Kickoff is set for 7:44 pm Saturday.
Kickoff is set for 7:44 pm Saturday.

Clemson vs. Wake Forest prediction: 2020 Vision

by - Senior Writer -

Football is back.

Top-ranked Clemson travels to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest in the season opener for both teams. The game opens the 125th season of Clemson football. 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.

NO. 1/1 CLEMSON (0-0, 0-0 ACC) at WAKE FOREST (0-0, 0-0 ACC)

WHEN: SATURDAY, SEPT. 12, 7:30 P.M. ET (broadcast starts)
TELEVISION: ABC (Sean McDonough, Todd Blackledge, Todd McShay, Allison Williams)
RADIO: Clemson Tigers Network (Don Munson, Tim Bourret, Reggie Merriweather)
RADIO: Westwood One (Brandon Gaudin, Derek Rackley)
SATELLITE RADIO: Sirius 84, XM 84, Internet 84


OVERALL: Clemson leads series, 67-17-1
HOME: Clemson leads series, 39-7
ROAD: Clemson leads series, 25-10-1
NEUTRAL: Clemson leads series, 3-0
LAST MEETING: Nov. 16, 2019 (52-3, W)
STREAK: Clemson, Won 11


*One year after playing the earliest season opener in school history (Aug. 29, 2019 vs. Georgia Tech), Clemson is playing its latest season opener since 1986 (Sept. 13, 1986 vs. Virginia Tech).

*Clemson has won 28 of its last 35 season openers. Swinney is 10-1 in his career in season opening games with the only loss coming at Georgia to open the 2014 season. Swinney's 10 season-opening wins are second-most in school history, one ahead of Danny Ford (9) and 15 shy of Frank Howard's school record (25).

*Clemson owns 67 all-time wins over Wake Forest, its second-highest victory total against any opponent (71 wins vs. South Carolina). Clemson has a 57-9-1 lead in the series since the formation of the ACC in 1953, an .858 winning percentage.

Clemson is 25-10-1 all-time against Wake Forest in games played in Winston-Salem since 1936. Clemson has played Wake Forest in football 67 consecutive years, as the last year the two schools did not play was 1952. Only South Carolina has a longer string of consecutive seasons played against the Tigers, a string that will come to an end in 2020 after 111 years.

Clemson has won 11 in a row in the series, all under Swinney, by a combined score of 442-127. That represents an average victory margin of 28.6, and Clemson has scored at least 28 points in all 11 games. This will be the 10th straight year that Wake Forest has faced a Top 20 Clemson team, including six years in a row facing a Top 5 Clemson squad.


*While the ambiance will be different for the esteemed college football previous show, ESPN will broadcast College GameDay from Winston-Salem on Saturday in advance of Clemson's prime-time contest against the Demon Deacons. The game will mark Clemson's 24th appearance in ESPN College GameDay's featured game.

The Tigers enter the contest with a 15-8 record in the presence of College GameDay, including victories in 11 of their last 12 appearances. Prior to Clemson's loss in the College Football Playoff National Championship, Clemson had won 11 straight games when featured on College GameDay, which had been the nation's longest streak.


Two-time defending ACC Player of the Year Travis Etienne returns as the Tigers leader in both rushing and receiving yardage. Etienne is the program’s all-time leading rusher with 4,038 yards (7.8 avg.) with a school- and ACC-record 56 rushing touchdowns. With quarterback Trevor Lawrence having to get used to life without Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross, Etienne and a strong stable of backs will have to carry the load early. That includes veterans Lyn-J Dixon and Darien Rencher, even though Dixon has been banged up of late. Two freshmen to watch are Demarkcus Bowman and Kobe Pace.

Along the offensive line, Clemson is looking to replace four starters from a season ago. Only left tackle Jackson Carman is back up front, but the Tigers have talent and some experience with center Cade Stewart, left guard Matt Bockhorst, and right tackle Jordan McFadden.

The receivers are led by veteran Amari Rodgers, who is back and better than ever. Rodgers plays in the slot and is dangerous in the middle of the field. Out wide is veteran Cornell Powell on one side and sophomore Joseph Ngata on the other. There is talent behind the starting group – keep an eye on freshman EJ Williams – but not a wealth of experience.

Keep an eye on tight end Braden Galloway, who has the potential to be the league’s best tight end. If Lawrence develops a rhythm with Galloway early, look out.

Wake returns all seven starters from last year. Carlos Basham Jr. is an All-ACC defensive end and starting linebackers Ryan Smenda and Ja'Cquez Williams know how to tackle. And they face a new-look Clemson offensive line. However, the secondary is the weakest part of the unit and could be susceptible to big plays through the air.



With Jamie Newman transferring to Georgia (and then later opting out) and star wide receiver Sage Surratt opting out of the 2020 season, the offense will likely have its hands full with the Clemson defense. Quarterback Sam Hartman has been successful as the Demon Deacons' starter before and has a chance to be so again, but he doesn’t have a lot of help in the running game (at least not on paper) and will face a front four from Clemson that is both familiar and new.

Veteran defensive tackles Tyler Davis, Nyles Pinckney, and Jordan Williams anchor the middle of the defensive, while freshmen like Bryan Bresee, Demonte Capehart and Tre Williams look to make their mark, Ends like Justin Mascoll, Justin Foster, and KJ Henry are looking for their time to shine, while freshman Myles Murphy looks like he will start sooner rather than later. The secondary is anchored by veteran safety Nolan Turner and corner Derion Kendrick, but there is talent to burn with corner Andrew Booth, safety Lannden Zanders, and newcomer Malcolm Greene.

The linebackers are solid, led by senior James Skalski. However, Skalski has to sit out the first half (he was ejected in the second half of the LSU game) and will be replaced by Jake Venables. Mike Jones get his first crack at replacing Isaiah Simmons.

Hartman can make plays with his feet and his arm, but he’ll be under pressure most of the day. If the Deacons can’t get some sort of running game going against the Tigers’ front, it will be a long day.



In the third phase of the game, 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. Clemson returns punter Will Spiers and kicker BT Potter from a year, and both look to improve this season.



Spring games didn’t happen and both teams have been in camp for weeks. Expect things to be a little rough at the outset as the teams try to settle in. The Deacs will try to make the Tigers win the game through the air with the re-tooled receivers and limit the ground game. It might take a little bit for the Clemson offense to get in gear, but once it does, it won’t slow down.


Mickey Plyler - 6-9 AM on WCCP 105.5FM - 49-10 Clemson

Tony Crumpton - Associate Editor - 42-7 Clemson

Nikki Hood - Staff writer - 49-13 Clemson

Brandon Rink - Staff writer - 47-10 Clemson

Pigskin Prophet - 44-13 Clemson

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