Don’t count Clemson out of the ACC title race just yet.
The Tigers need some help to get to the ACC championship game for the seventh consecutive season, but they kept their conference title hopes alive with a 48-27 win over No. 10 Wake Forest (9-2) on Saturday. Clemson’s defense stifled Wake’s powerful offense and the Clemson offense looked like a functional unit against a Power Five team for what felt like the first time all season.
That functionality was powered by a running game that averaged over five yards a carry. Both Kobe Pace and Will Shipley rushed for over 100 yards as Clemson finished with over 300 yards for the first time all season. Heck, it was just the second time all season Clemson had rushed for at least 200 yards against an FBS opponent in 2021. The Tigers rushed for over 200 yards against FBS opponents nine times in 14 games in 2019.
The running game then opened up things for the passing game. D.J. Uiagalelei threw for over 200 yards for just the fourth time all season.
Clemson (8-3) went up 10-0 in the first quarter and then had a 17-3 lead with five minutes to go before halftime. Wake Forest cut the deficit to 17-10 at half, but Clemson outscored Wake Forest 21-3 in the third quarter to put the game away.
Wake Forest needs a win for the division
Wake Forest still has the upper hand in the ACC Atlantic. Since the Demon Deacons’ loss to North Carolina was a non-conference game, all Wake has to do is beat Boston College next week to win the division outright. But a win over Clemson on Saturday would have wrapped up the division with a week to spare.
Clemson, meanwhile, needs NC State to lose to either Syracuse on Saturday afternoon or North Carolina on Friday along with a Wake loss to Boston College. The Wolfpack are currently tied with the Tigers with two ACC losses. If Wake Forest, NC State and Clemson ended up at 6-2 in the conference, the Wolfpack would win the tiebreaker thanks to its head-to-head win over Clemson.
Wake Forest, which beat NC State, would be eliminated from the division title race via a three-way tiebreaker with a Boston College loss because it would have the only loss to another team in the division.