The Final Breakdown

Clemson is riding a five-game winning streak into Thursday's matchup with Wake Forest.

WHAT: No. 20 Clemson at Wake Forest
WHERE: BB&T Field - Winston-Salem, N.C. (31,500)
WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 6 (7:30 p.m.)
SPREAD: Clemson by 20
TV: ESPN (Rece Davis, David Pollack, Jesse Palmer)

WAKE FOREST RUN GAME VS CLEMSON FRONT SEVEN
Clemson ranks second in the country in total defense. (Getty)
Talk about mismatches. This could be the mismatch of the season. The numbers for the running game for Wake Forest are so bad they don’t even look real. The Demon Deacons have 248 rushes and have gained 276 yards (that’s 1.1 yards per carry). They have three rushing touchdowns and a long run of 36 yards. Wake Forest is averaging just 34.5 rushing yards per game. And that unit has to go up against a Clemson defense that is allowing just 101.4 yards per game to rank 10th nationally? Orville Reynolds (143 yards), Demond Wortham (129) and Isaiah Robinson (115) lead the Demon Deacons, and it’s easy to understand the troubles when you look at the offensive line, which starts three sophomores, one junior and a senior. That’s almost not fair against a Clemson front featuring Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett and a linebacker corps featuring Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward.

Advantage:

WAKE FOREST PASS ATTACK VS CLEMSON PASS RUSH/SECONDARY
Vic Beasley could have a field day Saturday. (Getty)
The Demon Deacons’ passing game is better than their running game, but it’s still not good. Wake Forest is averaging just 179 passing yards per game, as quarterback John Wolford has completed 146-of-238 throws (61.3 percent) for 1,377 yards. Those numbers aren’t awful, but he has thrown seven touchdowns and a staggering 13 interceptions. E.J. Scott (35 catches for 373 yards), Cam Serigne (36-360) and Jared Crump (27-265) are the leading targets, but this again should go Clemson’s way. The Tigers rank fifth nationally, allowing just 167.3 passing yards per game. The pass rush, led by Beasley and Corey Crawford, could have a field day against the Demon Deacons’ inexperienced front, and the secondary could be ready to take advantage with some interceptions.

Advantage:

CLEMSON RUN GAME VS. WAKE FOREST FRONT SEVEN
Freshman RB Tyshon Dye will make his debut Saturday. (CUTigers)
Wayne Gallman stepped up for a struggling Clemson running game and had a big day against Syracuse. He needs to keep that momentum going against a Demon Deacons defense that is allowing 178.5 yards per game. Clemson’s offensive line has been shaky, at best, and it needs to finally start playing better. Going into the ninth game of the season, that unit should be performing better (the Tigers are averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and 140.8 yards per game). Wake Forest’s defensive line and linebacker groups include a freshman, two sophomores, three juniors and a senior, and while it has been solid, the group shouldn’t scare a Clemson offensive line that has to come together and start playing better.

Advantage:

CLEMSON PASS ATTACK VS. WAKE FOREST PASS RUSH/SECONDARY
Artavis Scott continues to pace the Tigers in receptions. (CUTigers)
This one is hard to predict. Wake Forest’s pass defense is the best part of its team, ranking 10th nationally by allowing 179.8 yards per game. Clemson’s passing offense has been atrocious the past few weeks, but it’s still averaging 291.3 yards per game. Cole Stoudt has completed 115-of-182 passes (63.2 percent) for 1,143 yards. He has just two touchdowns and four interceptions, including three against Syracuse in a game that he was absolutely awful in the first half. If he continues to struggle, the Demon Deacons’ secondary that includes three senior starters could cause some problems. Stoudt can play better, and as a senior, there is really no excuse for some of the mistakes he is making. He has plenty of weapons, with Mike Williams (35 catches for 743 yards) and Artavis Scott (45-502) leading the way as the go-to receivers. The wild card is Deshaun Watson. If he returns, how much – and how well – does he play after being off the past few weeks with a broken bone in his hand. If he doesn’t play, Stoudt needs to step up his game and give a better showing in front of a national TV audience. All of that adds up to a slight lean to the Demon Deacons.

Advantage:

SPECIAL TEAMS
Ammon Lakip is 15-for-19 on field goals this year. (CUTigers)
Clemson’s special teams have made big leaps forward throughout this season, especially place-kicker Ammon Lakip, who has made 15-of-19 field goal tries and all 26 extra point kicks. No one could have predicted that after his performances at Georgia and Florida State. Bradley Pinion has been solid, averaging 42.8 yards per punt, and he has been key in the field position game while the Clemson offense has struggled mightily the past few weeks. Mike Weaver has made all nine of his field goal tries and all 13 extra point tries for Wake Forest, while Alex Kinal handles the punting duties. Advantage:

OVERALL
Dave Clawson has his work cut out for him in trying to turn around the Wake Forest program, and the Demon Deacons have struggled offensively in his first season, averaging just 14.8 points per game. It will take a big-time effort for them to even get to that average against a Clemson defense that is allowing just 18.3 points per game. Clemson has won five straight in this series, and there is no reason that won’t stretch to six.

PREDICTION: Clemson 34, Wake Forest 10

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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