The Clemson Tigers football team slipped to No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings after a loss to Pitt and now has to rebound against Wake Forest to earn a spot in the ACC title game.
Who: Clemson (9-1, 6-1 ACC) vs. Wake Forest (6-4, 3-3)
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, N.C. (31,500)
TV: ESPN (Bob Wischusen, Brock Huard, Allison Williams)
Radio: WZMJ-FM 93.1 FM in Columbia area, Clemson Radio Network
Satellite radio: SiriusXM 194
Series record: Clemson leads 63-17-1
Line: Clemson by 22 1/2
What’s at stake
Clemson took a hit with the loss to Pitt, but winning this and the next two should send the Tigers to playoffs comfortably. A loss and they’re all but out as they cede the division to Louisville. Wake Forest has already exceeded expectations with bowl eligibility, and even hanging with Clemson would be a big step.
The teams, by the numbers
Opp. Yds Rush/Game
Opp. Yds Pass/Game
Opp. Total Yds/Game
Three Story lines
1. Kind of a big deal. This game is simply the key to Clemson’s playoff hopes. Win and that dream lives on. Lose and the Cardinals slot into the driver’s seat. In the last year with Deshaun Watson and a lot of the stars on this roster, there’s urgency to make this run count.
2. Tough D to crack. Wake Forest possesses a pretty tough defense. That’s heavily built on strong play in the red zone and forcing turnovers. Some of the yardage totals look worse than they are because of facing several very good offenses.
3. Sling it less? Watson threw an astronomical 70 passes against Pitt and it highlights how the running game has struggled a lot. The offense has topped 5 yards a carry just twice this season, and that can leave the Tigers vulnerable with the load Watson has to carry.
Three Clemson Players to Watch
1. Quarterback Deshaun Watson tossed three interceptions against Pitt, meaning his 13 has already matched his total for 15 games last season. After a season-high 580 yards through the air, he’s thrown for 3,077 yards, 27 touchdowns, plus 373 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground.
2. Wide receiver Mike Williams posted his third game with more than 140 receiving yards, surpassing the 200-yard mark against the Panthers. He’s at 956 yards on 67 catches with six scores touchdowns.
3. Linebacker Dorian O’Daniel has come on of late, posting a big game last week with a sack and a forced fumble. He’s got 46 tackles on the season, a team-high 7.5 for loss, three sacks and five quarterback hurries.
Three Wake Forest Players to Watch
1. Quarterback John Wolford isn’t the most efficient passer, with a rating of just 107.1. But along with 1,454 passing yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions, he’s run for 454 yards and six touchdowns (ranked second and first on the team, respectively).
2. Running back Matt Colburn, a local product from Dutch Fork, is the Deacons’ top option on the ground. He’s run for 490 yards, taken a team-high 120 carries and caught 11 passes for 118 yards.
3. Defensive back Jessie Bates has delivered after redshirting last season. The strong safety leads Wake Forest with 76 tackles and has five interceptions on the seasons. It helps to have a pass rush that includes Duke Ejiofor (nine sacks, 14 TFL, three pass break-ups) and linebacker Marquel Lee (six sacks, 15 TFL).