When Wake Forest has the ball…
This will be the story to watch. Chris Barclay has ran through Clemson in his first three years at Wake Forest. Now, he has a running mate in Micah Andrews. The two are the top two rushers in the ACC heading into October. Barclay and Andrews will be expected to carry the load offensively for Wake. Cory Randolph will not only be making his first start at quarterback, but he will be making his first appearance as a quarterback this season.
Randolph played sparingly at wide receiver earlier in the year. Ben Mauk started the first three games, but head coach Jim Grobe has decided to go back to Randolph. Randolph has had success moving the football against Clemson, and it is not surprising that Grobe would decide to make the switch now.
It is difficult to say how Randolph’s timing will be. He has been in the system for four years, so it will be less of an adjustment. However, it is never easy to jump right back into the mix the fifth game of the year. Gaines Adams and Charles Bennett will do all they can to pressure Randolph.
Randolph no longer has Jason Anderson as a go to target, but he has a speedy group of receivers. Willie Idlette, Chris Davis, and Nate Morton provide a variety of options, but thus far, the Deacons have not been able to use them successfully. Clemson’s job on Saturday will be to make sure their breakout game is not on October 1.
The key for Clemson will be stopping the run enough to where Wake Forest has to go to the air. If Wake is facing third and twos all day, it will be another long afternoon in Winston-Salem for Clemson.
Advantage: Wake Forest
When Clemson has the ball…
After a week of criticism, Clemson’s offense will look to bounce back against Wake Forest. Do not look for Clemson to break things wide open offensively. This game plan will be very similar to the game plan against Texas A&M. Clemson will want to control the clock on the ground and take the pressure off of the defense. Recent history says it is in Clemson’s best interest to control the clock and keep the defense on the field.
James Davis and Reggie Merriweather could see 15 carries apiece on Saturday. Merriweather had a quiet 75 yards rushing against Boston College and will look to breakout against Wake Forest.
This is the best front seven Jim Grobe has had at Wake Forest, but it is not the caliber of Miami or Boston College. It is not the caliber of Maryland, and Davis and Merriweather combined for 158 yards rushing against Maryland. The offensive line needs to dominate on Saturday.
Nathan Bennett is the leader of this group, and his return to the starting line up will be a factor. Bennett has lead by example this year, and he has challenged his teammates to respond. Bennett is starting to take the leadership role Greg Walker assumed in 2003. He has matured, and everyone is taking notice of his play.
If Wake Forest commits to stopping the run, Clemson should be able to take advantage of the Deacons secondary. Wake has not found replacements for Eric King and Marcus MacGruder. Curtis Baham, Chansi Stuckey, and Aaron Kelly have been on the verge of a breakout game, and they may have a chance on Saturday.
Jad Dean comes in 11-12 on field goals and perfect on extra points. The field conditions at Wake Forest are not ideal for a kicker, and Dean is at a disadvantage this weekend. A former Clemson kicker said to prepare for Wake Forest you need to practice kicking in a swamp. Dean has never attempted a field goal against Wake Forest. He will get a feel in pre-game warm-ups for the conditions, and he is beaming with confidence right now.
Ryan Plackemeier is an All-Conference punter, and the Deacons have a sizeable advantage at punter. Cole Chason will get the start again for Clemson, but if struggles, he may not finish the game. Plackemeier has the ability to flip field position, which could be a key on Saturday.
This is a very difficult match up for Clemson. The first four games have really worn on this team, and it may have come at the worse time. You can almost count on coming out of Wake Forest with one or two injuries on the defensive front. The Deacons have struggled on offense, but Randolph may be the answer. Clemson has to prove they can slow down the Deacons’ offense. Plus, Clemson has not shown the last two years that they can get up in dead environments. Wake Forest has outplayed Clemson the last three years, and the Tigers could be in trouble on Saturday.
Prediction: Wake Forest 27 Clemson 20