(21) Clemson Tigers (-21, 42.5 o/u) at Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Tonight, the surging Clemson Tigers (6-2, 5-1 ACC) travel to North Carolina to face the struggling Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-6, 0-4 ACC) at BB&T Field (7:30 p.m. Eastern).
Clemson is riding high after posting five straight conference wins, including a 16-6 victory over Syracuse two weeks ago. Both teams had last week off and will enter the game well-rested. The extended break has an added benefit for the Tigers, who have been without freshman QB Deshaun Watson the last few weeks. With a few extra days of rest for his injured thumb, Watson should be back under center tonight.
Watson has been impressive in his first year with the Tigers, throwing for 1,176 yards, 12 TDs, and only 2 INTs, but he hasn’t played since injuring his thumb against the Louisville Cardinals in early October.
“It’ll probably be the most watched pregame warmup we have,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “He really looks good.”
The Tigers offense has respectable numbers despite Watson’s extended absence; they are 22nd in passing yards, 93rd in rushing yards, and 50th in points scored (averaging 32.3 per game). But the real strength of this Tigers team is the defense, which allows just over 18 points per game (tenth best in the nation). They haven’t allowed more than 17 points in their last four games – all wins. They also held the mighty Seminoles to just 17 points through 60 minutes in Tallahassee, but wound up losing 23-17 in OT. (Also, it should be noted that Jameis Winston did not play that game.)
Wake Forest is 0-4 inside the ACC and has dropped four straight. Their last win came against 2-6 Army on September 20. The Demon Deacons are near the bottom of the nation in nearly every offensive category. Most alarmingly, they average just over 14 points per game (126th in the country). While they have had to face some tough ACC defenses (like Louisville), they haven’t looked much better outside their conference. The first game of the season was a microcosm of their year, as a whole, as Wake put up just ten points against UL Monroe, a middle-of-the-pack team from the Sun Belt Conference.
“We’re learning some painful lessons,” first-year coach Dave Clawson said. “We’ve got a lot of things to clean up. We’re early in this process and if we can establish effort as a starting point then we are headed in the right direction.”
Clemson is listed as 21-point favorites, and the over/under is at 42.5. Clemson is 6-3 SU in its last nine games at Wake Forest.
(Photo credit: Jim Ferguson (http://www.flickr.com/photos/gotigersjf/290154390/) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)