Plenty on the line

Despite coming off their first defeat of the season, the Tigers say they couldn't ask for a better scenario this Saturday -- a home game on Senior Day with a chance to wrap up an ACC Atlantic Division title.

"All of our eggs are in this basket," junior center Dalton Freeman said of the Tigers' Nov. 12 game against Wake Forest. "We realize what's at hand. The off-week allowed us to look at the big picture."

The Tigers' "big picture" is still plenty enticing, with a 12-1 record, ACC title and Orange Bowl berth among the possibilities.

Clemson, which is ninth in the latest BCS standings, also has a chance to go 7-0 at home for the first time in school history.

"That would be a great legacy for this group," coach Dabo Swinney said. "They've got a chance to separate themselves."

Swinney said the bye week served his team well, and the Tigers returned to practice with "a spring in their step that I hadn't seen in a little while."

The team returned to basics, honing the things it does well in preparation for a final three-game stretch.

"We dialed things back a bit," offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. "A lot of times the worst thing you can do (during a bye week) is add a few things. But football is a game of execution, not a game of adding more plays."

WEDNESDAY NOTES: This is Clemson's fourth straight week in the top 11 of the BCS standings. The most weeks Clemson has appeared in the BCS rankings in one season is six, set in 2007. That year Clemson finished 15th in the BCS.

* Clemson is averaging 473.2 yards per game in total offense compared to 334.6 last season. That 138.6-yard improvement ranks second-best in the nation. The Tigers also are the second-most improved team in the nation in terms of scoring offense, improving from 24 points per game a year ago to 38 points per game this season.

* Clemson will have 18 seniors playing their final home game on Nov. 12 against Wake Forest. The senior class includes eight starters -- three on the offensive line.

Clemson leads the all-time series with Wake Forest, 58-17-1. (Kevin Bray)
* Clemson owns 58 wins over Wake Forest -- its second-highest victory total over any opponent. Clemson has 65 victories over South Carolina.

SERIES HISTORY: Clemson leads the series with Wake Forest, 58-17-1 (last meeting, 2010, Clemson won 30-10 at Winston-Salem, N.C.).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The top benefit of Clemson's bye week may have been the improved health of RB Andre Ellington, who is expected to be at full strength for the first time in several weeks.Saturday.

Swinney said the team has missed Ellington's "leadership," but the Tigers also have missed his productivity and ball security. Back-up running backs D.J. Howard and Mike Bellamy each had a fumble in the loss at Georgia Tech on Oct. 29 and QB Tajh Boyd threw two interceptions as Clemson had more turnovers than its opponent for just the second time this season.

"We can't afford to turn the ball over," offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. "We've been a successful offense this season because we haven't turned the ball over. We say every drive needs to end with a kick -- either a punt, a PAT or a field goal."

The bye week also may have helped TE Dwayne Allen, who's been hampered by a turf toe.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Senior DT Brandon Thompson is the most disruptive force on the Tigers' defense. Opposing offenses have to adjust their strategies and schemes to account for him and his ability to clog the middle. This is enabling his front-line mates such as Rennie Moore, Andre Branch and Malliciah Goodman more opportunities to make plays.

There were some breakdowns in Clemson's loss at Georgia Tech, as the Yellow Jackets' triple-option shredded Clemson for 383 rushing yards, but the effort and discipline should be better against Wake Forest -- particularly given what's at stake for the 8-1 Tigers.

It's all about the finish, says defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.

"November is key -- people remember what you do in November," he said. "If we finish correctly, we've got an opportunity to get better and gain a lot of confidence." Top Stories