Preview: Clemson at Wake Forest

September 11, 2020 by Staff

After an offseason of unexpected twists and turns, Clemson will kick off the 125th season in program history on Saturday, Sept. 12, when the team faces the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Kickoff at Truist Field is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.

Clemson's prolific run in the last decade has illuminated a pathway to a number of historical feats that can be accomplished in 2020, but the road to those accomplishments begins with the team's first stated goal: "Win the Opener."

Clemson has won the opener in 10 of Dabo Swinney's 11 full seasons as Clemson's head coach, including each of the last five since 2015. This year marks Clemson's first time opening a season on the road since 2016, when second-ranked Clemson defeated Auburn, 19-13, at Jordan-Hare Stadium to kick off an eventual national championship campaign.

Members of Clemson’s program wore shirts in camp bearing the term “2020 Vision” on the front (with the zeroes represented by All In chips) and “Double-Double Mission” on the back, signifying Clemson’s pursuit of a 10th straight 10-win season. With 10-plus wins this year, Clemson would join Florida State and Alabama as the only programs ever to accomplish the feat.

The feeling was different at Clemson’s first camp practice on Aug. 6. While a workmanlike mentality often permeates camp, the joy of players and coaches being able to do what they love again — after having it ripped away for several months — imbued practice with a noticeable sense of joy.

“As weird as it is, I’ve never had more fun in a football camp than this one,” Swinney said on Aug. 10. “And I’ve never seen a bunch of guys have more fun practicing football than this team. I think that’s a reflection of a deeper appreciation that we all have to do what we do.”

Clemson's 2020 offense received an unexpected boost in January when All-America running back Travis Etienne elected to return for his senior season. In the College Football Playoff National Championship Game last year, Etienne (4,038) became Clemson's all-time leading rusher and moved into seventh all-time in ACC history.

Etienne is the two-time defending ACC Player of the Year, becoming Clemson's first repeat winner since 1977-78. If Etienne were to earn the award again in 2020, he would become the first player in conference history to win ACC Player of the Year honors three times and would join Herschel Walker (1980-82 SEC Player of the Year) as the only Power Five conference players to win conference player of the year honors in three straight seasons.

As for Wake Forest, the Deacs are 5-1 in season openers in head coach Dave Clawson’s tenure.

Defensive talent abounds for Wake for the 2020 season, returning every starter in the front seven of the defense. Along the defensive front the Deacs will have 11 upperclassmen for the 2020 season.

After starting nine games during his true freshman campaign, Sam Hartman is back under center for the start of the 2020 season. Last year's starter, Jamie Newman, transferred to Georgia before opting to sit out the 2020 campaign.

Star WR Sage Surratt won't be on the field for the Deacs as he, too, opted to sit out.

One of three returning Wake Forest All-ACC selections from 2019, Carlos “Boogie” Basham Jr. has received plenty of preseason accolades heading into the upcoming season. After a breakout campaign that included 11.0 sacks and 18.0 tackles for loss, Basham has earned preseason All-America honors from a multitude of publications while also being named to the Lott IMPACT Trophy Watchlist, the Chuck Bednarik Award Watchlist and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watchlist.

Wake Forest might have the best kicker in all of college football according to many. Last season, Nick Sciba converted 24-of-25 attempts while hitting on his first 23 attempts of the season. He also set the school record with 119 points scored. He is on the Lou Groza Award Watchlist to start the season.

These teams have met 85 teams and Clemson holds a huge series lead with 67 wins, including the last 11 in-a-row. They've lost just 17 times to Wake Forest and there has been 1 tie.

Consensus Odds: Clemson (-34)
Congrove Computer Rankings: Clemson (-17.52)