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       === Wake Forest hosts No. 14 Clemson in Thursday night affair ===
 
 Winston-Salem, NC (Sports Network) - The 14th-ranked Clemson Tigers begin a
 two-game road trip through the ACC, as they invade Winston-Salem on Thursday
 night for league action against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
 
 Dabo Swinney's Tigers are still very much in the hunt for the conference
 crown, as the defending ACC champs come into this contest at 6-1 overall and
 3-1 in conference play. The team remained a half game behind the Florida State
 Seminoles in the Atlantic Division standings, with last week's 38-17 win over
 Virginia Tech. The team's lone loss came at Florida State on Sept. 22, but
 Clemson has reeled off three wins since then.
 
 Jim Grobe's Demon Deacons have had their ups and downs and as a result, are
 just 4-3 overall, including a disappointing 2-3 mark in-conference. Wake
 Forest did bring an end to a two-game slide with last weekend's 16-10 win at
 Virginia.
 
 Clemson has dominated this series, holding a 59-17-1 advantage all-time. The
 Tigers have won three straight meetings and five of the last six overall.
 
 The Tigers were held to a season-low 295 yards against Virginia Tech, but
 still found a way to prevail. On the year, Clemson has been much more
 explosive, with playmakers at just about every skilled positions. Despite the
 modest numbers against the Hokies, Clemson is still averaging just under 500
 yards per game (492.9), getting great balance between the run (191.7) and the
 pass (301.1).
 
 Quarterback Tahj Boyd orchestrates the offense, completing 67.1 percent of his
 passes, for 1,908 yards and 15 touchdowns. He threw a TD pass and rushed for
 two in the win over Virginia Tech. It helps to have a couple of All-American
 candidates to throw to. Sammy Watkins was supposed to be the go-to-guy coming
 into the season, but he has played second-fiddle to junior DeAndre Hopkins,
 who leads the team in receptions (52), receiving yards (845) and TD catches
 (9).
 
 The ground game is led by tailback Andre Ellington, who has rushed for 693
 yards thus far, on 5.1 yards per carry. Ellington has scored seven of the
 team's 17 rushing TDs this season.
 
 The Tiger defense has been a step or two behind the offense this season, but
 last week, Clemson's stop unit was stellar, including a pair of interceptions
 by safety Jonathan Meeks, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
 
 "We improved today," defensive coordinator Brent Venables said following the
 win over Virginia Tech. "I'm really happy for the guys. ... We've got good
 enough players to play really good, quality defense. And this is the first
 time you feel like it wasn't just one quarter, you played well enough for four
 quarters to give yourself a chance to win."
 
 Linebacker Anthony Stephone leads the team in tackles (56), followed by fellow
 LBs Jonathan Willard (52) and Spencer Shuey (39).
 
 The Demon Deacons have had their problems on the offensive side of the
 football in 2012, averaging a modest 316.1 yards per game, struggling with
 consistency both on the ground (120.6 ypg) and through the air (195.6 ypg).
 
 Quarterback Tanner Price has really had a tough time of it up to this point,
 completing just 50.7 percent of his passes, for 1,327 yards, with seven
 touchdowns against four interceptions. A big reason for the struggles is the
 loss of standout wide receiver Mike Campanaro (38 receptions, 429 yards, three
 TDs).
 
 With the lack of a vertical threat, tailbacks Josh Harris (432 yards, four
 TDs) and Deandre Martin (299 yards, five TDs) have struggled to ignite the
 ground attack.
 
 The problem is compounded for Wake Forest by a defense that has had its own
 issues. The Demon Deacons are yielding just over 400 yards of total offense
 per game, including a generous 183.7 yards rushing.
 
 Junior linebacker Justin Jackson leads the team in tackles (52) as well as
 sacks (3). Senior middle linebacker Mike Olson is right behind in terms of
 tackles (51).
 
 Grobe knows the challenge that Clemson represents.
 
 "They're shooting the lights out offensively," Grobe said at his weekly press
 conference. "Virginia Tech did a good job against them last week and slowed
 them down a little bit, but their defense stepped up. Their defense has gotten
 better every week. Offensively they've got a lot of big-time players at the
 skill positions and they've got a good kicking game as well. You just don't
 see many weaknesses in them; they've got great talent but they're also very
 well coached. We're going to have to play at the top of our game to have a
 chance."
 
 
 
 10/24 10:51:21 ET