It is finally game week! And while everything may be a little different than most years, the excitement surrounding the start of football season is very much the same. As we will every week, let’s get things going with a quick preview of the opposing offense. This week the Deacs are at home to take on the #1 ranked Clemson Tigers on ABC.
Even though Clemson hasn’t played a game yet this season, I don’t think it will be too difficult to predict what we will see on Saturday. That is because the Tigers have these two guys named Travis Etienne and Trevor Lawrence—you may have heard of the them—who are somewhat decent at football. Etienne is coming off back to back ACC Player of the Year awards and has rushed for over 4,000 yards and 56 touchdowns in 3 years at Clemson. For his career, he is averaging 7.8 yards per carry, which is ridiculous. Lawrence is the consensus #1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and has thrown for over 6,900 yards and 66 touchdowns in just 2 seasons with the Tigers. Against the Deacs last season, Lawrence completed 21 of his 27 pass attempts for 272 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Lawrence and Etienne helped Clemson average almost 530 yards and 44 points per game last season. That was good for 5th and 4th best in FBS respectively, making it pretty obvious that the Tigers’ offense was an absolutely juggernaut last season. That being said, the Tigers will be without their 2 leading receivers (Tee Higgins was taken 33rd overall in the NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals and Justyn Ross will unfortunately miss the entire 2020 season due to an injury he suffered in spring practice) and 4 starting offensive linemen from the 2019 season. That probably won’t mean much from a production stand point, as the Tigers typically have plenty of depth and can plug in 5-star level talent pretty much anywhere on the field.
We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but I’m going to assume that the Deacs will see a pretty steady diet of Etienne runs out of the shotgun; In his 3 games against the Deacs, Etienne has rushed for 355 yards and 5 touchdowns, so this strategy has worked pretty well for Clemson in the past. In the passing game, I’m going to guess that Amari Rodgers (30 rec, 426 yards, 4 TD in 2019) steps in to fill the void as Lawrence’s favorite target and the focus on stopping Etienne combined with inexperience at DB for Wake will result in some chunk plays on play action passes. The inexperience on the offensive line could give Boogie Basham and the Wake forest D-line the chance to make some big plays for the Deacon defense, however, the Tigers are the preseason #1 for a reason, and slowing down an offense led by two of the nation’s best players is going to be a very tall task for the Deacs.