Clemson vs. Wake Forest prediction: Can Tigers continue mastery of Deacons?


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Clemson vs. Wake Forest prediction: Can Tigers continue mastery of Deacons?

Remember when Wake Forest was one of the most challenging games on Clemson’s schedule every season?

The Demon Deacons were a thorn in Clemson’s side during much of the Tommy Bowden era, but the Tigers have won nine in a row in the series, dating back to a 12-7 Deacon win in Winston-Salem in 2008. That was Tommy Bowden’s last game as head coach at Clemson.

It’s interesting to note that Wake Forest hasn’t played an away game since the season opener in early September at Tulane. Saturday marks the fifth consecutive home game for the Deacons, who will then have an open week and spend four of the final six weeks of the season on the road.

NO. 4 CLEMSON (5-0, 2-0) AT WAKE FOREST (3-2, 0-1)

HOW TO WATCH AND LISTEN

When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: BB&T Field (31,500), Winston-Salem, N.C.
TV: ESPN: Spectrum (35, 808 HD), DirecTV (206), Dish (140)
Radio: 105.5 WCCP-FM, 97.7 ESPN Upstate, Sirius 133, XM 207, Internet 966
Records: Clemson 5-0, 2-0 ACC; Wake Forest 3-2, 0-1 ACC

NOTABLE

*Against top-10 foes, the Demon Deacons are 1-61 all-time with the lone win being a 19-6 victory over No. 4 Tennessee in Knoxville on Oct. 26, 1946. Since that game, the Demon Deacons have lost 59 straight to top-10 opponents.

*Wake head coach Dave Clawson is 2-12 against ranked opponents while at Wake Forest, having posted wins over No. 23 Temple in the 2016 Military Bowl and No. 25 NC State in November 2017.

*Wake Forest is the least-penalized team in the FBS this week, averaging just 3.0 penalties per game. The Deacons are sixth in the nation in fewest penalty yards with 153.

*Wake Forest freshman DB Zion Keith and Clemson freshman DB Xavier Thomas were teammates at Wilson HS in Florence in the 2016 season before Thomas played his senior year at IMG Academy in Florida.

*Wake Forest freshman DL JaCorey Johns and Clemson freshman QB Trevor Lawrence were teammates at Cartersville High (Ga.). The Purple Hurricanes won a state championship in 2016.

*Clemson freshman DL K.J. Henry is a West Forsyth HS graduate and his father, Keith Henry, is a former assistant football coach at Wake Forest.

WHEN CLEMSON HAS THE BALL

Freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence should play Saturday and gets his first crack at starting an ACC road game. Lawrence was 10-of-15 passing when he was injured, but his completions accounted for only 93 yards, and Syracuse was in the lead when he left the game. The good news is that the Deacons' pass defense has allowed 272 yards per game with 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions. If Lawrence is a full go, he could put up huge numbers on Saturday afternoon.

But we said last week that the key just might be the Clemson ground game, and that holds true again. Travis Etienne had the best statistical game of his career last Saturday against Syracuse, running for 203 yards and three touchdowns. Those numbers came against what was, coming into the game, a solid Orange rush defense. That is not the case with the Demon Deacons, who rank 102nd, giving up just under 190 yards on the ground per contest. Add in Tavien Feaster and Adam Choice, and the Clemson coaching staff won’t hesitate to once again ride the ground game to the win.

ADVANTAGE: CLEMSON

WHEN WAKE FOREST HAS THE BALL

Led by Cade Carney, Wake Forest is second in the conference in rushing offense behind Georgia Tech. That sets up a contest of strength on strength – Clemson is giving up just 95 yards per game on the ground. That puts pressure on freshman quarterback Sam Hartman, who will have to throw the ball effectively if the Deacons are to have a chance. Wide receiver Greg Dortch is a stud on the outside – he has already caught 45 passes for 555 yards and five scores through the first five games. However, Hartman was smacked around by a talented Notre Dame front, and the Wake line needs to do a better job protecting its signal caller from Clemson’s star defenders.

The Deacs have a chance to hit some plays on the outside, but the matchup favors the Tigers.

ADVANTAGE: CLEMSON

Wake Forest is the only school with three punt return touchdowns on the season. Greg Dortch returned two punts for touchdowns against Towson on Sept. 8th and Demetrius Kemp blocked a punt against Boston College on Sept. 13th that was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown by Malik Grate. The blocked punt counts statistically as a punt return for a touchdown. Dom Maggio is eighth in the conference in punting and Clemson’s Will Spiers is ninth. Wake’s Nick Sciba is 8-of-11 on field goals, while Clemson’s Greg Huegel is 5-of-8. The difference so far this season is the Deacons’ ability to get the ball in the end zone on special teams.

ADVANTAGE: SLIGHT TO WAKE FOREST

WHAT WILL HAPPEN

I thought last week would be the week the Clemson offense finally got untracked. The yards were there, but once again silly mistakes cost the Tigers drives. On the road, with Lawrence coming off an injury, it might take the offense a bit to get going, but this Wake Forest defense will give up yards in chunks. That means plenty of Travis Etienne, who will continue to insert himself into the national conversation. The run game will open up the passing lanes and Lawrence and Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross will feast. A sluggish start turns into a fast finish, and the Tigers head into the open week 6-0.

FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 38, WAKE FOREST 17


GUEST PREDICTIONS

Mickey Plyler - 6-9 AM on WCCP 105.5FM - 41-21 Clemson
Tony Crumpton - Associate Editor - 31-16 Clemson
Nikki Hood - Staff writer - 34-17 Clemson
Brandon Rink - Staff writer - 45-17 Clemson
Hannah Rogerson - TigerNet Intern - 42-14 Clemson
Pigskin Prophet - 38-16 Clemson

GameActualDavid HoodMickey PlylerTony CrumptonNikki HoodBrandon RinkHannah RogersonPigskin ProphetBen Boulware
Furman48-7 CU54-9 CU55-10 CU52-7 CU49-7 CU55-3 CU28-7 CU52-3 CU117-0
Texas A&M28-26 CU27-13 CU34-17 CU31-17 CU28-13 CU34-16 CU31-20 CU31-16 CU28-7 CU
GA Southern38-7 CU47-10 CU42-10 CU51-13 CU38-7 CU45-10 CU32-10 CU48-9 CU69-2 CU
GT49-21 CU31-14 CU37-17 CU31-14 CU38-21 CU38-14 CU32-10 CU38-13 CU-
Syracuse27-23 CU45-17 CU51-21 CU48-21 CU42-17 CU48-20 CU42-10 CU45-20 CU-
Points - 555155753

* Points: 3 pts for best prediction of the week (tiebreaker is Clemson score), 2 pts for picking score exactly, 1 pt for picking the correct winner


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