CLEMSON — Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney isn't taking a Wake Forest football team that is on the rise for granted. He doesn't want his players to either.
Swinney said the second-ranked Tigers (5-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) will get everything they can handle against Wake Forest (4-1, 1-1) on Saturday, especially after the Demon Deacons took Florida State to the wire a week ago before falling 26-19.
"They've got great energy and great toughness," Swinney said. "And I just want to make sure everyone understands the type of team that's rolling in her this week. We need to wake up, show up and be ready to go."
Swinney's never lost to Wake Forest — and perhaps owes them a huge "Thank you!" for getting him the Clemson job. It was the Demon Deacons last win in the series, 12-7 in 2008, that led to coach Tommy Bowden being let go and then athletic director Terry Don Phillips elevating the personable receivers coach to the head office.
Since then, Swinney is 8-0 against the Deacons and has won three ACC titles and a national championship.
Maybe part of Swinney's message stems from their home game against Boston College two weeks back. The Tigers, coming off a victory at Louisville, played a midday contest with the Eagles and were off their game for the first three quarters. Clemson eventually scored four touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win 34-7. Swinney worries the Tigers might not be overcome a slow start this time.
"That's what it takes every single week, putting your best foot forward in consistency or performance," Swinney said.
Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson wondered if this might be the year to catch the Tigers with so many NFL players like quarterback Deshaun Watson, receiver Mike Williams and tailback Wayne Gallman gone this season.
"Somehow, someway, they lose all these really good players and then come back and are just as good, if not better," Clawson said. "Right now, they are probably playing better overall football now than when we played them a year ago."
The same might be said for Wake Forest, which is looking to start 5-1 for the first time since it won the ACC title in 2006.
"I think it might be shocking to other people, but it's not shocking to us," Demon Deacons offensive lineman Phil Haynes said.
Senior linebacker Dorian O'Daniel is cramming years of potential into his fifth season. O'Daniel has had two "pick six" touchdowns this season at Louisville on Sept. 16 and at Virginia Tech last Saturday night. He also recovered a fumble, had a sack and made 14 tackles in the win over the Hokies.
WAKE UP CALL?
A look at the stat sheet from last week and it would be easy to think the Demon Deacons had beaten Florida State instead of losing for the first time this year. Wake Forest outgained the Seminoles by 100 yards and registered 17 tackles for loss, one shy of the school record.
MAKING A MARK
Clemson has certainly made an impact on the college football rankings. There are a total of six losses among the top 17 teams in this week's Top 25 and the Tigers have accounted for three of them with wins over No. 12 Auburn, No. 16 Virginia Tech and No. 17 Louisville.
WHAT A KICK!
Wake Forest kicker Mike Weaver is 10-of-10 on field goals this season. His 48 points (he also has hit 18 of 20 extra points) leads the team and ACC kickers in scoring.
The Tigers defense has been stout so far this season, fourth in the country in scoring allowed (10.8 points a game) and seventh nationally in overall yards (250 per game). Both marks are better than the Tigers' 2014 defense which featured current Atlanta Falcons Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett and ended the season as college football's No. 1 group.