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Thursday Night Preview: Clemson at (21) Wake Forest

Tommy Bowden and Clemson roll into lovely Winston-Salem to try and stave off yet another mediocre season. Clemson is 3-2 and coming off a 17-14 loss to Maryland. Now they're 2.5 point underdogs to Wake Forest. Watch this game to see if this is finally, at long last, the game that ends Tommy Bowden's tenure at Clemson. A tenure that has seemed to be in danger since at least 2000. And why wouldn't it? In 9 years at Clemson Bowden has never won more than 9 games, has never won the ACC, and he's just 3-5 in bowl games. This was supposed to be Clemson's year, you know, prior to Alabama's beatdown in the season opener. Instead the Tigers are on the precipice of .500 halfway through the season. As if that weren't enough, Bowden is just 69-42 overall as head coach at Clemson. Mediocrity thy name is Clemson. Meanwhile Jim Grobe and Wake Forest try to rebound from a 24-17 loss to Navy that knocked them from the ranks of the unbeaten. Unlike Bowden, Grobe has actually won an ACC Title (2006 victory over Georgia Tech) and in the past two years has taken Wake from a perpetual doormat to the BCS. In 2006 Grobe was the national coach of the year. Wake is coming off back-to-back 11-3 and 9-4 campaigns, and a win over Clemson would go a long way towards ensuring that the 2008 campaign is going to be as successful as the past two seasons. But danger looms in the Clemson Tigers— a team that's probably as unpredictable as any team in college football over the past decade. Knock off Clemson and Wake remains the only undefeated team in the Atlantic Division. What's more they'd have the tiebreaks over Florida State and Clemson, meaning they'd probably only have to get to 5-3 (6-2 at most) to advance to another ACC Title Game. Don't you get the feeling that Clemson fans are going to look back on the past five years of the ACC—a time when Miami and Florida State are both as impotent as they'll ever be—and wonder how the hell they didn't manage to win a single ACC Title? This is the kind of failure that becomes even more grating the more years that pass. Because Miami and Florida State aren't going to be this bad forever. Meanwhile, Clemson keeps plodding along. Here comes another chance at staying alive in the ACC race. Beat Wake and you've made the inevitable late-season collapse even more painful. Lose now, and Bowden's gone forever. Right? Choose wisely Clemson fans, choose wisely.


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