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No. 1 Clemson opens season at Wake Forest in ACC matchup

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney
Posted at 2:10 PM, Sep 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-12 14:10:49-04

No. 1 Clemson at Wake Forest, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET (ABC).

Line: Clemson by 33.

Series record: Clemson leads 67-17-1.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

The Tigers are beginning their pursuit of a sixth straight ACC championship and a third national title in five seasons. They’re coming off a loss to LSU in last year’s College Football Playoff finale, the only blemish on a two-year 29-1 record. That also marks the only loss in the college career of Heisman Trophy candidate Trevor Lawrence at quarterback. The Demon Deacons are opening the season looking for a fifth straight bowl appearance under Dave Clawson, though they must overcome massive personnel losses on the offensive side of the football.

KEY MATCHUP

Wake Forest’s defensive front against Clemson’s star-filled backfield. Lawrence grabs the most attention as a preseason Associated Press all-American and the pick as preseason ACC player of the year, but there’s also running back Travis Etienne as the two-time ACC player of the year. The Demon Deacons’ defense offers the most returning experience, and that includes a line with preseason second-team AP all-American Carlos “Boogie” Basham Jr. Any effort to slow the Tigers’ high-scoring attack must start with making things difficult on Lawrence and Etienne at the line.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Clemson: DT Bryan Bresee is a freshman and the Tigers’ top recruit who is listed as a tri-starter along the defensive line. Bresee is 6-foot-5, 300 pounds who Swinney said was ready physically from the moment he stepped on campus.

Wake Forest: QB Sam Hartman. The redshirt sophomore has 10 starts in his career, most coming during the 2018 season. He threw for 16 touchdowns with eight interceptions that year but had played mostly behind departed Jamie Newman since.

FACTS & FIGURES

Clemson has won five straight openers and 10 of 11. ... This is Clemson’s first season-opening game on the road since winning at Auburn in 2016. ... The Tigers have won 22 straight games against ACC teams since losing at Syracuse in October 2017. ... Clemson has won 11 straight meetings in the series. ... Wake Forest has lost the last two meetings by a combined score of 115-6, managing only one field goal in each game. ... ESPN’s “College GameDay” pregame show is making its first ever appearance at Wake Forest for this game. ... The Demon Deacons are 5-1 in openers under Clawson.