The no. 3 Clemson Tigers can take a big step toward securing their spot in the College Football Playoff this week when they play host to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 EST on Saturday, November 16 at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina. The game is set to be broadcast nationally on ABC.
Current betting odds list Clemson as 33.5-point favorites at home with an over/under of 59.5 points. Click here to see a full list of the Week 12 college football odds.
A close call against North Carolina in late September remains the only hiccup in Clemson’s season. The Tigers have steamrolled everyone else on their schedule, winning every other ACC game by at least 31 points. Clemson is now 10-0 overall, giving them a 25-game winning streak. They are also 7-0 in ACC play, securing a spot in the ACC Championship Game. The Tigers were no doubt upset to be outside of the top-4 in the CFP Committee’s initial rankings last week. But as long as Clemson beats Wake Forest, South Carolina, and their opponent in the ACC title game, they are a virtual lock to play in the CFP for the fifth straight season.
Wake Forest, meanwhile, enters this game at 7-2, having already secured a bowl bid. However, the Demon Deacons lost any chance of being able to steal the ACC Atlantic division away from Clemson when they fell to Virginia Tech 36-17 last week. It was a disappointing loss for a Wake Forest team that had worked its way into the top-25 and was putting together one of the best seasons in program history. The Demon Deacons now have to recover quickly and play two more road games over the last three weeks of the season, including this week’s trip to Clemson.
It’s been a full decade since the Demon Deacons last beat the Tigers. Clemson has won 10 in a row against Wake Forest, a streak that coincided with Dabo Swinney’s first full season as head coach of the Tigers. Last year’s meeting ended 63-3, the most lopsided result in the series. However, the Demon Deacons made Clemson sweat a little two years ago in their last trip to Death Valley, only losing 28-14.
For what it’s worth, I hate eating the points in this game, if for no other reason than hoping for a game that’s actually competitive and worth watching. However, the math dictates that I lay down the points and take Clemson to cover. As mentioned, the Tigers have won six of their seven ACC games this year by at least 30 points. They’ve also won three in a row by at least 45 points and were 60 points better than Wake Forest a year ago. Keeping all that in mind, I have to pick the Tigers to cover.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence got off to a rocky start this season, but he’s eventually come around. Over his last three games, Lawrence has thrown nine touchdown passes and no interceptions while completing over 75% of his passes. Of course, the Tigers barely need to throw the ball with running back Travis Etienne finding the end zone seven times over the last three games. In total, Clemson has scored at least 45 points in five straight games and at least 55 points in three straight games.
In other words, the Wake Forest defense is facing an almost impossible task this week. In fairness, they’ve held three ACC teams to 20 points or less, so the Demon Deacons have had their moments on defense this year. On the other hand, this is the same Wake defense that gave up 35 points to Utah State in their season opener, allowed Louisville to score 62 points last month, and was carved up by Virginia Tech for 36 points last week. Clearly, there are some flaws on that side of the ball. When push comes to shove, I don’t think the Demon Deacons can handle the physicality of the Clemson offensive line or the size and athleticism of Clemson’s receivers.
Wake’s other problem is the Clemson defense, which has held every team but North Carolina to 14 points or less. To be fair, Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman deserves a lot of credit for having an outstanding season. But he’s coming off a rough outing against the Virginia Tech defense last week and now has an even more difficult challenge this week. To add injury to insult, Sage Surratt, who leads the Demon Deacons with over 1,000 receiving yards, has been lost for the rest of the season due to injury. On top of that, I don’t think the Wake Forest rushing attack, which is average at best, should expect to do much damage against the incredible depth of talent the Tigers have on their defensive line.
Again, I would like nothing more than to find a good reason to take Wake Forest to beat the spread and make this a close game. Keep in mind that laying down this many points isn’t something that should be done lightly. But Clemson has been demolishing the rest of the ACC over the past month and a half and there’s no reason to think the Tigers will let up now. I’ll take Clemson to win by at least five touchdowns and cover.