By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
There is a popular misconception out there that Wake Forest has been a thorn in Clemson’s side over the years. However, when looking at results and results only, the Demon Deacons have mostly been a welcome site for the third-ranked Tigers.
Clemson, who will host Wake Forest Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Death Valley, owns a 60-17-1 record all-time against the Demon Deacons. That means 78 percent of the time the Tigers have come out of the Wake Forest game victorious. That is second only to the .820 win percentage Clemson owns on Virginia.
So where does this popular misconception come from?
In 1992 and 1993, the Demon Deacons beat Clemson in back-to-back years for the first time since Peahead Walker’s team beat the Tigers six years in a row from 1942-’47. Wake Forest then won again in 1998. Those years aided, by Tommy Bowden’s struggles against Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe—he was 5-3 against Grobe—put off the perception that Wake Forest has been more competitive against the Tigers than it actually has.
“These guys always play us tough,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said earlier this week.
Not really. Since 1977, Clemson has won 30 of the 36 meetings and at one point won 15 straight games in the series. Three different times the Tigers have won four straight games, including their current four-game winning-streak against the Demon Deacons heading into Saturday’s matchup.
Clemson (3-0, 1-0 ACC) has also won 24 of the last 26 meetings in Death Valley between the two schools. Grobe’s teams are 0-5 all-time at Clemson Memorial Stadium.
“It’s really a difficult place to play,” Grobe said. “They have a great fan base. They have great attendance. They really support the Tigers, and I think Clemson plays especially good at home.
“You get 80,000 plus fans in there, and there aren’t many of them for the opposing teams. They’re all for Clemson, and it’s an intimidating environment. You have to really not only go in and play good football against one of the most talented teams in the country, but you’ve got to fight the distractions of being in a hostile environment.”
Beating Wake Forest (2-2, 0-1) really hasn’t been too difficult for Dabo Swinney either. He is 4-0 against the Demon Deacons and three of the wins were over by halftime. Clemson won by 35, 20 and 29 points in 2009, 2010 and 2012.
Only the 2011 game, when Wake had a 28-14 fourth-quarter lead, did the Demon Deacons come close to beating Clemson. Chandler Catanzaro made a 43-yard field goal as time expired to win the game for the Tigers, sending them to the ACC Championship game that year.
Last year, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd threw five touchdown passes in the first half in leading the Tigers to a 35-7 halftime lead. Clemson won the game, 42-13.
Overall, Swinney’s Clemson teams have outscored Wake Forest 141-54 and won by an average margin of 21.8 points in the four games. But the Tigers’ head coach has already worn everyone that this year is different and they have to play Wake Forest like they do everyone else.
“We are going to have to play well because this is an opportunistic team,” Swinney said. “They will take advantage of any mistakes you make.”
That might be true. Wake Forest might have one of those rare moments and will be a pain in Clemson’s side, but odds are the Tigers will do what they always do against Wake Forest and that’s win the football game.
History tells us more than likely that is what is going to happen when these two teams play football against one another.