Clemson vs Wake Forest: 3 keys to the game

Clemson is looking to punch their ticket to the ACC championship with a win over Wake Forest this weekend. The Tigers are also looking to bounce back from a tough loss to Pittsburgh last weekend. With all of the story lines swirling around this game, here’s my keys to the game.

1 Wayne Gallman

Clemson must get Gallman going. The Tigers are going to need Gallman down the stretch this season, it is vital that he have a good outing vs the Demon Deacons.

Wake Forest’s defense does a great job of getting after the quarterback, ranking 12th in sacks with 32 on the year. The best way to combat a strong pass rush is to run the football. Gallman is only averaging 67 rushing yards a game coming into this one.

Look for co-offensive coordinators Jeff Scott and Tony Elliot to throw Gallman the ball out of the backfield. Wayne has showed his ability to catch the football, the Tigers will use this to get him going in this one.

Jan 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Clemson Tigers offensive lineman Eric Mac Lain (78) and offensive lineman Mitch Hyatt (75) against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2016 CFP National Championship at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive line

Wake Forest has an elite pass rush lead by junior defensive end, Duke Ejiofor. The Demon Deacons have sacked the quarterback 32 times on the year. With the health of starting tackles Mitch Hyatt and Jake Fruhmorgen in question, the Tigers need a strong showing from the rest of their offensive line.

Mitch Hyatt is going to start on Saturday, however, Clemson’s entire offensive line must take this game over. If Jay Guillermo and company give Watson time to throw and open up holes for Wayne Gallman the Tigers will roll to an easy victory.

Clemson’s offensive line did a great job of protecting Deshaun Watson against Pitt. The Tigers only gave up 1 sack, which is impressive considering they were starting two freshman tackles in John Simpson and Sean Pollard. However, Clemson did not run the ball very effectively against the Panthers.

The Tigers must find their identity running the football and it starts this week.

Jan 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jarran Reed (90) forces a fumble by Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) in the 2016 CFP National Championship at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Turnovers

Turnovers have been an issue all year and they finally cost the Tigers a game last weekend. Pittsburgh as good as they are, would not have defeated Clemson without the help of two red-zone interceptions on the part of Deshaun Watson.

Deshaun Watson has thrown 13 interceptions on the year. His decision making has got to improve moving forward. Watson has all the talent in the world, however, his confidence in himself leads him to force throws at times. Clemson should continue to push the ball downfield, but, Watson has to understand when to check the ball down.

With all do respect to Wake Forest, the Demon Deacons do not have the talent to compete with Clemson. If the Tigers play up to their best abilities this one will not be close. Clemson has made a habit of playing down to football teams, however, that was before their loss to Pittsburgh. I think this loss will refocus and energize the Tigers.

This is a statement game for Clemson and I expect Dabo Swinney to have this group ready to go.

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