Clemson coach Dabo Swinney previews Wake Forest
No. 4 Clemson (5-0, 2-0 ACC) will play at Wake Forest (3-2, 0-1) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in a game that will be televised by ESPN.
Here are our top five questions heading into the game:
Can Clemson contain Sam Hartman?
The Wake Forest quarterback played at Oceanside Collegiate in Mount Pleasant last season before coming to Wake Forest and earning the starting job as a freshman. Hartman is dangerous with his arm and his legs. He is averaging 237 passing yards per game and is also the third-leading rusher on the team with 208 yards and a score. Brent Venables will do his best to confuse the young quarterback, but Hartman has been solid thus far. The Demon Deacons are averaging more than 38 points per game.
Will Trevor Lawrence be limited?
Clemson’s freshman quarterback is expected to start at Wake Forest after getting banged up last week against Syracuse, but it will be interesting to see if Lawrence changes his style of play after leaving last week’s game with a neck injury and being placed in concussion protocol. A big part of Clemson’s offense is having a quarterback capable of making plays on the ground. If Lawrence is tentative after taking a tough blow to the head/neck area last week it would be understandable. But it could also limit Clemson’s offense.
Is Clemson ready for more tempo?
Tigers coach Dabo Swinney called Syracuse’s offense lightning quick as the Tigers prepared to face Dino Babers’ squad last week, but Wake Forest moves even faster than the Orange. The Demon Deacons are averaging about 87 plays per game, which is second in the nation behind only Texas Tech. For comparison Syracuse averages 80 plays per game. Clemson did a solid job overall of getting lined up against Syracuse, but getting the calls in quickly will be even more important this week.
Can Clemson limit Greg Dortch?
The Wake Forest receiver leads the ACC in receptions with 44 and in receiving yards with 555. The redshirt sophomore caught four touchdown passes last week against Rice and Clemson will have to know where he is at all times. Dortch is a good route runner, has the speed to run away from defenses and will be a tough matchup out of the slot for Clemson’s linebackers and defensive backs.
Can Wake Forest slow down Travis Etienne?
The Clemson running back has been nearly unstoppable this season and enters Saturday’s game averaging more than 8 yards per carry. Etienne is also starting to generate some Heisman buzz after rushing for more than 200 yards last week against Syracuse. Over the past three games the sophomore has rushed for 487 yards and six touchdowns while averaging more than 160 yards per game during the three-game stretch. Wake Forest is allowing about 190 rushing yards per game, so teams have had some success on the ground against the Demon Deacons.
Prediction: Wake Forest will be able to move the ball some against Clemson’s defense. The Demon Deacons have a strong running game with Cade Carney and former Dutch Fork star Matt Colburn shouldering the load. In the passing game, Dortch is a stud and is one of the top receivers in the country. But Clemson has too many weapons on offense and its defensive front will eventually take over on that side of the ball.
Pick: Clemson 38, Wake Forest 21