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Clemson vs. Wake Forest football preview, prediction

What to watch for as Clemson takes on Wake Forest in the ACC on the Week 4 college football schedule
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A pair of ACC Atlantic rivals meet up at Truist Field as Clemson pays a visit to Wake Forest in a battle of top 25 ranked teams in college football's Week 4 action on Saturday.

Clemson comes in as the No. 5 team in the latest AP rankings, while Wake owns a No. 21 position in the poll, a drop of 2 spots after a 1-point win over Liberty last weekend.

Here's what you need to know about Saturday's matchup.

Clemson vs. Wake Forest football preview, prediction

Week 4 college football schedule: Clemson vs. Wake Forest

Week 4 college football schedule: Clemson vs. Wake Forest

How to watch

When: Sat., Sept. 24

Time: 12 p.m. Eastern

TV: ABC network

Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)

Odds, point spread, betting lines

Line: Clemson -5

O/U: 55.5

Moneyline: CLEM -330 WAKE +220

FPI pick: Clemson 78.9%

What you need to know

1. Clemson needs a complete game. Dabo Swinney knows his team hasn't played one yet, with an uninspired start against Georgia Tech and wins against Furman and Louisiana Tech that weren't quite as big as expected. The offense has made some minor progress, and boasts a legitimate game-changer in back Will Shipley, but quarterback DJ Uiagalelei still lacks a credible deep threat and the unit overall seems disjointed and lacking an identity. The good news? Uiagalelei has just 1 pick in 88 throws and bumped up his completion mark by 9 points from last year, to 64.8 percent.

2. Still Wake's litmus test. For all the major progress Dave Clawson has made with this program, the big orange elephant still sits on his back. Clemson has defeated the Deacs by an average of almost 39 points the last 4 years, and despite Wake's success against NC State and Florida State, there's still the perception of a gap between it and the Tigers. Sam Hartman can help patch that over: the quarterback prodigy returned from an offseason blood clot and is throwing at a 62% clip with 7 TDs in 2 games, both over 300 yards passing. But he needs help from Wake's backs, who might struggle finding holes in the A- and B-gaps against Clemson's ferocious scrimmage formation that's allowing 2.4 ypc.

3. Must-win in the division. It's not an overstatement to say Clemson's path to the College Football Playoff might depend on this game. Win this one, plus a home tilt with NC State next week, and the Tigers can gain vital separation and on-field tiebreakers over the two teams that stand in the way of an ACC championship. Lose one, or certainly both, and that path gets much harder. Notre Dame, which Clemson plays later, doesn't seem like a quality win right now, so going undefeated looks paramount.

Clemson vs. Wake Forest: Fast Facts

Clemson Tigers college football team schedule, rankings

+ Clemson is 31-4 in true road games since 2015

+ Wake has forced a turnover in 34 of its last 35 games and at least 1 in 18 straight games

+ Clemson has won 6 straight road games against Wake and 13 straight overall

+ Wake Forest has scored 40-plus points in 18 of its last 39 games (46.2%)

+ Clemson has scored 30 points in 8 of its last 9 and averaged 36.2 points per game in that span

+ Wake is 1-9 under Dave Clawson when allowing a defensive TD

+ Clemson is 131-8 under Dabo Swinney when leading at halftime and 15-25 when trailing

+ Wake Forest is 37-16 under Clawson when leading after the 1st qtr and 8-27 when trailing

+ Clemson is 5-4 under Swinney when tied at the end of 3 quarters and 11-27 when trailing after 3

+ Wake is 40-11 under Clawson when leading at halftime and 9-32 when trailing at the break

+ Clemson has scored on its opening drive in 7 of its last 8 games and is 69-4 when scoring first since 2015

+ Deacons are 43-7 under Clawson when leading after 3 quarters and 9-38 when trailing

+ Clemson is 28-1 against Wake when it's ranked in the AP top 25 and 24-7 against top 25 teams since 2015

What happens?

A year ago, an unranked Clemson stepped on No. 10 Wake at home behind a 31-17 scoring blitz in the second half.

The key to that game was Clemson's ability to marshal its forces on the defensive front seven and smother the Deacons' attempt to run the ball.

Wake finished with 36 yards on the ground for a 1.2 ypc average while Clemson piled on 333 and 4 scores rushing. Uiagalelei was a crisp passing 11 of 19 for over 200 in the air and a TD.

That remains the key to victory for the Tigers this time, as well. Run the ball and stop the run, plug the gaps on third down to get Hartman off the field, and open up lanes downfield for Uiagalelei to develop his long game.

College Football HQ Prediction: Clemson 37, Wake Forest 35

College football rankings

According to AP top 25 poll

  1. Georgia
  2. Alabama
  3. Ohio State
  4. Michigan
  5. Clemson
  6. Oklahoma
  7. USC
  8. Kentucky
  9. Oklahoma State
  10. Arkansas
  11. Tennessee
  12. NC State
  13. Utah
  14. Penn State
  15. Oregon
  16. Ole Miss
  17. Baylor
  18. Washington
  19. BYU
  20. Florida
  21. Wake Forest
  22. Texas
  23. Texas A&M
  24. Pittsburgh
  25. Miami

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