Wake Forest opens its season Thursday at home against Presbyterian with an experienced quarterback and hopes of earning a second consecutive bowl berth despite a rugged ACC schedule. Senior quarterback John Wolford will make his 34th career start in the season opener – his fourth consecutive opening-game start – one season after starting 11 games and directing the Demon Deacons to their first bowl berth in five years.
The good news for Wake Forest is along with Wolford and quarterback Kendall Hinton, they return most of their backfield and top receivers from a season ago. “I think we’re finally at a point that the talent on the offensive side of the ball has caught up with the defense,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson told reporters last week. The bad news is that unit finished 124th in the nation in total offense, not to mention a schedule that features four road games in a five-game stretch in October, and back-to-back games against No. 3 Florida State and No. 5 Clemson. The Blue Hose return 13 starters from last season for the start of Tommy Spangler’s second term as head coach.
TV: 6:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network. LINE: None.
ABOUT PRESBYTERIAN (2016: 2-9, 1-4 Big South): Spangler led the Blue Hose from 2001-06, going 42-24, and spent the past three seasons as Presbyterian’s defensive coordinator. Quarterback Ben Cheek has started 12 of the Blue Hose’s past 15 games, passing for 837 yards a season ago, and All-Big South second-team receiver DaShawn Davis (42 receptions in 2016) figures to be a focal point of the offense. Linebacker Grant Beidel returns after leading Presbyterian with 75 tackles last season.
ABOUT WAKE FOREST (2016: 7-6, 3-5 ACC): Wolford passed for 1,774 yards a season ago and was impressive in preseason camp, beating out Hinton for the starting nod, but has thrown more interceptions (35) than touchdowns (30) in his career. Leading rushers Matt Colburn (626 yards) and Cade Carney (589 yards) are back, as is defensive tackle Zeek Rodney, a 12-game starter in 2015 who sat out last season for personal reasons. Wake Forest’s defense lost four of its top six tacklers from last season and defensive coordinator Mike Elko left for Notre Dame.
1. The Demon Deacons were third in the ACC and 23rd nationally in scoring defense a season ago, allowing 22.2 points per contest.
2. Returning Wake Forest receivers Tabari Hines, Cam Serigne (TE) and Cortez Lewis combined for 1,288 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last season.
3. Wake Forest DL Paris Black will miss the first three games for a violation of team rules.
PREDICTION: Wake Forest 47, Presbyterian 7