Wake Forest vs. Clemson Prediction
The past two Clemson football weekends have not been kind to the Tigers or the Picking Machine. In fact, they have been downright horrific. And I have heard from Maryland fans, TCU fans, Wake Forest fans and Clemson fans. The fans of the other teams love to tell me how much better they are than Clemson [I still can’t believe we lost to Maryland. I mean seriously. Maryland? Some Clemson fans have been trying to tell me that the reason the Tigers have lost three games is because I have picked them in all the games, and that I should pick them to lose against Wake, thereby guaranteeing a win. I could pick Wake to win, but not because of that reason. They are not losing because of me. They are losing because of inconsistency on offense and mistakes at key times. But here is this week’s shot.
Wake Forest at Clemson
When Wake Forest Has the Ball
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has said that this Wake Forest offense is the best the Tigers have played against so far this season. The Deacons have senior Riley Skinner back at quarterback, for what seems like his 20th year in Winston-Salem. Skinner does a lot of things well, and has a nice complement of weapons at his disposal, with Chris Givens, Marshall Williams and Devon Brown giving him three legitimate go-to guys through the air. As a result, Skinner has thrown 13 touchdown passes over his last five games. Look for Clemson to try and take away Wake’s air attack and force the Deacs to win by grinding out drives. Skinner and Wake are good. In fact, they are very good, averaging 426 yards per game. But so is the Clemson defense.
ADVANTAGE – SLIGHT TO CLEMSON
When Clemson Has the Ball
The Clemson offense has been dreadful. The Wake run defense is solid, while they struggle with their pass defense. If the Tigers are going to get back into the division race by knocking off the Demon Deacons, it will be because they have finally overcome their liabilities in the passing game. Much has been said about using the Wildcat this week, but this offense really has three things that have to happen: 1. Get the tight ends involved more in the passing game. So far, this has been mere lip service from the Clemson coaching staff, and I understand that they are needed to stay in and block. But getting them open quick off the line of scrimmage will slow down that pass rush. 2. The young receivers have to quit being projects and full of potential and become play makers. Now is the time. They need to be more physical coming off the line of scrimmage, and aggressive in going after the football. 3. Kyle Parker needs to be a threat again. Right now, he is letting opportunities for yardage go by the wayside while he waits for big plays to happen down field. Then he either runs out of bounds or throws the ball away. Now is the time for Parker to become a threat on the ground as well as through the air. Until we see these things happen…….
ADVANTAGE – WAKE FOREST
Both teams have very solid special teams units. We know all about Jacoby Ford and C.J. Spiller and their return game, and we know all about Richard Jackson’s strong leg, field goals aplenty, and failures in the fourth quarter. Look for Wake to keep the ball away from Spiller and Ford [wouldn’t you] and make the Clemson offense show they can drive the ball down the field. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said earlier this week that the punters could play a huge role in what could be a game of field position, so Dawson Zimmerman could be a key. Wake has solid return potential, but haven’t returned any kicks for scores so far this season. They switched kickers a few weeks back, and freshman Jimmy Newman has missed one field goal in five attempts.
ADVANTAGE – CLEMSON
Jim Grobe is a throwback. He doesn’t rely on a lot of flash, and he doesn’t get the best recruits in the country, but he redshirts almost everybody, and his teams always abound with experienced veterans. As a result, he has had success in taking advantage of a mediocre ACC. He is 0-for-3 in Death Valley, however, and just 3-5 against Clemson overall, but he will have his team ready to take on Clemson, and his game plan will certainly be tailored to take advantage of the weaknesses Clemson has show. Dabo Swinney and his staff have had to face rumors of fights, and rifts in the program, over the past two weeks, and he has taken criticism of his hiring of offensive coordinator Billy Napier. A win would quiet some of the critics.
ADVANTAGE – WAKE FOREST
It has gotten to this point. Every game is now a playoff game for the Tigers, and this one has been set up nicely for them. Two weeks to get Chris Hairston and C.J. Spiller healthy. Two weeks to work on execution. Two weeks to game plan for Wake Forest. A home game. A forecast that might not involve torrential downpours and lightning delays. And this one will still be a barn-burner. And once again, Clemson fans will see their offense struggle while the defense hangs on for dear life. And as much as Clemson fans want me to pick against them, I won’t. So in honor of my friend Dan Scott, my 13-year old son Koty has the pick this week, and he says:
CLEMSON 20, WAKE FOREST 16