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Clemson is Doing Everything It Can

By Dave Holcomb
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All that stands in their way of another perfect record going into the playoffs is a road matchup against South Carolina and the ACC Championship.

In the Southern Pigskin matchup preview for Wake Forest-Clemson, takeaways, red-zone efficiency, third down and penalties were the keys to a Demon Deacons upset. Maybe gaining more than 105 yards of offense should have been another.

Wake Forest barely did anything right, but this afternoon was all about Clemson. Dabo Swinney’s squad held the No. 2 ACC offense in terms of yards and points to a tick more than 100 yards and a field goal, as the Tigers posted another dominating performance, knocking off perhaps the second-best ACC team, 52-3.

With this victory, the Tigers finish 8-0 in the ACC for the second straight year. All that stands in their way of another perfect record going into the playoffs is a road matchup against South Carolina and the ACC Championship.

Failing to secure the ball hurt Wake Forest immediately in Week 12. Two of the team’s first three drives ended in three-and-outs where the Demon Deacons gained either zero or negative yards. On the other possession, Demon Deacons quarterback Jamie Newman threw an interception on the first play.

Those short drives resulted in a 14-0 Clemson lead with 9:55 still remaining in the first quarter.

On its third drive, Clemson gifted Wake Forest a possession starting at the Tigers 28-yard line because of a botched punt. The Demon Deacons drove 16 yards to inside the 15-yard line but settled for a field goal.

That would be Wake Forest’s only points and the team’s third-longest drive of the afternoon.

After that, the Demon Deacons would have the ball on Clemson’s side of the field just one other time in the game. That possession also started in plus-territory for Wake Forest because of a Clemson mistake -- an interception from backup signal caller Chase Brice. But that drive ended with a failed fourth-down conversion.

Wake Forest’s longest drive of the day was 30 yards. The Demon Deacons posted just 41 passing yards and 64 yards on the ground. Clemson held them to 2.9 yards per pass and under 2.0 yards per play.

Wake Forest came into Saturday with the best third-down offense in the ACC. But Clemson held the Demon Deacons to a season-worst 2 of 13 on third-down attempts.

The only key Wake Forest managed to accomplish was limiting its penalties, as the team has done all season. The Demon Deacons committed three fouls for 25 yards, but the Tigers succeeded there too, only earning four penalty calls for 35 yards.

If Clemson wins out, and the Tigers most definitely should, there won’t be a debate on Selection Sunday. Their weaker schedule won’t matter in the eyes of the committee and neither will their near loss to North Carolina. No undefeated Power 5 team will be left out of the College Football Playoff.

The Tigers are now riding a 26-game winning streak.

But Clemson’s strength of schedule will matter in terms of seeding. With Georgia picking up another Top 15 win -- this one on the road at Auburn -- Saturday, the Bulldogs are closing in on the No. 3 spot. Clemson could hold them off one more week, though, because of such a lopsided victory against a competitive team.

No, Wake Forest isn’t a great team, but the Demon Deacons are going bowling, and outgaining another Power 5 team with a winning record, 516-105, is impressive no matter how it’s sliced.

Clemson might just need to post this yardage difference again against South Carolina and in the ACC Championship to avoid falling to the fourth seed in the final poll.