Sneak Peak: Clemson at Wake Forest (Photo by USAToday Sports)
What most Clemson fans have been hoping and waiting for is here, it is game week. Yes Fall camp has now ended and the Tigers are getting ready for a trip to Winston-Salem for a showdown with the Demon Deacons Saturday at 7:30pm on ABC.
It will be a matchup that will be take place with no fans in the stands, which may be a good thing for the loyal Demaon Deacon fans. They will not have to witness what is about to take place.
The Tigers enter this game with an 11 game winning streak against the Demon Deacons and in last year’s meeting Clemson took Wake to the woodshed with a 52-3 win in Death Valley. The defense held Wake quarterback Jamie Newman to 6-14 passing for 41 yards and picked him off twice. Newman was solid last season, but obviously struggled without his two starting receivers, including Sage Surratt, who were out for the Clemson game.
ESPN’s FPI gives Clemson a 97% win probability and the Tigers go into this matchup as 32.5 point favorites. The Tigers were supposed to open on the road against Georgia Tech last Thursday, but have now had extra time to prep for a team that may be worse than the Yellow Jackets in 2020.
Dave Clawson has done a great job at Wake all things considered, but expect them to take a step back this season, and with good reason. The Demon Deacons lost a ton of talent from last year’s offense.
Newman transferred to UGA and then opted out. Surratt opted out. Receivers Kendall Hinton, Scotty Washington, and Steven Claude, as well as TE Jack Freudenthal are all gone. Returning pass catchers accounted for less than 15% of their receiving yards last season.
As for the Demon Deacons defense, defensive end Boogie Basham is back after recording 11 sacks and 18 tackles for loss last season. He will be a problem for opposing teams all season and is a projected first round pick. He is the one guy to keep an eye on no matter which side he’s lined up on.
As for Clemson, this Tigers team comes in loaded. A little inexperienced in spots, but a ton of talent at pretty much every position on the field. They are replacing four starters on the offensive line and lost both receivers but neither are huge causes for concern.
Tee Higgins is gone and Justyn Ross is out for the season injured. The talent is there but the experience really isn’t, outside of Amari Rodgers. That, along with the matchup this young offensive line will be facing against an elite pass rusher does give us a couple of interesting things to keep an eye on.
There has been a lot of praise for Cornell Powell throughout fall camp. After four seasons at Clemson, is he finally primed to have a breakout season?
Another thing that is going to be interesting to see this week will be just how the Demon Deacons handle Braden Galloway. He seems to be chomping at the bit to get on the field and contribute after missing the entire season a year ago due to suspension.
Clemson has a stable full of running backs and the only question going in is whether Lyn-J Dixon will be ready to go after banging up his knee in camp. Many expect to see more runs out of the offense this season in order to get the ball to all of those play-makers, and that will especially be likely in an opener against a team the caliber of Wake.
The biggest questions going into this game for the Demon Deacons will be can they stay on the field against this Tigers defense and will they be able to stay close long enough to make Clemson sweat even a little bit. Do not expect that to happen. This Tiger team appears to be primed and ready to get off to a great start.