The Final Breakdown

Dabo Swinney is one win away from leading Clemson to the school's second ACC Atlantic Division title in three years.

WHAT: No. 9 Clemson vs. Wake Forest
WHERE: Memorial Stadium (80,301) - Clemson, S.C.
WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 12 (12:01 p.m.)
SPREAD: Clemson -16.5

A victory over Wake Forest would lock that up. And it would also send the Tigers to the Dec. 3 ACC Championship game in Charlotte, N.C.

While Clemson [8-1, 5-1 ACC] looks to bounce back after a pre-bye week loss to Georgia Tech, Wake Forest [5-4, 4-2 ACC], led by Jim Grobe, is coming off an emotional home loss to Notre Dame.

If Wake Forest wins on Saturday, the Demon Deacons will be in the driver's seat for the ACC Atlantic title. Wake Forest would then hold the tie-breaker over Clemson, if both teams finished with two ACC losses.

Here's a look at what we expect to see Saturday afternoon:

It's been almost two weeks since Tajh Boyd's last throw -- an interception late in the fourth quarter against Georgia Tech. But he's still one of the most successful quarterbacks in the country.

Boyd's 154.75 rating is 17th nationally. His 2,674 passing yards are No. 11 in the country.

The redshirt sophomore has accounted for 20.22 points per game this season, including 25 touchdown passes.

Tajh Boyd's 154.75 rating is 17th nationally. His 2,674 passing yards are No. 11 in the country. (Roy Philpott)
Sammy Watkins is still the top pass catcher at Clemson with 64 receptions for 978 yards and 10 touchdowns. One more touchdown catch will tie Aaron Kelly for the school's single-season record.

Throw in DeAndre Hopkins, Dwayne Allen and the rest of the Tigers' receiving threats, the Demon Deacons have their work cut out for them -- maybe even more so with Chad Morris getting an extra week to prepare.

Wake Forest's secondary play has been feast or famine all season.

N.C. State, Florida State and North Carolina threw for over 300 yards, while Syracuse, Gardner-Webb, Boston College and Notre Dame all had less than 190 yards.

Opposing offenses have thrown 16 touchdown passes while the Demon Deacons have hauled in nine interceptions.

The Wake Forest secondary, which ranks 51st in the country in pass efficiency defense, is a relatively experienced group.

Free safety Josh Bush leads the team with five interceptions. He's tied for sixth nationally with .56 picks per game.

One of the youngest member of the regular defensive backs, redshirt freshman cornerback Merrill Noel, is first among ACC defenders with 16 passes defended [15 pass breakups and one interception].

Strong safety Cyhl Quarles leads Wake Forest with 71 tackles, but he typically plays in the box for run support. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound fifth-year senior could find himself matched up with Allen, who's third among Clemson pass catchers with 38 receptions for 470 yards.

Outside linebacker Kyle Wilber leads the Demon Deacons with 3.5 sacks.

It's not an easy matchup for Clemson. But coming off a bye week, at home, on senior day, with a chance to clinch the division -- advantage to the Tigers.


Andre Ellington will be ready to play after sitting out against Georgia Tech. Clemson's leading rusher has 745 yards on 146 carries with seven touchdowns. He's fourth among ACC rushers with 93.1 yards per game.

His return will be welcomed after freshmen running backs D.J. Howard and Mike Bellamy each coughed up fumbles against Georgia Tech.

A healthy Andre Ellington should give Clemson's running game a much-needed boost Saturday. (Roy Philpott)
Bellamy is second among Clemson rushers with 305 yards on the ground. Howard is third with 189 yards. The two have combined for three scores.

Boyd is second with four rushing touchdowns.

Against the run, Wake Forest is a respectable 49th nationally with an average of 138.89 yards per game.

Undersized nose guard Nikita Whitlock [5-11, 260] is second among Demon Deacon defenders with 46 tackles. He leads the team with 12 tackles for loss.

Like Whitlock, the starters along the Wake Forest odd-man front are on the small side. At defensive end, Tristan Dorty is 6-2, 255 and Zach Thompson is 6-5, 255.

The Clemson offensive line, which averages over 300 pounds per player, should be able to push around a smaller Wake Forest front.

That alone is enough to give the nod to Clemson.


Clemson's combination of Boyd and Watkins overshadows the duo Wake Forest will trot out. Lurking in the dark is the Demon Deacons' combo of quarterback Tanner Price and wide receiver Chris Givens.

Price, like Boyd, has been efficient for most of the season.

The Wake Forest signal caller has completed 169 of 273 passes for 2,154 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. His 141.92 efficiency rating is ranked No. 34 in the country.

Wake wide receiver Chris Givens leads the ACC with over 109 yards receiving per game. (Getty Images)
After passing for at least 215 yards in each of his first seven games, Price has thrown for less than 200 yards in his last two games [North Carolina and Notre Dame]. His worst outing was his three interception performance against the Tar Heels.

Regardless of the last two games, Wake Forest is a legitimate threat through the air.

For Price, it starts with Givens, who is one-two in the league with Watkins in the two major receiving categories.

Givens has 58 catches for 985 yards and eight touchdowns. He leads the ACC with over 109 yards receiving per outing.

Wake Forest likes to get the ball in Givens' hands on screens, crossing routes and other short to intermediate routes. When he gets the ball in space, he's dangerous. The former Texas high school running back is dynamic after the catch.

The Demon Deacons have a nice compliment to Givens in Michael Companero, who's second on the team with 41 receptions for 508 yards.

Running back Brandon Pendergrass is also a nice receiving option out of the backfield.

Clemson's been stronger against the pass than it has against the run this season. The Tigers' pass efficiency defense rating of 122.37 is 43rd in the country.

But they are susceptible to giving up big days. North Carolina and Florida State both threw for over 300 yards in Death Valley.

Wake Forest has given up 2.67 sacks per game this season, which is tied for 94th in the country. Andre Branch could be adding to his .94 sacks per game average, which leads all ACC pass rushers.

Price is smart with the football and he has the ability to keep plays alive with his feet. He, Givens and Companero barley get the edge.


To date, the Wake Forest running game hasn't produced many eye-popping numbers, but the Demon Deacons do have a formidable one-two punch with Pendergrass and Josh Adams.

Brandon Thompson and Clemson's front-four will be tested against Wake's disciplined offense with the downfield passing game and misdirection. (Roy Philpott)
Adams has rushed 453 yards and Pendergrass has 463. Pendergrass also leads the team with six rushing scores while Harris is second with three.

Running quarterbacks have been a thorn in the side of Steele's defenses over the last years and Price has potential to keep that trend alive on Saturday. Though Price isn't great a dual-threat option as his backup, Ted Stachitas, he's a threat to make plays with his feet once the play breaks down.

A quick look at the overall numbers and it's easy to say that Clemson has struggled against the run. The Tigers have given up an average of 193.11 yards on the ground, which ranks No. 96 nationally.

Wofford ran for 272, Auburn piled up 237 yards, and Maryland and Georgia Tech rushed for 291 and 383 respectively.

That's 1,241 yards in four games. Clemson has allowed 1,738 yards.

In the last home game of their Clemson careers, Brandon Thompson and Rennie Moore will play a big part in keeping the Wake Forest run game in check.

Saturday's total by Wake Forest should fall somewhere between Florida State's 29 and Virginia Tech's 133.


Watkins is second among ACC kick returners with 26.6 yards per return while Wake Forest's Lovell Jackson is sixth with 21.1 yards per return.

Sammy Watkins is second among ACC kick returners with 26.6 yards per return while Wake Forest's Lovell Jackson is sixth with 21.1 yards per return. (Roy Philpott)
Wake Forest kicker Jimmy Newman is third among ACC kickers with 8.1 points per game. He's tied for first in the conference with 1.67 field goals per game and percentage [88.2].

Chandler Catanzaro is fourth with a percentage of 77.8, third with 1.56 field goals per game and second with 8.9 points per game.

There's very little separation between the two schools in kickoff return defense and punt return defense. Along with the similarities in field goal success, this matchup is too close to call.


PREDICTION: Clemson 42 Wake Forest 21 Top Stories