But for most of the series, playing Wake Forest was as close to that as there is for Clemson (other than the long winning streak at the start of the Virginia series).
That shouldn't change this week.
The Tigers are big favorites in this game Saturday, and they should be. With a 3-0 record after winning their ACC opener last week, the Tigers are right where they want to be. Wake Forest, on the other hand, is 2-2, having lost their ACC opener at Boston College and at home to Louisiana-Monroe.
Clemson leads the all-time series 60-17-1, and that dominance has been there since the series began with a 13-0 Clemson win in 1933. Other than a six-game winning streak for Wake Forest from 1942-1947, this has been Clemson's series.
Dabo Swinney has solidified Clemson's control of the series since taking over as the Tigers' head coach.
Remember those years when the Tigers struggled with the Demon Deacons? A 45-17 Wake Forest win in 2003 was one of the lowest points in recent Clemson history, and a 12-7 Demon Deacons victory in 2008 proved to be Tommy Bowden's final game as the Tigers' head coach.
That led to Swinney taking over on an interim basis for the rest of that season and then as the head coach full time that December. And it's one of the best moves Clemson has made within its athletics department in a long, long time.
Swinney has solidified the program in many areas and given it a strong base from which to build.
With Bowden, the program was all over the place and never really seemed to have a plan. But that is one of the strengths of Swinney's era: After an up and down first couple of seasons, he has his plan and system in place, and they are working well.
That can be seen in the Wake Forest series.
There has been one close game in the four since Swinney took over. That was a 31-28 victory in the 2011 that was quite meaningful -- the ACC Atlantic Division clincher. The other games haven't been close at all, starting with a 38-3 win in 2009, followed by 30-10 in 2010 and then 42-13 last year.
Those games have put an end to the myth that Wake Forest has Clemson's number as the Tigers won with superior players and coaching. Their advantages in those areas have ruled this series throughout the years.
Wake Forest just doesn't have the resources or the support to match up with Clemson on a consistent basis. The Tigers should dominate this series with all the advantages they have over the Demon Deacons, and when they don't, that says a lot about how the Clemson program is scuffling at that time.
Bowden struggled, for sure, against the Demon Deacons, as did Ken Hatfield, who lost consecutive games in the series in 1992 and 1993. That had not happened since 1946 and 1947, and it hasn't happened since. Hatfield's tenure was a mess, and that was on full display against the Demon Deacons.
That, however, has been a rarity.
The Tigers' longest winning streak in the series is 15 from 1977 to 1991, and they also won 10 straight from 1950 to 1960.
One of the real highlights for Clemson came in 1981 when the Tigers scored 12 touchdowns, including 10 rushing, in an 82-24 win. That game placed a full spotlight on the differences between these two programs.
Clemson's starters, and even its backups, were just too strong for Wake Forest to handle. The difference of the depth of talent on the two rosters was startling that October day. Clemson didn't do a lot of fancy things offensively back then, and especially that day, but everything the Tigers did worked. They were just bigger, stronger, faster and better than the Demon Deacons, and there was really nothing Wake Forest could do to stop it.
It would be hard to expect Clemson to match the 82 points from that day, but it would be even harder to expect Wake Forest to be competitive Saturday. The Demon Deacons just aren't on the Tigers' level this season, and realistically they shouldn't be.
Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at macon.com/peachsports.
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