By Will Vandervort
Here is a position-by-position breakdown of Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. kickoff (ESPNU) as Wake Forest visits No. 3 Clemson.
Quarterback: Though he threw for 244 yards and three touchdowns in a victory last week, neither Tajh Boyd nor offensive coordinator Chad Morris was happy with the way the senior performed. It took 59 plays before he settled down and started to lead the offense. Boyd has not thrown an interception in his last 142 passes and is 24 away from setting a new Clemson record in that category. Wake’s Tanner Price is completing just 55.2 percent of his passes for 852 yards. He has thrown five touchdowns and has only two interceptions. Advantage: Clemson
Running back: Rod McDowell and the Clemson running game had a bounce back game as they rushed for 170 yards on 40 carries against an NC State defense that led the ACC in rushing defense at the time. McDowell has rushed for 243 yards so far this season, but has yet to score a touchdown. Wake Forest has had issues running the football with any consistency. The Demon Deacons are averaging only 121.8 yards a game on the ground (3.2 yards per carry) with senior Josh Harris leading the team with 151 yards and two touchdowns on 44 carries. Advantage: Clemson
Wide receiver / Tight ends: Martavis Bryant will be suspended for the first half due to a slashing of the throat motion he made after his 30-yard touchdown reception last week. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was not happy about his junior wide receiver’s actions. Look for freshman Mike Williams to get the start in his place. He had a 25-yard reception in last week’s victory. Though he has just one touchdown thus far, Sammy Watkins leads Clemson with 19 catches for 242 yards and ranks fourth in the ACC in receptions per game. Wake Forest Flanker Michael Campanaro leads the ACC with 8.3 receptions per game for 118 yards. He has 354 yards and two touchdowns on 25 catches thus far. Advantage: Clemson
Offensive line: Shaq Anthony will get the start for the Tigers at right tackle. He will replace Gifford Timothy who is out with a concussion he suffered in the NC State game. Kalon Davis will start at left guard for David Beasley, but Beasley will play. Davis is starting because Beasley spent the week practicing in a green jersey. Eric Mac Lain will be the second-team left tackle as Isaiah Battle sits out a one-game suspension for his punch on a NC State player. Wake Forest has two freshmen and a sophomore starting on the offensive line, which explains why the Demon Deacons have given up eight sacks thus far and are only averaging 3.2 yards per carry on the ground. Advantage: Clemson
Defensive line: Vic Beasley leads the ACC and ranks fourth in the country with his five sacks. Shaq Lawson, a freshman, has emerged as another big pass rusher, but he is also solid with his run defense and has 4.5 tackles for loss. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett ranks third on the team in tackles with 20 and has six quarterback pressures to go along with a sack. Wake Forest’s Nikita Whitlock is one of the smallest nose guards in the country at 5-11, 250 pounds, but he is one of the best at his position. The senior is all over the field making plays and is always a headache for opposing offensive linemen. He has nine tackles for loss and ranks second on the team with 31 tackles, overall. Advantage: Clemson
Linebackers: Stephone Anthony has 37 tackles and four tackles for loss to lead the Tigers, while Spencer Shuey ranks second with 35 tackles. Both players have really taken off in defensive coordinator Brent Venables’ scheme and are doing a good job flowing to the football. Shuey is still having a few issues as he continues to grow as a weak side backer, but his move to the outside and Anthony’s development as a player in the middle seems to be paying off for the defense. Wake Forest middle linebacker Brandon Chubb ranks third on the squad, while weakside backer Mike Olson leads the team with 34 tackles. Advantage: Clemson
Secondary: The Demon Deacons have one of the best secondaries in the ACC. Swinney says they are fundamentally sound and rarely make a mistake. That explains why they rank third in the ACC in interceptions with six. They also rank fourth in the conference in pass defense, giving up only 143.2 yards per game. Cornerback Kevin Johnson leads the team with two of the six interceptions. The Clemson secondary is giving up 230.3 yards per game, but it has only allowed two touchdown passes and both came on runs after the catch. The Tigers also have four interceptions and have returned two or touchdowns. Advantage: Wake Forest
Special teams: Chandler Catanzaro continues to be automatic with his kicking. He has made all four this season and has made 30 of his last 31 attempts, which started with his game-winning field goal against the Demon Deacons in 2011. His only miss came in last year’s game at Wake Forest. He has made 28 straight kicks from inside the 48-yard line. Punter Bradley Pinion is averaging 41.7 yards per punt and an even better 40.0 net yards. Wake place kicker Chad Hedlund is 5-8 on field goals this year, while punter Alexander Kinal averages 39.3 yards per punt. Advantage: Clemson
Prediction: Look for Clemson’s offense to come out with more of an attitude this week. It was obvious in his meeting with the media earlier in the week that Morris was irritated with the way his offense has been playing and I’m sure he made sure they knew just how irritated he was in practice. Wake Forest is looking to find itself offensively and coming to Death Valley and trying to discover who you are is usually not a good combination. The Deacons are just not that good on offense and they cannot run the ball with any consistency. Look for this game to be decided before or just after halftime.
Clemson 42, Wake Forest 3