Countdown to kickoff: Deacs begin new era, host Tigers for primetime matchup

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson (AP file photo)

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson (AP file photo)

The countdown is on to Clemson football first in Athens (Georgia) and then back in TigerTown on Sept. 6 (S.C. State).

We’re counting down the Clemson schedule – by strength of schedule – with a quick profile, team I.D. and prediction.

Today it’s Wake Forest and the new era of Dave Clawson Deacs football.

Clemson Countdown to Kickoff

12) S.C. State

11) Georgia State

10) Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Quick Profile

Plays Clemson: at BB&T Field (Winston-Salem, N.C.), Thursday Nov. 6, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN).

2013 Record: 4-8 (2-6 ACC, 6th in the Atlantic Division).

Coach: Dave Clawson (90-80 career record).

Offense (2013 ranks): Spread (Scoring offense: 116, 18.3 PPG; Yards per play: 120, 4.37; Field position advantage: 103).

Defense (2013 ranks): 4-2-5 (Def. yards per play: 22, 5.0; Scoring defense: 38, 24.1 PPG; 3rd down defense: 35, 36.3%).

Advanced stats: Success Rate – 102 (38.5%); Points per trip inside the 40 – 77 (4.1); Adj. line yards – 108 (87.8); Def. Success Rate – 43 (40.5%); Def. points per trip inside the 40 – 14 (3.7); Def. adj. line yards – 41 (106.1).

Returning starters: Offense – 5; Defense – 5; Kickers – 2;

ACC Unit ranks: Coach – 14; QB - 14; RB – 14; WR - 13; TE - 13; OL - 14; DL - 14; LB - 12; DB - 5; ST - 14.

Wake Forest Identity

1. New Sheriff in Town - Jim Grobe’s Deacs were advantageous in 2006 en route to an ACC title, but the program was never able to sustain the momentum and he resigned last year after going 77-82 over 13 seasons in Winston-Salem. Enter Dave Clawson, a former Tennessee offensive coordinator and longtime FCS coach, who led Bowling Green to a MAC championship last season. He looks to jump-start a dreadful Wake Forest offense of late after his Eagles finished in the top-30 nationally in scoring (34.8 PPG) and total (459.4 YPG) last season.

2. But… - Clawson has his work cut out for him this season offensively. Per our “Sizing Up” series, Wake Forest is last or next-to-last at every unit in the ACC. They are breaking in a new quarterback and looking for leaders both in the rushing and receiving game. The Deacs are just ahead of BC in offensive production returning (34.5 percent) returning from an offense that ranked 120th in yards per play (4.37).

Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins breaks a tackle by Wake Forest cornerback Merrill Noel in the first quarter at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

Photo by Sefton Ipock

Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins breaks a tackle by Wake Forest cornerback Merrill Noel in the first quarter at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

3. Solid back-seven - The Demon Deac D’s strength is unquestionably in the secondary, where they have a couple playmaking corners (Kevin Johnson and Merrill Noel). Wake Forest was third in the ACC in defensive yards per pass (6.4) and second in containing passes over 20 yards (27). While Clawson is an offensive coach, Bowling Green led the MAC and was top-10 nationally in scoring and total defense the last two seasons under new DC Mike Elko and his 4-2-5 scheme.

Projected Record: 3-9 (1-7 ACC).

(Way too early) Wake Forest pick: 41-10 Tigers.

Analysis: It’s been awhile since Wake Forest has been anything more than a bye to an ACC win (2007 to be exact, Tommy Bowden’s final game as Clemson coach). Last season, the Tigers averaged 11.3 yards per pass (that’s a lot) in a 56-7 beatdown. Two years ago on another Thursday nighter, it was never close in a 42-13 Tigers win. The Deacs will be happy to see Sammy Watkins go (19 catches for 377 yards and 2 TDs in three games), but that won’t help them score on Vic Beasley and co.

Next up: 9) N.C. State – New QB, new hope in Raleigh…

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