The Final Breakdown

CLEMSON - Clemson hosts Wake Forest Saturday in a battle of Atlantic Division rivals inside of Death Valley.

QUARTERBACK: Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner has been the mark of efficiency during his three-plus years as the Demon Deacon's signal caller. Before the start of the 2009 season, he was the school's career leader in wins, completion percentage and passing efficiency. Skinner owns the NCAA record for bowl game completion percentage by completing all 11 passing attempts in the 2008 EagleBank Bowl victory over Navy.


Riley Skinner has started 37 games through his career at Wake Forest. (Roy Philpott)
With a nice ability to throw on the run, Skinner is a capable dual threat when looking to run for yards. He was named ACC Freshman of the Year in 2006 and All-ACC Honorable Mention last year.

This year, Skinner is rated as the fifth most efficient passer in the nation. He's completed 132 of 190 passing attempts for 1,694 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Skinner does have a tendency to lead defensive backs to his target with his eyes. Although he's thrown 49 touchdown passes in his career, he's also been intercepted 32 times.

Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker completed more than 50 percent of his passes against Maryland two weeks ago, the first time he's done so in his short, five game career.

Parker has completed 74 of 152 passing attempts this year for 895 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions.

Coming off of a bye week, Parker has had an extra week to prepare himself for Wake Forest's 64th ranked defense.

Skinner's resume speaks for itself.

ADVANTAGE:

RUNNING BACK: Wake Forest's misdirection-based rushing attack utilizes several rushers from different positions, including wide receiver. But it's the two quality running backs in Josh Adams and Brandon Pendergrass that makes the Demon Deacon's running game go. Adams is somewhat of a scat back at 185 pounds while Pendergrass, who is about three inches shorter, checks in around 200.

Adams is listed as the starter on the depth chart. He's rushed for 265 yards and two touchdowns this year. He's carried 19 more times than Pendergrass, who has one touchdown and 206 yards. As a red-shirt freshman in 2007, Pendergrass was named the ACC Freshman of the Year.

Adams also ranks fourth on the team in receptions and receiving yards, 13 for 173 yards.

Fullback Mike Rinfrette has a long run of six yards this year. But he's most effective in short-yardage, goal line situation. He leads the team with three rushing touchdowns.

This year, C.J. Spiller has rushed for 360 yards and a touchdown and averaging 4.2 yards per carry.

He can be just as an explosive threat as a pass catcher. He's third on the team with 10 catches for 157 yards and a touchdown.

Andre Ellington is pushing Jamie Harper for time as Spiller's backup. The shifty Ellington is averaging 5.9 yards per carry and has rushed for 147 yards this year. The bigger, stronger Harper has carried for 111 yards.

Adams and Pendergrass have emerged as the best duo in the conference since the graduation of former Clemson running back James Davis. The Demon Deacons are rushing for 139 yards per game this year, 66th best in the country.

ADVANTAGE:

WIDE RECEIVER: Two Wake Forest receivers have more receptions than Clemson's leading receiver Jacoby Ford, who has 25. Marshall Williams and Chris Givens have 32 and 26, respectively. Devon Brown has 22. All three have more yards than Ford's 307. Williams, 472; Givens, 356 and Brown 334.


Xavier Dye may be Clemson's best opportunity to develop a No. 2 receiver this season. (Roy Philpott)
Williams and Givens each have five touchdown receptions a piece. The five matches the five Clemson has as a team.

True freshman Jordan Williams is rarity in the Jim Grobe era at Wake Forest. He's one of four players on the Demon Deacon two-deep depth chart that hasn't red-shirted. At 6-3, he's a red zone target with two touchdown catches.

Sophomore Tight end Andrew Parker, who was one of five true freshmen ever to start under Grobe at Wake Forest, has made seven catches with two going for touchdown this year. At 6-5, he's also a threat in the red zone.

Without a touchdown catch since 30-27 loss at Georgia Tech, the Clemson receiving corps has been through a season-long search to find a compliment to Ford, who leads the team with two touchdowns. He's an explosive threat downfield with six catches for over 20 yards.

Xavier Dye could be emerging as that complimentary receiver to Ford after making three catches in Clemson's 24-21 loss at Maryland. Dye has just four on the year.

Tight end Michael Palmer has been steady this year and has been so throughout his career. He is the Tiger's second leading pass catcher with 12 receptions for 123 yards.

Behind Ford, Marquan Jones is the second leading pass catching wide receiver. He's got six receptions for 154 yards and a touchdown. Four of his catches have gone for over 20 yards but he's never caught more than two passes in one game.

Terrance Ashe has come to be the most dependable blocker among the Clemson wide receivers but he has just five receptions this year.

Jaron Brown was expected to make an impact against Maryland. He struggled, though, dropping two passes—an ugly trend that has plagued Tiger receivers all year.

Along with a very productive and experienced quarterback throwing the ball, Wake Forest has the 16th best passing attack in the nation. The jury is still out on a compliment behind Ford.

ADVANTAGE:

OFFENSIVE LINE: Wake Forest's left tackle Chris DeGeare spent his first three years at Wake Forest playing right guard before moving to left tackle. He utilized his red-shirt last year, what would have been his senior year. As a true freshman, DeGeare was named honorable mention Freshman All-America.

Left guard Joe Looney was one of three true freshmen to start last year.

Russell Nenon replaced Byrnes product Trey Bailey at center midway through last year when Bailey went down with a broken ankle. The versatile Nenon was moved over from guard.

Right tackle Jeff Griffin entered this year as Wake Forest's most experienced offensive lineman with 29 career starts. The Demon Deacon's two-deep listing on the right-side of the line is made up of red-shirt seniors.

The Demon Deacons have the 66th rated rushing offense with 140 yards a game and is tied for 69th in sacks allowed (2).

Clemson's best offensive lineman is left tackle Chris Hairston who's back to full speed after an MCL injury. He's participated in every practice since last week. His presence makes the Tiger offensive line much better.

Stalwart Thomas Austin continues to lead Clemson from his left guard spot. He and fellow guard Antoine McClain will have some depth behind them with Mason Cloy being dropped to second team center for Dalton Freeman.

The Tiger's offensive line has paved the way for the nation's 73rd ranked rushing attack (135 yards a game) and is giving up 1.8 sacks per game (62nd best).

Wake Forest's only game with below 100 yards rushing as a team came against the nation's fourth best run defense—N.C. State. Clemson has eclipsed the mark in all five games, even against Texas Christian. The Tigers also didn't yield a sack to the Horned Frogs, the nation's eighth best sack producing team.

Clemson's offensive line continues to improve each week, making this matchup too close to call one way or another.

ADVANTAGE:

DEFENSIVE LINE: Wake Forest's interior combination of Boo Robinson and John Russell has drawn much respect and praise from Clemson coaches and players over the past two weeks.

Robinson is in his third year as a starter for the Demon Deacons. Last year, he was named to the All-ACC honorable mention list and was 11th in the conference in sacks. Russell started last year and was a part-timer the year before as a sophomore. He registered two sacks in Wake Forest's 12-7 win over Clemson last year. This year, he's second on the team with two sacks.


Da'Quan Bowers and company once again get the edge on the defensive line. (Roy Philpott)
Sophomore Gelo Orange is a slight 225 pounds at one defensive end. He's versatile enough to stand up as a pass rusher. On the other side is fellow sophomore Tristan Dorty, who leads Wake Forest with three sacks and six tackles for loss this year.

Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers leads the starting front four with 28 tackles and leads the team with three sacks and four pass break ups. Ricky Sapp has a team-high seven tackles for loss and is second with two sacks.

Nose guard Jarvis Jenkins has 27 tackles and defensive tackle Brandon Thompson has 22. Jenkins and Bowers each have five tackles for loss.

Through six games, Wake Forest is 41st in the nation in rushing defense, giving up 119 yards a game. The Demon Deacons are tied for 74th with 1.67 sacks per game.

Clemson has the 56th rated rushing defense, giving up 131 yards per game. In the three games since giving up 301 rushing yards to Georgia Tech, opponents have rushed for 260 yards on 113 carries.

ADVANTAGE:

LINEBACKER: WILL linebacker Hunter Haynes leads all Demon Deacon linebackers with 29 tackles, which is third on the team. He's also forced and recovered a fumble and credited with a pair of quarterback hurries.

Wake Forest has two quality MIKE linebackers in Matt Woodlief and Dominique Midgett. Although Woodlief is listed as the starter in the Demon Deacon 4-3, Midgett has been in on more tackles, two having gone for loss.

None started before this year.

Clemson's linebacking corps is led by Freshman All-America Brandon Maye, who is second on the team with 36 tackles from the MIKE position. Kavell Conner is tied for third on the team with 35 tackles but has played just 173 snaps. Maye has played 280.

Two of Kevin Alexander's 11 tackles have gone for loss.

Not only is Clemson's trio better skill-wise, it's more experienced.
ADVANTAGE:

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Spiller said that he believes the strength of the Wake Forest defense is in its secondary. It starts with cornerback Brandon Ghee and strong safety Cyhl Quarles.

Quarles, a sophomore, is first on the team with 35 tackles and Ghee, who's a senior, has five pass break ups and second with 31 tackles.

Freshman cornerback Kenny Okoro is first on the team with two interceptions and also has three pass break ups.

Clemson hasn't given up more than 226 passing yards in a game this year. The 158 yards per game average will be put to the test against the best throwing team it's faced all season.

DeAndre McDaniel not only leads the team with 42 tackles, he's also made four interceptions. He's also registered two tackles for loss and a sack. Back up free safety Rashard Hall has been a tackling machine. Though he's been on the field for 162 snaps, he's been in on 29 tackles. That's six fewer than starter Marcus Gilchrist who has been on the field for a little less than twice the amount of snaps. The versatile Gilchrist, who can also play corner, has a pair of pass break ups.

Rarely has Crezdon Butler been thrown at, but when he has, he's made got three pass break ups.

Wake Forest has the 71st ranked pass efficiency defense while Clemson is 24th.

ADVANTAGE:

SPECIAL TEAMS: Wake Forest's returners rank towards the bottom in the nation in both categories. Freshman kicker Jimmy Newman has kicked four field goals.

Clemson kicker Richard Jackson leads the conference in points. He's kicked 14 field goals. All three of his attempts from over 50 yards have been good.

The Tigers ranked 112th out of 120 teams in net punting but the returns are better: 4th in punts and 11th in kickoffs—thanks to Ford and Spiller.

ADVANTAGE:

PREDICTION: Clemson 17 Wake Forest 14

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