The Clemson Tigers will try to bounce back from a disappointing 17-13 loss to Florida State this weekend when they head to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons enter the game with a surprising 4-3 record and a legitimate chance of making a rare bowl appearance. However, the combined records of the four teams Wake has beaten is a dismal 11-18, with NC State being the only above .500 team the Deacons have knocked off. A win over the Tigers will legitimize the Wake Forest as a legitimate contender for a bowl birth, while a loss for Clemson will put a serious dent in the Tigers’ post-season hopes.
QUARTERBACKS- Just when it appeared that Woodrow Dantzler was settled in at quarterback, the quick-healing Brandon Streeter has once again emerged. After being sidelined with a broken collarbone suffered against UNC on October 2, Streeter has begun to take part in practice this week and could see action against Wake Forest. Whether it’s Dantzler or Streeter, the Tigers will be solid at quarterback. Much-heralded freshman CJ Leake has yet to see significant action thus far with senior Ben Sankey firmly entrenched in the starting quarterback position. Sankey has been steady but not spectacular, passing for 860-yards and four touchdowns in the Deacon’s ground-based attack. While Clemson needs a solid passing performance from their field general, Wake Forest only asks that Sankey not make critical mistakes.
RUNNING BACKS- Wake Forest’s Morgan Kane has been the workhorse in the Deacon offense, rushing for778-yards on 181 carries. Kane is fourth in the ACC in scoring with 60 points, with 54 of those points coming on touchdown runs. After being shut down by Florida State’s athletic defense, Clemson’s Travis Zachery will be looking to get back on track against Wake Forest.
Advantage: Wake Forest
CLEMSON RECEIVERS VS. WAKE FOREST DEFENSIVE BACKS- Rod Gardner is quickly evolving into one of the greatest receivers in Clemson history. Gardner’s size and consistency will make him a likely candidate for All-American honors next year and an attractive NFL prospect. Look for Brian Wofford’s speed to be a factor against Wake Forest’s experienced but slow secondary. While Wake Forest is ranked third in the ACC in pass defense, the Deacons gave up big yardage against the only passing team they’ve faced thus far in a 33-10 loss to Florida State.
CLEMSON OFFENSIVE LINE VS. WAKE FOREST DEFENSIVE LINE- The Demon Deacon’s rush defense has been solid, limiting opponents to only 122-yards per game on the ground. Tackles Fred Robbins and Da’Vaughn Mellerson have been effective at plugging the middle with their combined 600+ pounds while end Bryan Ray leads the team with 33 tackles, including 13 for loss. The Clemson offensive line will have to fight to establish a running game against the Deacons. If the Tigers’ can use their athleticism up front, they have a chance at doing just that.
WAKE FOREST OFFENSIVE LINE VS. CLEMSON DEFENSIVE LINE- In perhaps the key match-up of the game, the Deacon’s five 300-pound run-blockers will be facing Clemson’s inconsistent front four. If the Tiger defensive line performs like they did against Virginia Tech, N.C. State, and Maryland, the Deacons will run wild.
Advantage: Wake Forest
WAKE FOREST RECEIVERS VS. CLEMSON SECONDARY- Clemson has one of the strongest secondaries in the nation. Wake Forest is ranked last in the league in passing offense. Enough said.
LINEBACKERS- In three of Clemson’s four losses, the Tiger linebackers have missed numerous tackles while allowing opposing offenses to pile up rushing yardage. Adams, Carson, Williams, and Bodrick will have to elevate their play in order to stop Morgan Kane. While the Deacon linebacking trio of Mark DeOrio, Kelvin Moses, Dustin Lyman don’t grab too many headlines, they are consistently effective, particularly against the run.
SPECIAL TEAMS- While Ryan Romano continues to improve at the punting position, the Tigers are still searching for consistency out of their place kickers. Whether it be Chris Campbell of Tony Lazzara who trots out onto the field, Clemson coaches and fans hold their breath and cringe. Wake Forest punter Matt Brennie has struggled, averaging under 40-yards per punt while kicker Mathew Burdick has been less than spectacular in his own right.
COACHING- Two very distinct coaching styles will clash Saturday as the conservative running game of Jim Caldwell and the Deacons squares off against Tommy Bowden’s wide-open air assault. Caldwell needs this victory not only to put the Deacons in bowl position, but also to further solidify his job status. Wake Forest has begun to make some noise in recruiting circles with the signing of CJ Leak, but Caldwell needs results on the field, starting with a strong finish this season. For the first time in over a year, Clemson is faced with a must-win game to keep their bowl hopes alive. Bowden has shown in seven games that he is destined to be an upper-echelon coach, while the jury on Caldwell is still out after six years.
PREDICTION- The Deacons will be sky-high on Saturday as they look to prove themselves as a program on the rise. Once emotions settle, though, the Clemson speed will be too much for the Wake Forest defense. If the Tiger defense plays poorly, Clemson is capable of outscoring the Deacons in a Maryland-type slugfest. If the defense steps up against Morgan Kane and the Wake rushing attack, look for the Tigers to blow the Deacons right out of a bowl game.
Clemson- 35 Wake Forest- 17
More on Clemson vs. Wake Forest
Clemson Tigers, 3-4, 3-2
at Wake Forest Demon Deacons, 4-3, 1-3
Groves Stadium, 31,500
THE GAME: Clemson has held the upper hand in this series between these two long-time rivals
since they first met on the gridiron in 1933 ... the Tigers have won 19 of the last 22 meetings,
including four of the last five, and lead the rivalry 49-14-1, including a 8-3-1 mark in Groves
LAST YEAR: Wake Forest's Brian Kuklick passed for 251 yards and two TDs and Morgan Kane added
113 yards on 35 carries as the Deacons posted a 29-19 win in "Death Valley" ... Brandon Streeter
completed 18 of 32 passes for 319 yards and one TD in the loss.
BY THE NUMBERS: The Tigers have totaled over 400 yards in total offense in each of the last
five games against the Deacons, averaging 451.4 yards per game in the process.
THE COACHES: Tommy Bowden is 3-4 in his first year at Clemson and 21-8 in three years overall
... Jim Caldwell is 21-52 in seven seasons at Wake Forest.
GAME NOTES: Clemson is ranked No. 14 by the Sagarin Computer poll, Wake Forest 31st ... both
starting QBs have 100-yard rushing games to their credit in 1999; Clemson's Woodrow Dantzler ran
for 183 yards against Maryland while Wake's Ben Sankey totaled 108 yards last Saturday versus UAB
... in his three starts this year, Dantzler has averaged 212.7 yards passing and 303.3 yards per
game in total offense while Sankey has thrown for 860 yards and four TDs and is fourth in ACC
passing efficiency ... the Deacs are second in the ACC and 23rd nationally in rushing at 186.4
yards per game rushing, their highest per game average since 1971 while the Tigers are sixth in
the ACC in defense against the run (149.9) ...Wake's Morgan Kane is third in the ACC in rushing
with 778 yards and has scored nine times while Clemson's Travis Zachery is fifth in the ACC with
423 yards rushing and has scored seven times on only 109 carries ... Kane ran for 131 yards
against the Tigers in 1996 and 113 yards last year ... the Tigers have turned the ball over only
once in their last two games while the Deacons have only three turnovers over their last five
contests; Wake (+1.00) is seventh in the country in turnover margin, Clemson (+0.43) is 27th ...
Clemson LB Keith Adams leads the ACC in tackles per game (15.3) and tackles for losses (19).
Clem. off (NCAA rank) WF def
24.6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (67). . .Points . . . . . . (16). . . . . .17.1
376.4. . . . . . . . . . . . . . (56). Total Yards . . . . . (28). . . . . 316.6
137.1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . (68). .Rushing. . . . . . . (35). . . . . 122.6
239.3. . . . . . . . . . . . . . (33). .Passing. . . . . . . (33). . . . .*110.5
WF off *denotes rating Clem. def
22.9 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (82). . .Points . . . . . . (47). . . . . .22.9
315.1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . (90). Total Yards . . . . . (52). . . . . 355.1
186.4. . . . . . . . . . . . . . (23). .Rushing. . . . . . . (64). . . . . 149.9
128.7. . . . . . . . . . . . . .(105). .Passing. . . . . . . (17). . . . .*103.2