The Wake Forest Demon Deacons will host the #4 Clemson Tigers this Saturday at 7 p.m. under the bright lights at BB&T Field. In preparation of Saturday’s contest we talked with Brian of Shakin The Southland to answer our questions about the Tigers.
Blogger So Dear (BSD): Clemson took a very surprising loss this weekend, as they shockingly lost at home as a 3-touchdown favorite to Pittsburgh. Yet, Michigan and Washington also lost. Do you still expect Clemson to make the College Football Playoff?
Shakin The Southland (STS): Yes, I think Clemson will make the playoff. Even before Michigan and Washington lost Clemson would make the playoff if they win out. Everyone got really antsy about Clemson being left out but a 1-loss conference champion, especially with the schedule Clemson has, is not going to get left out unless all 5 conference champs have 1 loss or fewer. The ACC Championship game against Virginia Tech will be challenging, but Clemson has more talent than any team remaining on the schedule.
BSD: Deshaun Watson is still a strong candidate to be the top quarterback taken in the 2017 NFL Draft, but he already has as many interceptions (13) as he did in 15 games last season, and is averaging nearly .5 fewer yards per passing attempt. Has he lived up to the expectations of most Clemson fans this year?
STS: It depends on who you asked. If you ask some folks he's been the biggest disappointment since Tommy Bowden was at Clemson. But I think if you take the realistic view the interceptions are concerning because of how they are happening. I'll say 9-10 of his picks this year have happened because he gets locked in on a receiver before the snap and never bothers to look at the coverage. That was what happened on 2 of the picks against Pitt and if he doesn't lock in on even one of them Clemson likely wins.
The lower yards per attempt I'm not worried about. If you look at Watson's numbers through 10 games last year the numbers were much similar and he did a lot of damage in the last couple games of the season to improve his averages. I wouldn't be surprised to see a similar change. Another reason for the difference is the type of play. Last year a lot of Watson's yardage came from screen passes and other similar routes, those have been down this year so the free yards are harder to come by.
BSD: In my opinion, the defensive line is the most impressive unit on the Clemson team. Which unit do you believe is the best and why?
STS: Leaving out QB I'd have to agree. A big reason I love the DL on this team is because of how they've been able to reload. We lost 3 starters from last years unit and once again the new guys have stepped up even with injuries this year. Their ability to cause havoc with just 4 is extremely useful to Clemson given our lackluster secondary. It also helps that they've been fantastic at stopping the run. The games where they have problems are usually when the offense does a great job of cutting back and our LBs are too aggressive to make the play.
BSD: What worries you most about this Wake Forest team?
STS: Your front 7 against the run game scares me. Clemson has had.... ugly run blocking on the OL this year and that has hurt the team's ability to control games and extend our lead. If you watched Saturday you saw a team that had to resort to trying a sweep play twice to gain one yard, it didn't work. If Wake's front 7 can really work on Clemson's OL in the run game this one stays close late and Wake could even have an opportunity to steal one from Clemson.
BSD: Let's get a prediction in this one. What's your best guess on the final score?
STS: I think it stays close at least through the half. The front 7 of Wake will do enough, but ultimately the talent difference isn't going to be enough. Couple that with a rather mad defense for Clemson and I think we are looking at a 30 - 3 type of game.
Many thanks to Brian for taking the time to answer our questions. For all things Clemson, be sure to check out Shakin The Southland.