, but it’s a long road back.
In other words, it’s time for the Tigers to play focused football for four quarters.
NO. 5/5 CLEMSON (3-0, 1-0 ACC) at NO. 21/16 WAKE FOREST (3-0, 0-0 ACC)
WHEN: SATURDAY, SEPT. 24, NOON ET
WHERE: TRUIST FIELD (31,500), WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.
TELEVISION: ABC (Sean McDonough, Todd Blackledge, Molly McGrath)
RADIO: Clemson Athletic Network (Don Munson, Tim Bourret, Reggie Merriweather)
RADIO: Westwood One Sports (J.P. Shadrick, Derek Rackley)
SATELLITE RADIO: Sirius or XM 81, Internet/App 81
CLEMSON/WAKE FOREST SERIES HISTORY
OVERALL: Clemson leads series, 69-17-1
HOME: Clemson leads series, 40-7
ROAD: Clemson leads series, 26-10-1
NEUTRAL: Clemson leads series, 3-0
LAST MEETING: Nov. 20, 2021 (48-27, W)
STREAK: Clemson, Won 13
*With Clemson earning its ninth consecutive victory last week and with Louisiana's 15-game winning streak concluding by virtue of a defeat at Rice, the Tigers enter this week sporting the nation's longest active winning streak. A win Saturday would push Clemson's streak to 10 games and would represent the Tigers' 11th double-digit winning streak in program history.
*Clemson is attempting to improve to 70-17-1 all-time against Wake Forest. Wake Forest would be the second opponent against which Clemson has won 70 games all-time, including its 72 all-time wins against South Carolina.
*Clemson is attempting to win its 14th consecutive game against Wake Forest, dating back to 2009. It would mark Clemson’s second 14-game winning streak in series history, trailing a 15-game streak from 1977-91. Clemson’s current 13-game winning streak against Wake Forest is the Tigers’ longest active winning streak against an ACC foe.
*Clemson is attempting to defeat an ACC Atlantic Division opponent for the 43rd time in its last 45 opportunities. Those figures include games against traditional Atlantic opponents in a divisionless season in 2020.
*Clemson is attempting to improve to 25-7 against AP Top 25 teams since 2015. Clemson's current 24 wins against AP Top 25 teams are tied with Georgia for the fourth-most in the country in that span.
*Clemson is attempting to add another tombstone to its graveyard outside the Poe Indoor Facility. The graveyard commemorates Clemson wins against ranked teams away from home. Clemson's most recent tombstone victory came in the 2020 ACC Championship Game with a resounding 34-10 win against No. 2 Notre Dame.
WHEN CLEMSON HAS THE BALL
This side of the ball is simple – run the ball. Then run the ball some more. And then, run the ball. Liberty ran for 177 yards against Wake Forest last week, and Clemson ran for 333 yards in a big win last season against the Deacs. Former offensive coordinator Tony Elliott featured a bunch of two-back sets and Wake Forest allowed over six yards per rush in that contest. Clemson found some success in running the football last week, gaining 280 yards on the ground against Louisiana Tech.
The passing offense has been getting better – quarterback DJ Uiagalelei is completing 65% of his passes and has five touchdowns against just one interception – but there are still too many drops and not enough separation. And I hate to beat a dead horse, but I’ll beat that carcass as long as I can. The tight ends need to be a bigger part of the passing game. Davis Allen (5 catches) and Jake Briningstool (4) are difference-makers if given the opportunity.
For Wake, senior linebacker Ryan Smenda Jr. is the player to watch. However, sophomore safety Malik Mustapha finished the Liberty game with 13 tackles and two sacks.
Run. The. Ball. Play-action, over the top. Get the tight ends involved. Less jump balls to the sideline.
WHEN WAKE FOREST HAS THE BALL
This one also has to do with running. The Demon Deacons use that slow mesh (delayed handoff on run-pass option plays) to disrupt the defense, but Clemson’s defensive line is usually so dominant it never really works. The Deacons are struggling to run the ball this season – ranking 97th nationally – and they averaged less than a yard per carry last week against Liberty. Clemson is, as you can guess, better than Liberty.
However, quarterback Sam Hartman has been around for a long time and he’s accurate. He has receiver AT Perry as his go-to guy, and the Deacons are dangerous through the air. The Tigers have been gashed in the passing game, and you can expect the Deacons to try and slow down Clemson’s rush with screens and delayed runs. But if the Tigers know the pass is coming, it could be a long day for Hartman. The Tigers simply have to cover better than they have the last few weeks.
ADVANTAGE: SLIGHT TO CLEMSON
Wake’s Matthew Dennis is 7-for-7 on field goals, but the Deacons haven’t shined anywhere else. Punting is average and only eight of 23 kickoffs have reached the endzone. Taylor Morin is dangerous as a return man. The Tigers have blocked two punts, but no one has really popped a return. BT Potter is as a good as it gets on field goals and kickoffs, and punter Aidan Swanson gets better every week.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN
The Demon Deacons will hit some big plays through the air, and they’ll do enough different things on defense to keep Clemson’s offense guessing. But at the end of the day, this is about running the football and stopping the run, and to me, the Tigers have the advantage in both. The Tigers need to ride Will Shipley, Phil Mafah, and Kobe Pace, sprinkled with some quarterback runs, and let the run game dictate what happens. Maybe a bit more of a shootout than people would like, but this one will be fun. Right?
FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 37, WAKE FOREST 27
More TigerNet picks
Mickey Plyler - The Roar 105.5 morning show host - 38-27 Clemson
Nikki Hood - Staff writer - 34-20 Clemson
Brandon Rink - Associate editor - 38-24 Clemson
Tony Crumpton - Associate editor - 31-24 Clemson
Pigskin Prophet - 37-23 Clemson
Ryan Kantor - Contributing Writer - Clemson 31-24
Ariana Pensy - TigerNet Intern - 56-28 Clemson
|Game||Actual||David Hood||Plyler||Nikki Hood||Rink||Crumpton||Prophet||Kantor||Pensy|
|GT||41-10 CU||38-13 CU||33-9 CU||41-7 CU||33-10 CU||35-13 CU||34-7 CU||39-6 CU||-|
|Furman||35-12 CU||50-10 CU||51-10 CU||59-7 CU||45-3 CU||45-3 CU||49-6 CU||48-7 CU||-|
|La Tech||48-20 CU||37-14 CU||51-10 CU||59-10||44-13 CU||45-13 CU||45-10 CU||45-10 CU||38-10 CU|
* Points: 3 pts for best correct prediction of the week (tiebreaker is Clemson score), 2 pts for picking score exactly, 1 pt for picking the correct winner