Division is Settled, But Day is Still Special for Tigers

Zach Lentz

CLEMSON — The No. 3 Clemson Tigers already captured their fifth straight Atlantic Division title with their 55-10 win over NC State last Saturday, but for the head coach Dabo Swinney Saturday's final home game of the season (3:30 p.m., ABC) against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons will still be special.

""I love home games. There's nothing better to me than being in the season and being with the team," Swinney said. "There's nothing like Tiger Walk and game day in Death Valley. It's sad because we're near the end of our season. It's the last time we will see some great players run down The Hill. It's a special, special week.

"We want to send our seniors out with a win. We want to continue to build momentum for our postseason."

The 2019 seniors hold a 51-3 overall record in the last four years, standing as one of only five senior classes in FBS history to post at least 51 career wins in four years. The group is 26-1 in Death Valley, 29-2 in ACC regular season play (32-2 against the ACC overall) and has spent its entire tenure in the AP Top 10, including an active streak of 34 consecutive appearances in the AP Top 5. 

In addition to the impressive list of accomplishments already attained by the seniors, there are a number of records that can be broken with a over Wake Forest. 

The 2019 Clemson seniors are attempting to win their 52nd game in the last four years to move into fourth for the most career victories by a senior class in FBS history. Only the 2018 Clemson and Alabama seniors (55 each) and 2017 Alabama seniors (53) have recorded at least 52 wins in four years. 2019 seniors are attempting to improve to 30-2 in regular season ACC play to match the 2018 seniors (30 from 2015-18) as the winningest class in school history in regular season conference play, one shy of the conference record of 31. 

Clemson are also attempting to win its 26th consecutive game, dating to the start of the 2018 season, to extend the longest winning streak in school history and second-longest winning streak in ACC history, along with attempting to post only the 22nd winning streak of 26 or more games in major college football history.

"It seems like it's a new record every week," Swinney said. "We got to 10-0 last week and got another division title. The seniors have a chance to get a 52nd win this weekend. To get a 22nd straight home win, which would be a school record, would be awesome. This bunch on defense, it's 13 games they have given up 20 points or less, which goes back to 1958 under Frank Howard. It's amazing. These guys take pride in what they're doing."

However, if the Tiger seniors are going to continue their record-setting careers, they will have to deal with a very talented Demon Deacon squad.

"Wake Forest is a tough team. They've had a heck of a season," Swinney continued. "They're 7-2. They're coming off a tough loss at Virginia Tech. I've been looking at them for a month because we have had a lot of common opponents. They're very impressive. They're unbelievably well-coached. That would be an understatement. They do an awesome job with their scheme."

The challenge for the Tigers starts with the Wake Forest offense and, in particular, quarterback Jamie Newman.

On offense the Demon Deacons are averaging 35.7 points per game, 314.1 yards per game and 487.3 yards per game.

Newman currently ranks 13th in the FBS in passing yards, averaging 287.1 yards per game, and ninth in total offense, averaging 324.8 yards per game — meaning the Tigers will have to be prepared for pro-level quarterback.

"Offensively everything starts with this quarterback," Swinney said. "He is a pro. No doubt about it. He's big, physical, athletic and can make all the throws. He's got some great wideouts, probably the best group of receivers we have played. They're big-bodied guys, great on-the-ball guys. They have great length. No. 2 is the most elusive. He creates separation. He is a really good player. They have a really good group and they're kind of similar to us. They have a really good offensive line. They have a scheme they believe in. They have some backs that just pound you. If you don't tackle with physicality, two-yard runs become six-yard runs with this group. And they play all three of them.

"This will be a big challenge for us. I've had this one in my mind for awhile.