A host of top-25 ranked programs are in action on Saturday as the college football season begins in earnest after a somewhat subdued start last week. Clemson, the No.1-ranked team in preseason polls, begins its bid for a fifth consecutive appearance in the College Football Playoff (CFP) with a trip to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to take on Wake Forest in front of ABC cameras in primetime.
Here’s all you need to know ahead of the Tigers’ first game of the season.
- Kickoff time—Wake Forest hosts Clemson at Truist Field at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 12.
- TV channel—ABC
- Live stream—ABC’s digital platforms, SlingTV and fuboTV.
- Odds—Clemson is a 33-point favorite with DraftKings and is 9/10 to cover the spread, while the over/under line in terms of total points scored is set at 60.
- Series history—Clemson leads the all-time series 67-17-1 and is on an 11-year winning streak against Wake Forest.
Eight months on after falling to LSU in the CFP National Championship game, Clemson begin the season as the top-ranked team in the AP Top 25 poll, ahead of Ohio State—which has been ranked second in the preseason poll, despite the fact the Big Ten has canceled its games for the season—Alabama, Georgia and Oklahoma.
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The Tigers have gone 29-1 over the last two seasons—the loss to LSU was their first since they were defeated by Alabama in the 2018 CFP semifinal—and would have begun the season among the favorites for the national title even before the Big Ten and the Pac-12 moved to cancel their seasons because of the coronavirus pandemic.
With LSU and Ohio State out of the picture, there’s a distinct possibility Clemson and Alabama will meet in the national title game for the fourth time in six seasons. The Big Ten and the Pac-12 have floated the suggestion they may look at returning earlier than expected, but Clemson coach Dabo Swinney made clear the CFP should not be delayed to accommodate the two conferences.
“We are ready to roll. That would be something I would not be in favor for,” Swinney said last week.
“I am all in favor of [the Big Ten and Pac-12] playing. I’d love for them to play. That would be great. I think testing is a great opportunity for everyone for sure. It would be kind of hard to start in November and then get in there.
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“We wouldn’t want to push the season in February and all that stuff. We are going to push forward. If something changes, it changes, but that is where we are right now.”
The Tigers lost key pieces of their team to the NFL Draft, with linebackers Isaiah Simmons and Tanner Muse, cornerback A.J. Terrell and wide receiver Tee Higgins turning professionals along with safety K’Von Wallace and guards John Simpson and Tremayne Anchrum.
At the same time, however, Clemson returns a formidable core of players headlined by Heisman Trophy candidates Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne, who are arguably the best quarterback and the best running back in college football.
Lawrence passed for 22 touchdowns and no interceptions in the final eight games of last season, but protection could be an issue with Clemson having replaced four of their offensive line starters.
Despite the changes in personnel, at 3/10 the Tigers remain the bookmakers’ overwhelming favorites to extend their dominance of the ACC to a sixth consecutive season.
Wake Forest, meanwhile, will be looking to build on the progress of the last four seasons, which have all returned a winning record and a bowl appearance.