When Dabo Swinney says his team has to play well on Saturday to beat Wake Forest, he means it.
Another performance like last week’s loss to Pittsburgh in Death Valley could mean a second straight defeat for the fourth-ranked Tigers. Swinney, in particular, is concerned with Clemson’s issues in the red zone and with turnovers.
The Tigers (9-1, 6-1 ACC) are tied for 12th in the ACC in turnovers lost with 12, while they rank 11th in the ACC in red zone offense. Against Pitt, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson threw three interceptions, including two near or in the end zone as the Tigers lost the game by one point.
“We are going to have to play well, we know that,” Swinney said. “Obviously there’s a lot on the line for us, and we have a chance to win this division. The good news is we have a really good football team and we are very capable of winning the game, but we are going to have to play well.
“Wake Forest is going to fight with everything they’ve got and we know that, but for us it is about having a great week, fixing some of the mistakes, learning from some of the mistakes that we’ve made, and getting back on track this week.”
When the Tigers meet the Demon Deacons at 7 p.m., at BB&T Field, the Tigers will be trying to secure a spot in next month’s ACC Championship Game. A loss and Louisville is awarded the Atlantic Division.
That’s why taking care of the football will be of the upmost importance.
Wake Forest (6-4, 3-3 ACC) leads the conference in forced turnovers with 23.
“The biggest thing about what they have done defensively, they have created a lot of turnovers,” Swinney said. “They are plus-nine in the turnover margin and that is somewhere in the top ten in the nation. They easily lead the conference.”
Actually Wake is tied for third in the nation with South Carolina in the number of turnovers forced. The Demon Deacons have forced 12 fumbles and have 11 interceptions.
“I am impressed with their secondary. Their safety, Jessie Bates, has five interceptions, second in the league,” Swinney said.
What has not been impressive is the way Watson has been throwing interceptions. The Clemson quarterback is second in the FBS in interceptions thrown with 13.
“It is going to be a tough game and a tough task going up to Wake Forest. They are a much improved team,” Swinney said. “Dave Clawson has done a great job at Wake Forest. They have some guys that are long and athletic – they’ve really done a great job.”