Clemson dominated the game against Florida State last week but couldn't produce in the red zone in a gut-wrenching 16-13 loss. The Tigers are playing for pride and bowl eligibility now as they have fallen out of contention for the Atlantic Division title. They head to Wake Forest this week, a place where they have struggled in recent years, trying to avoid going winless on the road this season.
Clemson offense vs. Wake Forest defense
Clemson's struggles in the red zone are well documented and are, frankly, getting more frustrating to watch with every week. They can move the ball between the 20's, but when they get in scoring position, they almost cease to function. Kyle Parker threw two more costly interceptions against Florida State, both ending Clemson drives in Seminole territory. He simply hasn't had the year people expected him to when he decided to return. Jamie Harper had the best game of his career, gaining almost 200 yards from scrimmage. DeAndre Hopkins also had a career day. The true freshman caught eight passes for more than 100 yards. Clemson's inability find the end zone is undoubtedly connected the loss of Andre Ellington, who had 11 touchdowns before his injury. If there's ever a game that Clemson should be able to score touchdowns, it's this one. Wake Forest has the No. 115 scoring defense in the country, surrendering nearly 40 points a game. The Demon Deacons' pass defense has been shredded by even the ACC's worst passing attacks. Safety Alex Frye is the best player in the secondary with 55 tackles and three interceptions. Linebacker Hunter Haynes is the team's top tackler, totaling 62 stops on the year. Defensive end Kyle Wilber is the best player on the line and has 14.5 tackles for loss this season.
Key Matchup: Kyle Parker vs. Wake Forest secondary
Parker has really struggled this season, but there is no reason he shouldn't rip apart the Demon Deacon secondary. Bryce McNeal is out with an injury, but Hopkins, Jaron Brown, and Marquan Jones, along with Dwayne Allen, should provide enough weaponry for Parker to have a big day.
Wake Forest offense vs. Clemson defense
Wake Forest isn't much better on the offensive side of the ball, especially in the passing game. Freshman quarterback Tanner Price is still adjusting to the starting role and hasn't thrown a touchdown in three weeks. Freshman running back Josh Harris has been impressive in his first year, rushing for 544 yards and five touchdowns on 5.6 yards per carry. Chris Givens and Devon Brown have combined for 63 catches this year. Givens is the downfield threat, averaging 15.6 yards per catch and grabbing four touchdowns. The Clemson defense has done their part to keep the Tigers in games as the offense has stalled. Da'Quan Bowers is looking more and more like a top-five NFL Draft pick, and it would be nothing short of a miracle if he returned for his senior season. Linebackers Corico Hawkins and Quandon Christian are coming into their own and starting to make plays. The secondary has played well but is still susceptible to big plays.
Key Matchup: Wake Forest offensive line vs. Clemson defensive line
If Wake is going to have any success on offense, it's going to be running the ball. If Bowers, Jarvis Jenkins, and the Clemson front four can clog the running lanes and make tackles, it will give them an opportunity to get to the quarterback when the Demon Deacons are forced to pass.
Clemson's kicking game has cost them multiple times this season, but the punting has been solid. Marcus Gilchrist has done a good job returning kicks and punts this year. Wake Forest kicker Jimmy Newman has made 9-of-10 field goals, and Shane Popham is a decent punter. Michael Campanaro is averaging 24.2 yards per kick return.
There's really no reason Clemson shouldn't win this game, but that's been the case for more than one of the Tigers' losses this year. Wake has lost eight games in a row and, honestly, just aren't a very good team. Clemson will probably struggle just because the game is on the road, but they are simply to talented to lose this game...I think.
Clemson 24 Wake Forest 10