Wake Forest always strikes fear in the hearts of Clemson fans, but Dabo Swinney’s Tigers have exorcised those “Demons” in winning four straight over the Deacons.
There is a common misconception among Clemson fans that Wake Forest always gives Clemson trouble; however, the Tigers have won 11 of the last 14 in the series, while the Demon Deacons have only won twice in Death Valley – in 1998 and 1962.
Will the Tigers winning ways continue in Saturday’s Homecoming matchup?
WHAT: Wake Forest at No. 3 Clemson
WHERE: Memorial Stadium
WHEN: 3:30, ESPNU
When Clemson has the ball: The Clemson offensive attack has yet to really get going and has just kind of sputtered its way to a 3-0 start, but after playing together for four quarters last Thursday night, there should be more continuity and the playmakers should be more comfortable with each other. Quarterback Tajh Boyd had a rough first half at N.C.State, but appeared to get more comfortable as the game wore on and I expect that to continue over into Saturday’s game. With the absence of Charone Peake and Martavis Bryant [suspended for inappropriate gestures], look for running backs Rod McDowell and Zac Brooks, along with tight ends Sam Cooper and Stanton Seckinger to be a big part of the early game plan. New starters Kalon Davis and Shaq Anthony on the offensive line will have their hands full with nose guard Nikita Whitlock and defensive end Zach Thompson who are easily among the best in the conference and who have a combined 14 tackles for loss and five sacks.
When Wake Forest has the ball: There is no doubt that the Demon Deacon offense runs through senior wide receiver Michael Campanaro. Campanaro is Wake Forest’s most consistent weapon and big-play threat, and he has 25 catches for 354 yards and five touchdowns. He’s averaging 14.2 yards per catch with a long of 66 yards. Quarterback Tanner Price has completed 55.5% of his passes for 852 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. However, the Wake Forest running game has yet to get off the ground as the Deacons have only rushed for 487 yards and four scores over four games. Josh Harris is the leading rusher with an average of 37.8 yards per game. If the Deacons can’t get the ground game going, it could be a long afternoon in Death Valley, especially if defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Vic Beasley are able to pin their ears back and go after Price.
Special Teams: The special teams units for the Tigers have been second to none in most areas led by Bradley Pinion and Chandler Catanzaro and you can expect that to continue this Saturday. Pinion has been banged up with some soreness in his knee, but I don’t expect that to be an issue Saturday. Catanzaro has been perfect this season on field goals and extra points, while becoming Clemson’s all-time leading scorer. On the opposing sideline, The Deacons’ punter Alexander Kinal is averaging 39.9 yard per punt. Kicker Chad Hedlund has only had three touchbacks in 17 attempts and has only connected on five-of-eight field goal attempts with a long of 38 yards.
What will happen: The Tigers got off to a less than stellar start to their ACC schedule last week in Raleigh; however a week in the friendly confines of Death Valley on Homecoming may be just what the doctor ordered. Clemson will be playing with a makeshift offensive line due to injuries at right tackle and left guard, but I don’t expect there to be any drop-off. The Clemson offense will want to open up the running lanes for McDowell early to take a little pressure off of Boyd who will settle in for the first time in 2013. Campanaro will get his touches and his yards for the Deacons, but they just don’t have enough of a rushing attack to keep Beasley and the Clemson defense honest for the entire game allowing the Tigers to get to Price in long yardage situations. You heard it here first…Clemson will finally return a kickoff for a touchdown and get things rolling in the special teams department.
Final Score: Clemson 38 – Wake Forest 13
Post written by Clemson Girl Sports Bloggess Nikki Steele.