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The Tiger Sports (TS): Wake Forest went undefeated into their game with Florida State. Are you surprised by how well Wake Forest competed with them though they lost? 


Kyle Tatich (KT): On Saturday, Wake Forest was looking for its first 5-0 start since 2006 ­— the same year it won the ACC — and was confident it would get the job done, having played Florida State into the fourth quarter in each of the past two seasons. 

Having the undefeated Demon Deacons welcome an 0-2 Seminoles team to Winston-Salem, was certainly a headline in and of itself, and made it difficult for many football followers to believe that Florida State would drop to 0-3, remaining winless through the month of September. 

Wake Forest dominated on Saturday afternoon, on both the

offensive and defensive sides of the ball — and the Deacs were really just three plays away from winning this one with ease. 

If you take away the long kickoff return that led to Florida State’s first touchdown, as well as a 69-yard run and the game-winning 40-yard touchdown, Wake Forest really did an incredible job against a more talented opponent. 

While it was disappointing for Wake Forest to come this close to winning, the team now has confidence that it can play with anyone in the country. 


TS: How well do you think John Wolford stacks up against Kelly Bryant? 


KT: I think in a lot of ways Kelly Bryant and John Wolford are similar quarterbacks. 

Wolford has rushed for an average of 66 yards per game this year and has protected the ball well, having thrown his first interception of the season last week against Florida State. 

Wolford is fearless and as a four-year starter has improved tremendously in both ability and confidence. Bryant, who has rushed for an average of 72 yards per game, has also proven to be a dual threat. Even without much experience, Bryant seems to have filled Deshaun Watson’s shoes quite well. 

With three wins over top-20 programs, Bryant has proven himself. Wake Forest held Florida State to just seven yards in the air in the first half and the Demon Deacon secondary has proven to be a talented unit thus far so it will be interesting to see how Bryant does against the Wake Forest defense. 


TS: Who’s one player on offense and one player on defense to watch?


KT: Freshman wide receiver Greg Dortch has proven to be Wolford’s favorite target so far this season, taking some pressure off of All-ACC tight end Cam Serigne. 

Through five games Dortch has 30 receptions, 352 yards and five touchdowns. 

On defense, defensive back Cameron Glenn could have a big game. 

Glenn has two interceptions on the season and is considered by many as one of the better tackling backs in the ACC. 

TS: What do you think is Wake Forest’s greatest strength?


KT: Wake Forest’s greatest strength is its balanced offensive attack. The Deacs have found success both through the air and on the ground, and both have in turn set up success for the other. 

Clemson may remember Kendall Hinton, Wolford’s backup — and an even greater running threat. Don’t be surprised if he is used in special situations, with Wolford, for the first time this year. 


TS: What is one matchup that you think will be important to watch throughout the game?


KT: Wake Forest’s offensive line against Clemson’s defensive line. The Demon Deacon offensive line is undeniably the team’s most improved unit from a year ago, allowing Wolford to take his play to the next level. 

However, Clemson’s defensive line is the best in the country and the game’s outcome really could be determined by whether Wake Forest can protect Wolford or not. 


TS: Score prediction?


KT: Wake Forest is capable of playing competitively with anyone in the country and a perfectly executed game plan could produce the upset of the college football season to this point. 

However, with the game being played at Death Valley, I have to go with the Tigers to win this one 33-23. 
Kyle Tatich (KT): Once again, Clemson looks to be a legitimate national contender having defeated three top-20 opponents through five games. How have the Tigers been able to remain at such an elite level, despite losing many leaders from last year’s national championship team?
The Tiger Sports (TS): High level recruiting is the short answer. Dabo Swinney has been a top recruiter in the nation since he was an assistant at Alabama. Not only that, but he hired guys like Jeff Scott, and Brent Venables who are both good as coordinators, and recruit as well as Swinney himself does. The Tigers are in a position to have the number one recruiting class of 2018 so it stands to reason we won’t have much of a problem reaching the playoffs every year.
KT: A season ago, Clemson lost at home to an inferior Pittsburgh team, and also nearly fell to NC State. Did you believe the Tigers overlooked these opponents? How were two middle-of-the-road ACC teams able to compete with the eventual national champion on the road?
TS: Overlooked is not the right word necessarily. Because we play a lot of the same teams in the ACC often we don’t gameplan for some of the surprises they might throw. Pittsburgh used a shovel pass for most of the game that the defense wasn’t used to seeing. Clemson plays Georgia Tech all the time and their playbook is hard to defend, but defensive coordinator Brent Venables has figured it out and regularly beats it. If they threw in something new this year he didn’t plan for it might cause problems.
KT: What about Kelly Bryant has impressed you as he replaces Deshaun Watson this year? What part of his game could he work to improve the most?
TS: Bryant has done a great job being a dual-threat quarterback, but that’s also his greatest problem. He swets up the run well as the defense has to figure whether he is running or the running back is. If they figure out too late or don;t figure it out at all, Clemson gets a big gain. The problem is when he drops back to throw and feels pressure. Bryant seems to have a bit of a hair trigger with it and instead of keeping his eyes downfield he might make one or two reads and then split. He can’t always lean on being able to escape the pocket, but he does. Unless he breaks the habit, better defenses will win out almost like Boston College did.
KT: What is one matchup that you think will be important to watch throughout the game?
TS: Watch Wake Forest’s defensive line against the run game. If they don’t stop the bread and butter, the Demon Deacons can’t hope to stop the offense.
KT: What do you think is Clemson’s greatest strength?
TS: Easily our defensive line. There is no doubt all of them will be main fixtures on NFL teams someday, but for right now they are part of one of the best defenses in Clemson history. If not for some garbage time yards by Louisville and Virginia Tech against the second stringers, this defense would probably be ranked number one in total defense. As it stands they are ranked seventh right behind Alabama. It all starts with winning the battle in the trenches.
KT: Clemson will win if…
TS: They create pressure on quarterback John Wolford. If Wolford doesn’t have time to throw, the balanced attack goes out the window and Wake Forest is forced to get creative in order to move the ball down the field. Their running backs don’t have the ability to shoulder the burden of the offense entirely by themselves.
KT: Wake Forest will win if…
TS: They shut down the running game. If Kelly Bryant can’t scramble and Tavien Feaster, CJ Fuller and Travis Etienne can’t move the chains it will force Bryant to throw the ball. He is worse at staying in the pocket than he should be as a quarterback. Deshaun Watson got better as a player and as a passer when he stopped scrambling and Bryant will too, but he needs to give it a chance.
KT: Give me a score prediction.
TS: Clemson wins 40-17.

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