Countdown to kickoff: Can Clemson’s offense pick things up?

Countdown to kickoff: Can Clemson’s offense pick things up?

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Countdown to kickoff: Can Clemson’s offense pick things up?

No. 4 Clemson at Wake Forest

Clemson will get back quarterback Trevor Lawrence when the fourth-ranked Tigers travel to Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday for a 3:30 p.m., kickoff against Wake Forest at Groves Stadium.

Lawrence missed the second half of the Syracuse game after suffering what turned out to be a neck strain in the second quarter. The true freshman was 10-of-15 for 93 yards prior to his injury. He was making his first career start.

The Tigers have been up and down on offense this season, primarily with consistency, but still lead the ACC in total offense and yards per play (7.03). They have an opportunity to fix their inconsistencies against a Demon Deacons defense that is yielding 6.05 yards per play and a conference worse 461.2 yards per game.

Clemson, by the way, is averaging 497.6 yards per game.

Game information:

Where: Groves Stadium, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Records: Clemson 5-0, 2-0 ACC; Wake Forest 3-2, 0-1 ACC

When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Radio: 105.5 in the Upstate (Clemson Tigers Radio Network); Sirius XM Radio Ch. 133

Latest Line: Clemson (minus-20)

Series: Clemson leads 65-17-1

Streak: Clemson has won nine straight

Last year: Clemson won 28-14 at Death Valley

Three story lines

Can Lawrence play an entire game? Through the first four weeks of the season, the true freshman shared the offense with the now departed Kelly Bryant. Last week, an injury caused him to miss the second half. Every Clemson and college football fan are anxious to see how good Clemson’s offense can be if Lawrence is able to play a full 60 minutes.

Will Clemson continued to pound the rock? Clemson has averaged 283.3 yards per game on the ground in the last three weeks, including 293 in last week’s come-from-behind win over Syracuse. Running back Travis Etienne has rushed for 487 yards (162.3 ypg) and scored six touchdowns in those three games.

Will Wake Forest move the ball on Clemson’s defense? The Demon Deacons are second in the ACC in total yards (487.6 ypg). They totaled nearly 400 yards against No. 6 Notre Dame and had 512 yards against Boston College. They do it with an up-tempo offense that predicates off the short passing game and RPOs from quarterback Sam Hartman. Wide receiver Greg Dortch is one of the big playmakers in the ACC. He leads the ACC with 45 receptions for a league high 555 yards and five touchdowns. Wake ran 94 plays against Tulane, 105 against Boston College and 92 against Notre Dame. By the way, Clemson’s defense ranks second in the ACC in total (263.6 ypg), scoring (16.8 ppg), rushing (95.0 ypg) and passing (168.6 ypg) defense.

Wake Forest players to watch

Sam Hartman, QB: He completed 15-of-17 pass attempts for 241 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in the Deacons win over Rice last week. Hartman was named the ACC Rookie of the Week for his performance against the Owls. He also posted a school record QB efficiency rating of 284.96.  That is the highest rating ever by a Demon Deacon QB who completed 11 or more passes in a game. Hartman’s 284.96 efficiency rating is the third-best turned in by an FBS quarterback this season.

Matt Colburn, RB: The South Carolina native became the 12th player in Wake Forest history to surpass 2,000 career rushing yards. The last Deacon to go over 2,000 yards was Josh Harris in 2013 who finished his career with 2,230 career yards.

Cade Carney, RB: He ranks fourth in the ACC in rushing with 428 yards. He is averaging 5.4 yards per carry and 85.6 per game. He has a team-high four rushing downs.

Greg Dortch, WR: He is third in the nation and first in the ACC in all-purpose yards this week after gaining 198 yards vs. Rice. Dortch is averaging 196.2 yards per game in 2018, up from his 2017 season average of 161.2 YPG. He also leads the ACC in receptions per game (9.0) and punt return average (16.7) and receiving yards (111.0) per game. He is fifth in the ACC in kickoff return average (23.2). His 9.0 receptions per game rank second nationally, while also ranking in the top-10 in the country in receiving yards per game (fifth), total receiving yards (sixth) and punt return average (eighth).

Wake Forest scouting report

Against top-10 foes, the Demon Deacons are 1-61 all-time with the lone win being a 19-6 victory over No. 4 Tennessee in Knoxville on Oct. 26, 1946. Since that game, the Demon Deacons have lost 59 straight to top-10 opponents.

Wake Forest is currently riding a streak of 12-straight games in which it has scored 20 or more points.

The Deacons have rushed for 200 or more yards in eight of its 18 games since the start of the 2017 campaign.

Wake Forest is the least-penalized team in the FBS this week, averaging just 3.0 penalties per game. The Deacons are sixth in the nation in fewest penalty yards with 153.

The Demon Deacons offense leads the ACC and is fifth nationally in first downs with 138. The Deacons had at least 27 first downs in the first four games to start the season.

Wake Forest is 17th in the nation in rushing yards with an average of 244.4 per game

The Deacons are the only team with three punt return touchdowns on the season. Dortch returned two punts for touchdowns against Towson. The Deacons’ Demetrius Kemp blocked a punt against Boston College that was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown by Malik Grate. The blocked punt counts statistically as a punt return for a touchdown.

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