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Keys to Victory: No. 1 Clemson at Wake Forest

September 12, 2020

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Each week we give you a look at the history of the game, three keys to success, plus our staff predictions.

The Match Up:

No. 1 Clemson (0-0, 0-0) at Wake Forest (0-0, 0-0 ACC)

Clemson vs. Wake Forest 2019 Highlights

Clemson @ Wake Forest 2018 Highlights


Series History

All-Time Series: Clemson leads 67-17-1

at Clemson: Clemson leads 39-7

at Wake Forest: Clemson leads 25-10-1

Neutral: Clemson leads 3-0

Last Meeting: Clemson won 52-3 (Nov. 9, 2019)

Last Wake Forest win: Thursday, Oct. 12, 2008 (12-7)

Streak: Clemson has won 11 consecutive games against the Demon Deacons.

Stat of the Week:

The Tigers have won the opener in 10 of Dabo Swinney’s 11 full seasons as Clemson’s head coach, including each of the last five since 2015. This year marks Clemson’s first time opening a season on the road since 2016, when the second-ranked Tigers defeated Auburn, 19-13, at Jordan-Hare Stadium to kick off an eventual national championship campaign.

© David Grooms/Clemson Sports Talk
Dabo Swinney now has the highest winning percentage in regular-season conference games at 81.4%.


Key 1: Monitor and adjust

Clemson’s slaughtered Wake Forest over the past few seasons, and there really isn’t anything that should keep that from happening today, outside of the uncertainty of EVERYTHING.

Clemson’s staff will know who can play hours before kickoff, and that’s when the final game plan will be entirely in place. Strange times indeed.

Once inside the stadium, Wake’s empty stadium will be lifeless, even with music being piped in throughout the contest. It’s something the players and coaches are going to have to adjust to on the fly. We’ve pressed about communication advantages and disadvantages this week, but the truth is that no one really knows.

The No. 1 ranked Tigers are the best team in America, but this is new to everyone, and I expect there to be a hiccup or two given the strange circumstances, but nothing that will derail a Clemson victory.

Key 2: Secondary Play

You can probably chalk this one up as an opportunity to learn a bit more about the group that’s stacked with talent, but no clear cut No. 1s at cornerback based on the depth chart. Derion Kendrick is a Preseason Thorpe Award candidate, but he hasn’t completely fought off LeAnthony Williams. The opposite side is manned by former five-star Andrew Booth and Mario Goodrich. 

I can’t wait to see all four of those guys to learn more about them all. If I had to bet, I think Booth emerges opposite Kendrick as both players have the “dog” mentality that you want to see on an island. 

Remember the attitude that Mackenzie Alexander played with at Clemson? That’s what I think you can see from the duo mentioned above, assuming it is indeed Booth and Kendrick. Both players carry the edge and swagger to be lockdown players for Mike Reed, but the rest of the DBs, including Sheridan Jones, aren’t chopped liver. 

Swinney said that it’s good to be Coach Reed right now, and he’s right.

Key 3: Rushing Attack

Travis Etienne enters the year as the clear No. 1 guy at running back. He’s the two-time defending ACC Player of the Year, becoming Clemson’s first repeat winner since 1977- 78. If Etienne were to earn the award again in 2020, he would become the first player in conference history to win ACC Player of the Year honors three times. He would join Herschel Walker (1980-82 SEC Player of the Year) as the only Power Five conference players to win conference player of the year honors in three straight seasons.

He’s a problem. No doubt.

But so are the rest of Clemson’s running backs, and seeing that group racing up and down the field will get Tiger fans giddy on the opening game in 2020.

While Demarckus Bowman, a former five-star prospect, gets the chatter from fans, every-single-guy in front of him can flat out play. 

Look for Lyn-J Dixon to have a big day, and this observer is really intrigued to see what Kobe Pace can bring to the table given his sizes. 

With the new redshirt rule, Clemson can open things up, allowing for more and more players to hit the field. You’ve gotta love it.


Under normal circumstances, this game wouldn’t be close. And under unusual circumstances, this one won’t be close. 

Clemson is the cream of the crop in the ACC, and with an expanded roster at their disposal, I’d argue the gap between the Tigers and most of their competition got wider this offseason.

Coming off of their first loss in 29 games, the Tigers are looking to make another run back to the College Football Playoff, and Swinney says the group compares well to the best they’ve ever had, in part because they “appreciate” the opportunity to play more than any team he’s coached due to COVID-19.

Enjoy the game tonight, because you never know when the season could be wiped from the calendar. 

Swanny’s Prediction: 55-17 Clemson

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Keys to Victory: No. 1 Clemson at Wake Forest

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