CLEMSON — Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson doesn’t see a struggling team when he looks into his locker room even though the results tell a different story.
The Demon Deacons (3-7, 1-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) would need a monumental turnaround to pull off the upset against No. 1 Clemson (10-0, 7-0) on Saturday.
Clawson, in his second season, said the Deacons have made too many “unforced” errors that have led to too many frustrating defeats.
“At this point in the year, there’s been 10 games, we’ve actually outgained our opponents this year,” Clawson said. “That shouldn’t translate to a 3-7 record, but when you go back and look at it, I think it’s very simple. When you lose the turnover margin as bad as we have, and when you allow as many explosive plays as we have, that is the big difference.”
Wake Forest held Notre Dame to 282 yards, a low for the Fighting Irish this season, yet fell 28-7.
Clemson is absolutely the wrong place to get those things corrected. The Tigers, No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings, most likely lead the conference in explosive plays with quarterback Deshaun Watson in charge of high-powered offense.
The Tigers have gained 500 or more yards in their past six games. They’ve had just one contest in that stretch with a fewer than 34 points, a 23-13 victory over Florida State two weeks ago.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said having Watson, the ACC’s leader in total offense and TD passes, out there gives the Tigers an advantage that is difficult to count.
“He’s just so comfortable in his role as far as being the commander out on the field. He’s got such ownership of our offense. He wants the ball and wants it in crunch time,” Swinney said. “He doesn’t flinch. If he has a bad play or makes a mistake, it just doesn’t affect him. He brings a poise and presence to our offense.”
Perhaps one too much for Wake Forest to slow down.
Some other things to watch when No. 1 Clemson plays Wake Forest:
Clemson is looking for its first 8-0 run through the ACC. The Tigers have had undefeated league seasons four times previously, in 1967, 1978, 1981 and 1982. All those years, they were 6-0. Clemson was 7-0 against ACC opponents in 1983, but were serving an NCAA probation and not eligible for the league title.
Wake Forest is facing its second top-five opponent in top-ranked Clemson after playing No. 5 Notre Dame a week ago. The Demon Deacons are 0-8 all time when facing No. 1 with their past five meetings all losses to top-ranked Florida State. The closest Wake Forest has come against a No. 1 opponent was a 28-7 loss at No. 1 Maryland in 1955.
The Tigers have plenty of streaks on the line in this one. They’ve defeated their past 37 opponents not ranked among the AP’s Top 25 teams. They’ve already set the program record for consecutive home wins, a run that can grow to 16 in a row in Clemson’s final home game of the year. The Tigers have also won 13 consecutive contests dating to last year, tied for the second longest in school history. Clemson won 15 in a row from late 1947 to early 1949. And coach Dabo Swinney is a perfect 6-0 over Wake Forest.
Who’s the QB
Wake Forest is still deciding whether its starting quarterback will be sophomore John Wolford or freshman Kendall Hinton. Each have appeared in nine games with Wolford the team leader in 1,362 yards and seven TDs.
Clemson is seeking its 700th all-time victory when it faces Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons were the opponent when the Tigers won their 500th game, a 24-6 defeat in 1990.