After looking at every aspect of the Clemson-Wake Forest game I have come up with my keys to a Clemson victory.
1. The fundamentals. They are emphasized every game but especially in the opener. First down yardage, third down conversions, no turnovers, limit penalties, etc. In the opener last year, a 30-0 loss to UGA, Clemson was minus three in the turnover department. The Tigers were 4 of 14 converting third downs. The Tigers can not afford a repeat of either stat.
2. Outscore the Deacons. Whenever Wake has lost in recent years they have been outscored. A track meet may be needed to beat Wake Forest. This means touchdowns not field goals. After the Clemson game last year Wake lost all three games. They gave up 42 to UNC, 51 to UConn and 41 to Maryland.
3. Whitehurst must be sharp. With Duane Coleman out, Whitehurst will have to be effective on third down. This is what marked the Phillip Rivers era at NC State. The Wolfpack led the ACC in third down conversions at 46.9 last season. Clemson was fifth in the conference a year ago with a 37.7 mark. Whitehurst will be called upon to take an even bigger role in this offense, especially on third down with out Coleman.
1. Assignment football. The defense must be disciplined and play their assignments against Wake Forest's mis-direction. Gap responsibility is a key. Backside defenders need to stay at home and not over pursue. The Deacons have rushed for over 700 yards against Clemson the last two years.
2. Tackle. Last season Clemson tackled as bad in this game as any they played all year. Barclay made Tigers miss last season and that cannot happen in this game. He rushed for a career high 163 yards last season.
3. Keep Wake behind the chains and make them more predictable. Wake has hit some big play action in the past but play action is not a surprise on third and eight. Their offensive line is young and inexperienced and Clemson needs to exploit their lack of experience.
Wake Has Been Successful On The Road-Jim Grobe has won at Virginia, North Carolina, East Carolina, Duke (2), Purdue, Georgia Tech, Boston College. The Deacons are 8-8 on the road under Grobe.
Big play capability-Watch out for Jason Anderson and Willie Idlette at wide receiver. Both have big plays in them.
Contain Both QBs-Clemson needs to contain QB Cory Randolph and be prepared for second team QB Ben Mauck. Both are very dangerous.
Convert-Offensively, Clemson need to convert on opportunities. Last year the Tigers have drives of 13 and 14 plays and came away empty-handed. Wake Forest played an umbrella 3-3-5 last year but claims to have switched to a 4-3 in an attempt to improve their run defense.
In summary, I think the Tigers will have their hands full with Wake Forest once again this season. Two years ago it took five Wake turnovers to help Clemson to an eight point win. I think this is a fourth quarter game and hopefully the Tigers athleticism and home crowd will be the difference in the end.