Battle in the ACC

Clemson's trip to Winston-Salem, N.C., to visit Wake Forest was expected to be a pivotal game in the chase for the ACC Atlantic Division title.

While that may still turn out to be the case, the fact that both teams are coming off losses has added a new wrinkle to the matchup.

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The 21st-ranked Demon Deacons and the disappointing Tigers look to bounce back from disheartening defeats as they resume their quests for the division championship on Thursday night.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Wake Forest –2.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 51% of bets for this game have been placed on Clemson +2.5 (View College Football bet percentages).

Wake Forest (3-1, 1-0) and Clemson (3-2, 1-1) entered the season as the favorites to win the ACC Atlantic, but each team has stumbled early.

Clemson, ranked ninth in the preseason Top 25, got blown out 34-10 at home in its season opener against then-No. 24 Alabama. After responding with three straight victories, the Tigers lost to conference rival Maryland 20-17 on Sept. 27.

Clemson was idle last Saturday, giving it nearly two weeks to dwell on that defeat.

"Ten days of hearing how terrible we are and how we can't win," junior running back C.J. Spiller said after losing to the Terrapins. "But we'll come together."

Wake Forest can relate, having had the same amount of time to think about its 24-17 home loss to Navy.

"Any time you lose, it's pretty frustrating," nose guard Boo Robinson said. "Any time you lose, you're going to be down on yourself. One thing about football is you've always got next week."

Wake Forest's loss to an independent didn't affect its conference standings, though, and the Deacons expect to put on a better showing as they seek to remain the only ACC Atlantic team without a loss in conference play.

"I think we need to go back on Monday and watch some film and really learn from this game and take away all the mistakes and make sure we don't do them when we play Clemson," wide receiver Chip Brinkman said. "That's a huge ACC game for us, and we need to be fully prepared."

Mistakes did indeed take a toll on Wake Forest in its last game. Quarterback Riley Skinner was responsible for five of the Demon Deacons' six turnovers - their most since they had six in a 47-17 loss to then-No. 3 Miami on Nov. 12, 2005.

Skinner, who led the Football Bowl Subdivision in completion percentage at 72.4 last season, had his streak of 133 passes without an interception shattered by throwing four picks against the Midshipmen.

"It's pretty deflating for an offense and a defense when you do that," said Skinner, who also lost a fumble. "It's all on me."

Clemson, meanwhile, committed a season-high three turnovers against Maryland, and had a holding penalty wipe out Spiller's 59-yard touchdown run in the second half as it blew an 11-point lead. Fans in Death Valley booed the Tigers as time ran out.

"As a coach, you're disappointed that you let 80,000 people down," said coach Tommy Bowden, who has borne the brunt of the criticism for the Tigers' failure to live up to expectations.

"You don't want to minimize the disappointment," Bowden said. "But again, we've played five games and we're playing 12, so we're going to try to correct the mistakes and play the next one. That's kind of what you do in this profession."

Bowden is 7-2 in his career against Wake Forest, helping Clemson improve to 56-16-1 in the all-time series. The Tigers overpowered the Demon Deacons 44-10 last Nov. 10, but have lost two of their last three visits to Winston-Salem, where they're playing their first true road game of 2008. They lost their season opener at a neutral site.

That may bode well for Wake Forest, but the Deacons have reason to fear the Thursday night matchup. Four ranked teams have lost to unranked opponents in Thursday night games this season. Vanderbilt topped No. 24 South Carolina 24-17 on Sept. 4, Colorado edged No. 21 West Virginia 17-14 two weeks later, Oregon State stunned top-ranked Southern California 27-21 on Sept. 25, and Pittsburgh upset No. 10 South Florida 26-21 last week.

Wake Forest, though, opened its 2008 season ranked 23rd, and beat Baylor 41-13 on Aug. 28 - a Thursday night.

Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
WAKE FOREST is 10-6 against the spread versus CLEMSON since 1992
CLEMSON is 11-5 straight up against WAKE FOREST since 1992
6 of 7 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
WAKE FOREST is 1-1 against the spread versus CLEMSON over the last 3 seasons 
CLEMSON is 2-0 straight up against WAKE FOREST over the last 3 seasons 
1 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at WAKE FOREST since 1992
WAKE FOREST is 5-3 against the spread versus CLEMSON since 1992
CLEMSON is 5-3 straight up against WAKE FOREST since 1992
3 of 4 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games played at WAKE FOREST over the last 3 seasons.
WAKE FOREST is 1-0 against the spread versus CLEMSON over the last 3 seasons 
CLEMSON is 1-0 straight up against WAKE FOREST over the last 3 seasons 
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Key Player Injuries:
CLEMSON
[DL] Antwon Murchison downgraded to doubtful - Undisclosed - 09/27/08
[WR] Terrence Ashe missed last game, %27?%27. - Ankle - 09/21/08
[OL] Barry Humphries is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. - Knee - 09/04/08
[OL] Jamarcus Grant upgraded to probable. - Shoulder - 09/26/08
[OL] David Smith is expected to miss up to 3 weeks. - Ankle - 09/23/08
[OT] Chris Hairston missed last game, available only as an emergency. - Kn
[OT] Rashaad Jackson is out indefinitely. - Quad - 09/05/08
[DT] Jamie Cumbie likely to miss rest of season - Wrist - 09/04/08
WAKE FOREST
[OL] Ryan Britt is out indefinitely. - Knee - 08/19/08

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