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Thursday night football shifts to the ACC this week after last week’s big game in the Pac-12 turned into a blowout. Clemson is coming off an Orange Bowl season and after beating Virginia Tech last week the Tigers look to climb back into the ACC race. Wake Forest is also coming off a big conference win heading into this Atlantic division clash. Take a look at this week’s Thursday night matchup and the history between these teams.
Matchup: Clemson Tigers at Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Venue: BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Date: Thursday, October, 25 2012
Time/TV: 7:30 PM ET – ESPN
Line: Clemson -12, Over/Under 59½
Last Meeting: 2011, Clemson (-16½) 31-28, at Clemson
Clemson won the ACC for the first time since 1991 last season but a season that should have been remembered as an excellent year for the program was soured with an embarrassing 70-33 Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia. Clemson lost to Florida State 49-37 in the big national TV showdown about a month ago but the Tigers are 6-1 and in line for another strong season even if there are major hurdles in the way of a second straight conference title.
The Clemson offense is posting nearly 493 yards per game this season and while the Tigers eventually lost to Florida State the offense did its part with some big plays against a Seminoles defense that is extremely well regarded. The Tigers are led by junior Tajh Boyd at quarterback and he is on pace for another excellent season, already with 15 touchdown passes while completing over 67 percent of his passes, a far higher rate than he had last season. After scoring just 26 points in the opening week win against Auburn, a win that no longer looks terribly impressive, the Tigers have scored at least 37 points in every game as the 15th highest scoring team in the nation.
Senior Andre Ellington leads the team with 693 rushing yards as he could eclipse his great numbers from last season and he is the 2nd leading rusher in the ACC. Junior DeAndre Hopkins is 2nd in the entire nation in receiving yards with 845 on 52 catches along with nine touchdowns. Sammy Watkins was a freshman sensation last season but he has been quiet so far this season, missing three games with suspension and injury and failing to score a receiving touchdown so far this season. His best game of the year came last week however and this offense could really take off if he can get more involved.
Clemson was a mediocre defensive team last season, allowing almost 30 points per game and surrendering 394 yards per game. Some of that is misleading as the offense often scored quickly but in the two biggest games this season Clemson has been badly out-gained, allowing 667 yards against Florida State and last week giving up 406 yards against Virginia Tech despite taking advantage of turnovers for a fairly convincing win. The Tigers outgained Wake Forest by over 200 yards last season but won by just three points. Last week was a confidence building week for the Clemson defense with four turnovers and a couple of big 4th down stops but it will be a short week to prepare for an improving Wake Forest team. Mediocre teams have scored against Clemson as Ball State posted 27 and Boston College and Georgia Tech both hit 31.
Wake Forest is 4-3 on the season but the wins have all come by relatively slim margins including last week’s escape at Virginia. The Demon Deacons are 2-3 in ACC play and returning to a bowl game may be difficult looking at the schedule ahead. Wake Forest will host Boston College and Vanderbilt but there are road games with N.C. State and Notre Dame. Wake Forest will need an upset to reach 6-6 again and this week’s game provides that opportunity. The Demon Deacons beat North Carolina 28-27 at home earlier this year and they did so with a few big defensive stops and a big day in the air.
Junior quarterback Tanner Price has suffered a step-back season this year as he is completing less than 51 percent of his passes. Dreadful games against two of the better defenses in the ACC in Florida State and Maryland weigh heavily on the statistics but he was far more efficient last season. He already has four interceptions after throwing just six last year and he will be hard pressed to come close to the yardage and touchdown counts from 2011. Price is one of the more complete traditional passing quarterbacks in the conference however and the left-hander is capable of having a big game.
Wake Forest is scoring only 22 points per game this season and they rank towards the bottom of the nation in most offensive categories. The Wake Forest running game has shown some life however as the Demon Deacons have out-rushed opponents in three straight games. It has not necessarily been Wake Forest finding great success on the ground but the defense has been very effective against the run in recent weeks. The season statistics are still poor because Army and Florida State posted big numbers but Wake Forest has allowed just 29 points in the last two games and both of those contests were on the road.
Many may point to Florida State’s complete destruction of Wake Forest versus the relatively competitive game Clemson put forth against the Seminoles but the situations were not equal. Wake Forest met Florida State in its first road game of the season, a week after upsetting North Carolina 28-27. Clemson had been preparing for the Seminoles for weeks after light competition in the games leading up to that big national showcase game and the Tigers dug deep for some very creative play calls to break some big plays to grab the early lead. Even with the strong start Clemson still lost soundly in that game so the Tigers don’t deserve a ton of credit for only losing by 12.
This game has letdown potential for Clemson off a huge win last week over Virginia Tech in a rematch of the 2011 ACC championship game and while Clemson won, the offense struggled with less than 300 yards and five sacks allowed. Clemson has not played on the road in about a month and in his career Dabo Swinney is just 8-12 straight up in road games including just 4-8 since 2010. Wake Forest will be overmatched when comparing these offenses but the Demon Deacons will be for this national TV opportunity.
Line Movement: Clemson opened as a 13-point favorite but this line has come down to -12½ and then eventually -12 as of Tuesday evening. The total opened at 59½ and has not shown movement yet.
Last Meeting: Clemson opened the 2011 season 7-0 and was ranked as high as #6 in the nation before losing to Georgia Tech. That loss was a week before the home match-up with Wake Forest and the Tigers were a bit flat off their first loss. Wake Forest entered the game off back-to-back losses, losing badly to North Carolina and then falling in a close game at home with Notre Dame. At 5-4, the Demon Deacons still needed one more win to secure a bowl spot. Clemson led 14-7 at halftime but Wake Forest scored three touchdowns in the span of about four minutes of game clock, a run started by a punt return touchdown and aided by two Clemson turnovers. Wake Forest wouldn’t score again but the game wasn’t tied until just over five minutes to go and then Clemson was able to kick a last second field goal for the 31-28 win after both sides missed 4th quarter field goals.
Series History: Clemson is 26-6 SU vs. Wake Forest since 1980 but just 13-18-1 ATS. Since 1990 Clemson is just 6-15-1 ATS in this series. Clemson has won each of the last three meetings as Wake Forest last won in 2008. Clemson won 30-10 in the last meeting in Winston-Salem but the Tigers are just 2-3 in the last five trips including just 1-4 ATS. The favorite is 4-1 in the last five meetings overall and Clemson is just 7-12 since 1980 as a favorite of 10 or more points in this series.
Clemson Historical Trends: Clemson is 20-33 ATS as a road favorite since 1990 but 5-5 under Dabo Swinney. Swinney’s teams are just 8-12 SU on the road but actually 12-8 ATS as the Tigers have been a very effective road underdog. The Tigers have struggled historically as a heavy favorite going just 29-48-2 ATS when laying 10 or more points, though going 8-8 since Swinney took over. Since 1990 Clemson is 3-12-1 ATS as a double-digit road favorite.
Wake Forest Historical Trends: Since 2001 when Jim Grobe took over at Wake Forest the Demon Deacons have been formidable as a home underdog, going 17-9-1 ATS, including going 14-5 in the last 19 attempts going back to 2004. Under Grobe, Wake Forest is 5-3 ATS as a double-digit home underdog and 17-13 ATS as a double-digit underdog in any location. The last two years Wake Forest is 4-1 ATS with two S/U upset wins as a double-digit underdog, winning at home against Florida State last season and beating North Carolina at home earlier this season.