The wait is over, Clemson’s first football game is finally here. Instead of playing the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech like they were originally supposed to, the ACC’s new schedule has the Tigers facing the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in Winston Salem, NC at 7:30 ET on ABC. Clemson opens up as a 33 point favorite over Wake Forest and enters the game with an 11 game win streak over Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons last win over the tigers came in 2008, which led to the firing of Tommy Bowden and paved the way for the Swinney era.
Players to Watch: Clemson
Braden Galloway TE: After only playing in the two playoff games last year, Galloway enters the 2020 season with a lot to prove. Last year, Wake Forest ranked 9th in the ACC in pass defense, giving up 247.2 yards a game. Galloway provides a lot of versatility with his size and speed, as he is too big for most defensive backs and too fast for linebackers. His speed and size may be too much for Wake Forest's defense, making it very possible for Gallloway to have a breakout game. Expect his number to be called early and often, as the Tigers’ balanced attack will give the Demon Deacons some trouble.
Malcolm Greene DB: All offseason fans heard the names of the true freshman defensive linemen, Breese, Williams, Capehart, and Murphy. In camp, Venables and Swinney talked a lot about true freshman defensive back Malcolm Greene too. Greene will play nickel on Saturday, so look for him to be active mostly in passing situations. Greene helps Venables bring versatility to his defense that was left, after former all- American Isaiah Simmons left for the NFL.
Jake Venables LB: James Skalski is suspended for the first half of the game because he in the National Championship game against LSU he got called for targeting which disqualified him from the rest of the game. This will allow Jake, son of Brent Venables, to get his first career start at middle linebacker. Venables is similar to Skalski in terms of their physicality that they both bring to the game, but will Venables be able to relay calls from his dad? The first half will be a storyline to keep up with on Saturday.
Players to Watch: Wake Forest
Sam Hartman QB: Earlier this offseason Wake Forest’s starting QB Jamie Newman transferred to Georgia and he has since then opted out of the season. Wake Forest’s new field general is Sam Hartman, who is an electrifying playmaker. It being his third year in Dave Clawson’s system could give the Clemson secondary some trouble.
Carlos “Boogie” Basham DL: The preseason all american enters 2020 following an eleven sack year in 2019. Clemson replaces four starters on the offensive, so look for Basham to disrupt some plays early in the contest.
Nolan Groulx WR: This former 4-star from Cornelius, NC has a lot to handle this year after Sage Surratt opted for the NFL draft this offseason. Surratt was one of if not the best returning receivers in the ACC. Groulx was high school teammates with Hartman, so expect some throws to Groulx early. Groulx has a quick first step and if he finds the right matchup it could be trouble for the Clemson secondary who is replacing three starters from a year ago.
Prediction: Clemson will win 58-6
Clemson is a big favorite and rightfully so. The Tigers have too much talent and depth compared to the Demon Deacons. In their last two meetings Wake Forest only has scored six combined points. Brent Venables has figured out how to stop this tricky offense while the rest of the ACC has failed to do so yet. Expect Travis Etienne to explode for a couple big runs early, Trevor Lawrence to make some big throws and maybe Brent Venables to get a couple sacks from the all world freshmen Bryan Breese and Myles Murphy. Take Clemons -33.0 and the over at 60.0.