WHAT WE ARE HEARING: PREVIEW & PREDICTION FOR NO.5 CLEMSON AT NO.16 WAKE FOREST
- 2022-09-24 08:47:07
Welcome to another edition of What We Are Hearing!
The Tigers are getting ready to begin division play, and they are diving straight into the deep end of the pool! They go on the road to play the defending Atlantic Division Champ in Wake Forest and then host the top-15 NC State team that beat the Tigers in double overtime last year. I don’t know if you can call this a revenge game because the Tigers beat the Deacs handily last year, but they still won the division, depriving the Tigers of one of their team goals and an appearance in the ACC Championship Game for the first time since 2014! Don’t think that the Tigers have forgotten that and don’t want some pay back.
If the Tigers were waiting to put together their first complete game of the season, this would be a good time to do it! The defense was dominant for the entire opener against Tech, but the offense didn’t explode until after halftime, doubling the points they scored in the first half. Against Furman, it was the opposite. The offense put up 28 points in the first half but just 7 in the second. And the defense, while allowing just 12 points, gave up a lot of yards between the 20’s and conversions on 10 of 18 third downs. Last week was similar to the opener. The Tigers lead just 13-6 at the half but then exploded for 21 unanswered points in the third quarter and 35 points in the second half. The defense gave up some big plays and 20 points, but it was missing several starters, including 3 or 4 potential All-Americans, and still created 5 turnovers, not counting a blocked punt that they coughed back up. Let’s hope the Tigers will finally be able to put it all together for 4 quarters on both sides of the ball!
The Tigers have dropped to No.5 in both the AP and Coaches’ Poll, with Michigan jumping over them to No.4. It’s completely ridiculous because the Wolverines have done absolutely nothing to justify such a change, and the Tigers have blown out all three of their opponents, showing substantial improvement on offense. Sure, Michigan has won its games by a greater margin of victory, but it’s also had the easiest first 3 games in the nation by far. The Wolverines have home wins over Hawaii, Colorado State and UConn, which were all members of ESPN’s “Bottom 10” this week. In fact, Hawaii and Colorado State are ranked as the second and third-worst teams in the country! Michigan has such an easy early schedule that it might not be exposed for weeks, but it will happen eventually. I have no doubt that the Tigers would beat Michigan by at least a couple touchdowns. Lest we forget that Michigan was absolutely demolished in the playoff 9 months agon by the same Georgia team that Clemson held to 10 points (3 not counting the pick-six)! Ultimately, of course, it doesn’t matter because at least one of Michigan and Ohio State will drop out of the top 4 by the end of the season, and as long as the Tigers take care of business and win all their games, they will make the playoff. It’s just kind of annoying that the pollsters are so ignorant with such short memories.
Enough of that nonsense, on to the big ACC Atlantic showdown….
Clemson leads the all-time series with Wake Forest 69-17-1 with the first meeting in 1933. Daob is 13-0 against Wake, which was ironically the team that ended Tommy Bowden’s career, making Dabo Head Coach in 2008…The current 13-game win streak against Wake is the sixth-longest in Clemson history behind Furman, UVA, The Citadel, Wake and PC….The Tigers have beaten Wake Forest more than any other school except for South Carolina (72)….With last week’s home win, he Tigers have won 36 straight games in Death Valley, the longest active home win streak in the nation. No member of this Clemson team has lost a home game. The streak is the 14th longest of all time. The longest streak by an ACC school is 37 by FSU, which the Tigers can tie with a win over NC State next week…Clemson is 55-1 at home in the CFP era, also the best such record in the nation….The Tigers have won 26 straight home games against non-conference opponents. The last such loss was to South Carolina in 2012…The Tigers have won 62 straight games when leading at halftime…Clemson has won 36 consecutive games as an AP top-5 team against unranked opponents, the longest active streak in the nation…Clemson is 97-3 against unranked teams since the start of the 2012 season…Dabo won his 153rd game last week. He took the sixth-fewest games (186) to reach 150 wins. Urban Meyer holds the record at 176 games, followed by Barry Switzer, Gil Dobie, Fielding Yost and Joe Paterno. Switzer and Paterno are the only ones who, like Dabo, won all 150 games at one school…. Clemson has the second-most wins and second-best win percentage since 2015 behind Alabama. The Tigers are 92-10 over that period while Alabama is 95-8. Ohio State is 3rd with a record of 82-10 since 2015. Clemson is also 2nd in wins since 2011 with a record of 134-21. Alabama is 143-14 and Ohio State is 126-20….Clemson has the most Power Five wins (94) since 2013. Alabama is 2nd with 92 and Ohio State is 3rd with 86….Clemson holds the all-time record for most wins over a 5-year span with 69 from 2015-2019….Dabo Swinney has the best active win percentage in the nation (minimum 10 years) at .810. Nick Saban is second at .801 and Jimbo Fisher is third at .758….Dabo is currently 12th on the all-time win percentage list but climbing quickly. He could move into 11th by the end of the season, just one spot below legendary Oklahoma Head Coach Bud Wilkinson….Dabo’s 152 wins are already the third-most of any coach in his first 15 seasons, but Dabo is only in his 14th full season. By the end of the 2023 season, Dabo should topple Urban Meyer’s record of 165 wins in his first 15 seasons….Dabo has the most active wins (153) that are all with one school. Mike Gundy is 2nd with 152 at Oklahoma State. Dabo is 9th on the active win list, one win ahead of Mike Leach….With a win in the Cheez-It Bowl over Iowa State last season, Dabo tied Bobby Bowden for most bowl wins (11) by any ACC coach in history….
The Deacs had a serious scare in August when it was announced that Sam Hartman would be out indefinitely due to a blood clot, but the fifth-year starter returned to make his season debut against Vandy 2 weeks ago, beating their SEC counterparts 45-25. The Deacs survived another scare last week with a 37-36 home win over Liberty. Don’t make the mistake of thinking Liberty should be a pushover, though. Remember, Hugh Freeze is now their head coach, and Liberty finished the season ranked No.17 in 2020 after beating a top-10 Coastal Carolina in the bowl game. Hartman looked like he was in late-season form against Vandy, going 18-27 for 300 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions, but he wasn’t as sharp against Liberty last week. He was 26-44 for 325 yards with 3 TD’s and 2 INT’s.
Hartman still has dangerous playmakers at receiver, particularly A.T. Perry (#9). The 6’5, 205-pound junior from Florida has just 12 catches for 22 yards and one touchdown so far this season, but he can explode at any time. 5 of his catches and 142 yards came against Vandy, as well as his TD. Expect him to be at his best on the big stage this Saturday. He was among the top receivers in the nation last season with 71 catches for 1,293 yards and 15 touchdowns. Perry averages 18.5 yards per catch.
Most of you are used to the Deacs’ offense by now. They have that slow, deliberate mesh point with their RPO’s, where Hartman walks beside the back toward the line of scrimmage before deciding whether to pull the ball out and pass. Wake has perfected it soi well that the Deacs have had one of the best offenses in the nation over the past few years. However, Clemson has been the one team able to successfully stifle that offense. The key is that the Tigers have so much speed, size and athleticism in their front seven that they are able to disrupt the line of scrimmage and blow up that slow mesh. That’s bad news for Wake because the Tigers’ front seven is as disruptive as ever!
As noted earlier, the Tigers were without several defensive starters last week. Of those, I expect DE Bryan Bresee, DT Tyler Davis and DE Xavier Thomas to be back. DT Tre Williams, CB Sheridan Jones, S Andrew Mukuba and CB Nate Wiggins are question marks. Dabo would not tell me on Wednesday which will play this week, so we’ll have to wait until a couple hours before kickoff when Clemson sends me the final availability report. Needless to say, just getting those defensive linemen back will be a big shot in the arm for the defense. Hopefully, they’ll get a couple of the guys back in the secondary too because you do not want to be playing freshmen Toriano Pride and Jeadyn Lukus on the road against Sam Hartman and Wake while they are still figuring things out. They both had some freshman moments last week, including a touchdown given up by Pride because he didn’t turn around to find the ball.
Offensively, you have to love the improvement DJ has shown through 3 games. He has just one interception, and that wasn’t his fault because it was a deflected pass. He was an interception machine last year! Even though the offense has still yet to put it together for 4 quarters, it is averaging 41 points per game this season. Over the Tigers’ 9-game win streak (the longest in the nation incidentally), the offense has averaged 36 points per game versus 19 PPG over the first 7 games of 2021! That’s a heck of an improvement, and the offense is just scratching the surface of what it can be. Shipley averaged 11.6 yards per carry last week and has scored 2 touchdowns in each of the first 3 games. It’s the first time a Clemson player has done that since 1950. And Shipley has shared scoring opportunities with backfield mates Pace and Mafah to boot. It’s a big benefit that they can get such production from Shipley with so few carries because that will keep his legs fresh both late in games and late in the season. At receiver, Beaux Collins has caught a TD in each of the first 3 games—the first Tiger to do that since Sammy Watkins in 2011. He seems to be on the same page with his former high school teammate DJ. The two have developed a really good chemistry on the field. You also have to love what you’ve seen from freshman slot receiver Antonio Williams! He is already extremely polished for a freshman, but he’s going to get better and better, folks. Then there’s the other freshman, Adam Randall, who made his career debut last week with a catch and a target in the end zone that should have been pass interference. Dabo had him on a pitch count last week, but he should be full-go at Wake! And don’t forget about Ngata, who has yet to have a huge game, but he’s made a few great catches and, most importantly, is healthy after 3 games! DJ has done a great job spreading the ball around to all these guys, including the tight ends, and I can see his confidence growing by the week. He’s also made some great runs for first downs. Let’s hope Saturday will be the day that the offense finally puts on a show for 4 quarters!
Wake is planning a “black-out” for the game, but it will likely be 40 percent orange in Winston-Salem like every other time the Tigers play there. Interestingly, this is the first noon game for the Tigers after a weird start to the season with a Monday night game, a 3:30 game and an 8:00 Saturday night game. Let’s hope the Tigers are awake at noon! I suspect they will be. As mentioned earlier, I think it sticks in the players’ crawl that Wake won the division last year even though the Tigers blew them out on the field. I think this defense is too fast and disruptive for the Wake offense to operate effectively. The Deacs do snap the ball quickly, so it will probably be Wes Goodwin’s biggest challenge to date in terms of getting the plays in from the sideline, but I still expect the Tigers to dominate the line of scrimmage and force some three-and-outs. And let’s hope they saved some turnovers for this game after racking up 5 of them last week. Wake will undoubtedly make some big plays—especially to Perry—because Hartman is too experienced and savvy not to, but they will be few and far between. The good thing about Hartman from the Clemson perspective is that he’s not a good runner. So the Tigers should be able to come up with some sacks on Saturday. I know I wouldn’t want to be assigned to blocking Bresee for the rest of the season. After losing his little sister, Ella, he is going to play like a man possessed! Vegas only likes the Tigers by 7 in this one, but if the Tigers play like they are capable, that number should be much higher. The Tigers’ offense right now is too balanced for the Deacs to keep pace with against perhaps the best defense in the nation. Make it 14-0 for Dabo over Wake! The nation’s longest active win streak is extended to 10.
The Prowl toward a 7th College Football Playoff and 4th National Title continues….
CLEMSON 48 Wake Forest 17
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