Travis Etienne and the Tigers look to continue their dominance of the Demon Deacons
Clemson and Wake Forest have squared off 83 times, but it really hasn’t been much of a rivalry through the years, especially since the ACC was formed in 1953. Clemson holds a 55-9-1 advantage over that time period and is currently riding a nine-game winning streak in the series.
But Dave Clawson has pumped life into Wake's program, and the Deacons are looking for their third straight year of bowl eligibility. The only other time that happened was from 2006-08 under Jim Grobe’s guidance.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney hopes that his team found a spark in the narrow victory over Syracuse last Saturday. With Trevor Lawrence sidelined, redshirt freshman Chase Brice led the Tigers to a come-from-behind win, and other facets of the Clemson team played with more passion in forging the late comeback.
Clemson at Wake Forest
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 6 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Clemson -18
Three Things to Watch
1. Trevor Lawrence
The freshman’s first start didn’t go according to plan. 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. Swinney has indicated that Lawrence will likely be ready to go against Wake, and that is good news for Tiger fans. Even better 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.
2. Wake Forest's passing attack
Led by Cade Carney, Wake Forest is second in the conference in rushing offense behind Georgia Tech. But the Deacons will be going against the nasty Clemson front that is giving up just 95 yards per game on the ground. The Deacs will have to throw the ball effectively in order to make this game competitive. Freshman Sam Hartman has had some good moments and some bad, but he has receiver Greg Dortch available more often than not. The star sophomore has already caught 45 passes for 555 yards and five scores through the first five games. Hartman was punished 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.
3. Keep feeding Travis Etienne
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. Such is not the case with the Demon Deacons, who rank 102nd, giving up just a hair under 190 yards on the ground per contest. For Clemson, there’s more than just Etienne. Tavien Feaster and Adam Choice are quality options as well. But Swinney should go with the hot hand this week, and there was no one hotter than Etienne last Saturday.
It’s been pretty obvious so far: Though Clemson has not lost, the Tigers have not been as dominant as most expected. Most anticipated the offense taking a while to jell, and that has been the case. And while the defense has been solid, it hasn’t really been spectacular either. Ranking 10th in rushing defense, 20th in pass defense and 15th in scoring defense is acceptable, but considering the hype surrounding this unit — and the defensive line in particular — the early-season results have to be put in the blah category. However, after Syracuse scored to go up 23-13 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Orange had just 27 yards in three series the rest of the game. Along with a career day for Etienne, the Tigers may have found something in the final moments of the comeback win. The Deacs are 3-2 after their win over Rice, but their first big test of the year was an ugly 56-27 loss to Notre Dame at home two weeks ago. Clemson probably won’t score as many points as the Irish did against Wake, but the Tigers won’t give up that many, either.
Prediction: Clemson 38, Wake Forest 13
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.