CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson might be heading into Saturday’s ACC tussle with No. 21 Wake Forest as a seven-point favorite, according to Vegas, but the fifth-ranked Tigers do not see it that way. They respect the Demon Deacons for what they are – the defending Atlantic Division Champions of the ACC.
“They hold the belt. Atlantic Division Champs,” Clemson defensive end K.J. Henry said. “They are the team to beat. If you want to take it from them, it is going through Winston-Salem. That is for everybody on this side of the conference.”
Wake Forest (3-0, 0-0 ACC) won the Atlantic Division last year with a 7-1 conference mark. Their lone conference loss came to former champion Clemson, who took down the Deacons, 48-27, at Death Valley.
But Saturday’s game is in Winston-Salem, N.C., where the Deacons own an 11-game win streak, the ninth longest home winning-streak in the country.
“If we want to get where we want to be at the end of the season, we have to handle business in Winston-Salem,” Henry said. “There is no way around it. That is the mindset through the whole week. It is understanding, that regardless of the success we had with them last year, they were in the ACC Championship, not us. That is because we did not handle our business throughout the year.”
But the Tigers (3-0, 1-0) always handle their business against Wake Forest, especially under head coach Dabo Swinney. Clemson has won the last 13 games in the series.
In the last four meetings combined, the Tigers outscored the Demon Deacons 200-46.
“It is definitely a get-back-mindset,” Henry said. “We are ready to go up there and wreak havoc. We’re excited and we are determined for sure.”
To wreak havoc, the Tigers are going to have to slow down a Wake Forest offense that is once again on a role to start the season. The Demon Deacons rank second in the ACC in scoring offense (42.0 points/ game), while averaging 434.3 yards per contest.
Of course, leading the charge is quarterback Sam Hartman. After missing the first game of the season due to a blood clot, he has returned without missing much of a beat.
Since his return in Week 2, Hartman has combined for 625 yards, while throwing seven touchdowns in wins over Vanderbilt and Liberty.
“He is just an older guy and with experience comes wisdom, especially at the quarterback position,” Henry said. “He is very talented and very athletic. I know he is just excited to get back going. I am really happy to see that he is healthy more than anything.”
Last year, Henry and his defensive colleagues sacked Hartman seven times. However, the Wake Forest quarterback still threw for 312 yards on 27-of-43 passes. The Tigers did pick him off one time and he had one touchdown pass.
“I know he is ready to grind and make a statement by taking us down at home,” Henry said. “I know it is just a grittiness that he has to him. That moxie you have in that quarterback position. It is kind of hard to explain, but he definitely possesses it.”
Clemson and Wake Forest are scheduled to kick off from Truist Field at noon. The game will be televised on ABC.