WHAT WE ARE HEARING: PREVIEW & PREDICTION FOR NO.3 CLEMSON vs. WAKE FOREST
- 2019-11-18 11:30:55
Welcome to another edition of What We Are Hearing!
Saturday is Senior Day, the final home game of the season and final regular season ACC game for the Tigers. It was made less dramatic by Wake’s loss at Virginia Tech last week because the Tigers clinched a spot in the ACC Championship as a result, but they still have their ACC win streak and a fifth consecutive playoff on the line. The CFP Selection Committee has made it quite clear that it doesn’t respect the ACC schedule the Tigers have played and will not consider them for the playoff with one loss, so they have no margin for error. It’s repeat as undefeated ACC Champs or bust. The Tigers won their fifth straight blowout last week, 55-10 at NC State, and I nailed my score prediction perfectly for the first time this season. I had come close several times, but this is the first time I was right on the money. When I saw Skalski take the field for that PAT in the final minute, I was selfishly hoping he’d miss, and he did! The Tigers are 10-0 again and have won at least 10 games for 9 straight years, tying them with Texas for the third-longest streak in college football history. It’s been a historic kind of season for the Tigers, who seem to break new records every game. This week, the seniors have a chance in their final game in Death Valley to set a new Clemson record for consecutive home wins at 22. Travis Etienne, who broke the rushing touchdown record of James Davis and all-purpose TD record of C.J. Spiller in the last two games, needs 2 rush TD’s to tie James Conner for the ACC career record. He also needs 2 TD’s of any kind to tie Conner for the all-purpose record, so 3 rush TD’s on Saturday would give him both records. He tied Lamar Jackson for second on the rush TD list last week.
Before diving into Saturday’s game, it was an exciting week for Clemson Soccer. The Tigers beat Notre Dame 3-0 in the ACC Quarterfinal on Sunday and were elevated to No.1 in the rankings on Tuesday. It was their first No.1 ranking since September of 2006! They beat No.25 Pitt 1-0 in the Semifinal on Wednesday and will play No.2 UVA in the ACC Final at noon on Sunday in Cary, NC. The game will be televised live on ESPNU. The Tigers and Hoos have not met this season, but UVA lost last month at home to Pitt 2-0. The last time Clemson and UVA met in the ACC Final was 2001, and the Tigers won. They are seeking their fourth ACC Tourney Title (first since 2014) and 16th overall title. They were runner-up in 2016. The Tigers had 7 players named All-ACC, including the Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. The Tigers boast the nation’s best offense with 64 goals this season, the most by any team in 20 years. For coverage from Wednesday night’s win over Pitt and post-game interviews with ACC Coach of the Year Mike Noonan and players, click HERE.
Now onto Saturday’s matchup with Wake…..
Clemson leads the all-time series with Wake 66-17-1. Only South Carolina has been beaten more times by the Tigers….With last week’s win at NC State, Clemson has won 36 of its last 39 games away from home and 24 of its last 25 true road games….Clemson and Alabama are tied for the most consecutive weeks in the AP Top 10 at 71 straight weeks. Georgia is 3rd at 40 weeks…The Tigers have won 42 of their last 43 home games, losing only on a last-second field goal to Pitt in 2016….Clemson has won its last 39 straight Saturday games, the longest streak in the nation….Clemson has scored 45 points or more for 5 straight games, a first in school history….
Dave Clawson has done a tremendous job with this Wake Forest program, and the Deacs were considered the second-best team in the ACC for most of the season, reaching No.19 in the rankings before suffering their second loss of the season at Virginia Tech last week, 36-17. Wake’s only other loss this season was a late field goal in a shootout at home with Louisville.
6’4, 230-pound junior Jamie Newman is the straw that stirs the drink for the Deacs, both as a player and as a leader. Newman has completed 65.8% of his passes this season for 2,297 yards and 22 touchdowns with 7 interceptions. He also has 301 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns, averaging 2.7 yards per carry. He missed the FSU game last month due to injury, but Wake was able to get the win with sophomore Sam Hartman. Newman bounced back but had a tough game last week in Blacksburg, going 16-35 with 2 TD’s and 2 INT’s. He has a great arm, though. He can make all the throws and will likely play in the NFL. On top of that, Wake probably had the second-best WR group behind Clemson, but they took a huge hit when it was announced on Tuesday that WR Sage Surratt will miss the rest of the season after suffering a shoulder injury in the 4th quarter last week. Surratt was having a First-Team All-ACC season, already with 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns, and was a potential NFL first-rounder. 6’5, 225-pound senior Scotty Washington (#7) is their next big-play WR. He 35 catches for 607 yards and 7 touchdowns, averaging 17.3 yards per catch. Former quarterback Kendall Hinton (#2) is now their slot receiver at 6’0 and 195 pounds. The senior has 51 catches for 659 yards and one touchdown this season. He has excellent speed and hands. Wake has a good tight end in 6’3, 235-pound senior Jack Freudenthal (#86), who has 24 catches for 204 yards and 4 touchdowns. Look out for him in the red zone.
In the backfield, Cade Carney (#36) is back for his senior year. The 5’11, 215-pound bruiser has 429 yards and 3 touchdowns, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Wake is more of a passing team but loves to use Carney in short yardage situations. Wake has a very unusual style of handing the ball off with a slow, delayed mesh point between the QB and back. It’s designed to force the defense to declare before the ball is handed off in the hopes of mitigating the opponent’s speed advantage. Wake has perfected the unique style, and it has been effective for them all season. The slow-moving handoffs are a strange juxtaposition with the fast tempo at which Wake plays. It is one of the fastest offenses in the nation, so the Tigers will have to be ready to go fast and maintain their eye discipline. 5’10, 200-pound Freshman Kenneth Walker (#25) is their second-leading rusher with 394 yards and 3 touchdowns, averaging an impressive 6.9 yards per carry.
On the defensive side, look out for 6’5, 275-pound junior DE Carlos Basham, Jr (#9). He leads the team with 7.5 sacks this season and has 2 forced fumbles. In the secondary, senior Amari Henderson (#4) leads the team with 4 interceptions. The Deacs have 6 different players with an INT this season and 9 total as a unit. Wake lost its leading tackler in senior LB Justin Strnad, who was injured in the FSU game and is out for the season.
Sophomore kicker Nick Sciba is a Groza Award Semifinalist and is a perfect 16-16 on field goals this season. His long, however, is only 40 yards.
The Tigers are in great shape from a health standpoint, and they will have a bye next week to rest up before the Palmetto Bowl and ACC Championship. They continue to set team and individual records week by week and have blown out all 5 opponents since the close call at UNC early in the season. Trevor Lawrence is the first Clemson QB in history to throw 3 TD passes in 5 straight games, and he also rushed for his 7th TD of the season last week. Etienne, as mentioned, has a chance to set a couple new ACC records this week, and he has rushed for over 100 yards in 5 straight games. Incidentally, the numbers for Trevor and Travis would be even more gaudy if they didn’t play so little in so many second halves. Travis has just 4 carries in the 4th quarter all season! The defense has been consistently outstanding all season long, holding all 10 opponents to less than 300 total yards. The last team to do that was Alabama in 2011, and it’s even more impressive in this era of fast-tempo, high-powered offenses. It will be tough to hold this Wake offense, which averages 487 yards per game, to less than 300, but if they do, it will be the longest streak since LSU in 2006.
Clemson is No.5 in scoring offense (45.3 points/game), No.2 in total offense (545.8 yards/game), No.8 in rush offense (269.8 yards/game) and No.32 in pass offense (276 yards/game). Note the incredible balance, with about 6 yards separating passing yards and rushing yards per game!
Clemson is No.3 in scoring defense (11.5 points/game), No.4 in total defense (251.5 yards/game), No.23 in rush defense (114.3 yards/game) and No.2 in pass defense (137.2 yards/game). Clemson is the only team ranked in the top 4 for both total offense and total defense. Clemson and Ohio State are the only teams ranked in the top 5 for both scoring offense and defense.
Wake is one of the better teams in the ACC, but I would have predicted a blowout even before Surratt was knocked out for the season. That is how disparate the gap is between Clemson and the rest of the league right now. The biggest question is whether the Clemson defense will hold its 11th straight opponent to less than 300 yards. Otherwise, the Tigers will cruise to their 6th straight blowout win and second straight perfect ACC regular season slate. The nation’s longest active home win streak is extended to 22 games, and it’s a new Clemson record!
The Prowl toward a 5th consecutive ACC Title, a 5th consecutive College Football Playoff and 4th National Title continues……
CLEMSON 62 Wake Forest 17
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