CLEMSON -- While Clemson players are not going as far to say there is such a thing as a good loss, they are saying the loss at Georgia Tech refocused and humbled them.
Clemson needs focus as a win against Wake Forest at noon Saturday (ESPNU) would clinch Clemson's second Atlantic Division title in three years. A loss could create a three-team tie atop the Atlantic Division among Wake (5-4, 4-2 ACC), Florida State (6-3, 4-2) and Clemson (8-1, 5-1), and Wake controls the tiebreakers.
"It was just a learning experience," said Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd. "It was definitely something we didn't want to have happen. But at the same time, it is something we might have needed as a team. I think we will respond positively."
Coach Dabo Swinney said running back Andre Ellington looked great in practice Thursday. Tight end Dwayne Allen (turf toe) also continues to improve. Swinney said kickoff specialist Spencer Benton (shoulder blade) could also return Saturday.
Swinney on Paterno
Swinney played against Penn State as a sophomore receiver at Alabama in 1990, and remembers being in awe of Joe Paterno, who was fired by Penn State on Wednesday.
"Sad beyond words," Swinney said of the situation at Penn State. "At the end of the day, there are consequences for your decisions, and your decisions affect many things."
Barring a collapse, Clemson seems likely headed to either the Orange Bowl on Jan. 4 with an ACC title or to the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31 in Atlanta. Clemson also has a chance at an ACC-first: securing a BCS at-large berth. There are scenarios where with a loss in the ACC title game, Clemson could find itself in another BCS bowl game. Clemson has a couple factors working in its favor for an attractive bowl destination: an explosive offense with emerging stars in Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd, and an energized fan base that should travel well to a major bowl.
Stat of the week
Clemson is second in the nation in total offense yards per game improvement this year (up 138.6 yards per game) and second in the nation in improved scoring offense (up 14 points per game).
Swinney on the Wake Forest secondary: "It's as good as we've played. Very athletic. Very aggressive. Very well-coached. … They get their hands on a lot of balls." Wake's Josh Bush is second in the ACC with five interceptions.
Still a chance for perfection
With a win against Wake Forest, Clemson will complete a perfect season … at Memorial Stadium. Clemson has not won all its home games in a season since 1990. Clemson was 6-0 at Death Valley in 1990 and 6-0-1 in 1991, the season of Clemson's last ACC title.
Clemson has won two straight games against Wake and nine of the last 12 meetings. In program history, Clemson has only beaten South Carolina -- 65-39-4 overall record -- more than Wake Forest (58-17-1).