This is kind of the perfect matchup for Trevor Lawrence to open up his Heisman campaign. Clemson beat Wake Forest 52-3 last year and is again expected to win by a similar total as a -31.5 point road favorite with an over/under of 60 at 5Dimes.
Lawrence kind of underperformed last season, yet he still managed 36 passing touchdowns and eight picks on 9.0 yards per attempt while also adding 563 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.
He couldn’t live up to the lofty expectations and that eventually led to mediocre numbers in the College Football Playoff. Fortunately, he carved up Wake last season for 272 yards and four touchdowns, and is expected to do something similar.
Wake Forest Returns Defensive Front 7
Maybe the biggest note in this matchup is that the Demon Deacons return their entire front seven that sacked Lawrence three times last season. Throw in a mostly new offensive line for the Tigers with just one returning starter, and there’s reason to believe Lawrence won’t have as easy of time completing passes.
Then again, Clemson’s talent is hard to beat with running back Travis Etienne (1,614 yards, 19 TDs), and wide receivers Justyn Ross and Amari Rodgers all back for another year.
Clemson May Do All the Scoring
No matter, it’d be surprising if Clemson didn’t reach 40 points in the opener, if not 50 like last year. Wake is returning a decent amount of talent, but that’s from a group that gave up more than 31 points and 400 yards per game.
And If Wake couldn’t score a touchdown last year with Jamie Newman at quarterback, there’s no reason to expect anything different with Sam Hartman leading the way.
While Hartman isn’t exactly a downgrade, as he threw for 300-plus yards in two starts last season, there isn’t a ton of returning talent around him.
Wake Forest returns two full-time starters on the line, while wide receiver Sage Surratt (1,001 yards, 11 TDs) doesn’t have a ton of experience around him.
Running back should be fine between Christian Beal-Smith and Kenneth Walker, but a mostly inexperienced line is unlikely to help their numbers.
Clemson Front 4 Returns
The other issue is that Clemson’s front four may be the best part of its defense with four starters back, namely Xavier Thomas and Tyler Davis. Then there’s coordinator Brent Venables, who rarely has a defense that underperforms.
Clemson won this meeting by 49 points last year and now Wake Forest has to break in a new quarterback. Even with a newer offensive line for the Tigers, there are few reasons to back the underdog in this matchup.
Obviously Clemson should win this game. They have won 11 straight games in this series by an average score of 40-11. The talent gap is to wide and will remain so for many years to come.
With that said, it’s interesting to note that in that 11 game span, if you gave Wake Forest +32.5 in those games they would have covered 7 of the 11.
Perhaps the side is too risky of a proposition in this game. However, the total may be worth a look. Clemson may very well be the only team scoring here. They could pile on 50 points and this game could still go under.
We’ll go under the total of 60.