Coming off of their most successful season since 2011, the Wake Forest football team will face high expectations as they begin their 2017-18 season and look to get off to the same 4-0 start that propelled them to a 7-6 season and a thrilling 34-26 win over Temple in the Military Bowl.
The first six games of the season will be friendly to the Deacons, as it is to most Power Five schools. After their fourth game against Appalachian State, however, the Deacons will enter into one of the most brutal five-game stretches in college football this season — Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Notre Dame. The team will be lucky to escape with one win among those powerhouses. The first six games of the Wake Forest’s season are reviewed below, and check back next week for part two of Wake Forest football’s season preview.
Aug. 31: Wake Forest vs. Presbyterian
Wake Forest will begin their season at home against the Presbyterian Blue Hose on Thursday, Aug. 31 at 6:30 p.m. The Demon Deacons should expect to leave with a comfortable win against the Big South squad that went 2-9 last season, but Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson emphasized in his press conference on Tuesday that the Football Champioinship Subdivision (FCS) school isn’t an opponent that his squad can overlook.
“All the emotions of an opener will be there: excitement, anxiety and nervousness,” Clawson said. “Game ones are always mistake-driven games. That is why there are so many upsets early in the year.”
Wake Forest has had mixed performances in season openers under Clawson, crushing Elon 41-3 in the 2015 season opener and narrowly defeating Tulane 7-3 in 2016. For what it’s worth, Clawson says, “This is the healthiest I can ever remember a football team being through camp.” Wake Forest should move past the Blue Hose with ease despite any first-game mistakes, 37-10.
Sept. 9: Wake Forest at Boston College
The second week of the season will see the Deacons travel north to take on conference rival Boston College on Sept. 9 at 1:00 p.m. in a game that will serve as a tune-up for Wake Forest’s later, more competitive games against ACC foes like Clemson and Florida State.
Clawson recently announced senior John Wolford as the first-string quarterback, solidifying Wolford’s status as a four-year starter for the Deacons. While Wake Forest fell to Boston College 17-14 in last year’s regular season finale, Wolford was able to toss two touchdowns in the outing and Wake Forest had a 14-0 lead going into the fourth quarter. Boston College will enter the season with two quarterbacks with just three games of total experience between them, severely limiting the potential for a late-game comeback repeat of last year. Additionally, Clawson believes that Wake Forest’s running game is deeper than last year with the emergence of redshirt freshman Arkeem Byrd, giving the Deacons a stronger two-pronged attack than last year.
While the Deacons will be tested on the road, expect a Wake Forest win with a score of 24-14.
Sept. 16: Wake Forest vs. Utah State
The last time Wake Forest played Utah State was in 2014, the debut season of Clawson and Wolford for the Deacons. Wake Forest fell 24-36 to the Utah State Aggies then, but the Wake Forest offense has improved leaps and bounds since that game.
Wake Forest posted -25 rushing yards against the Aggies in 2014, a number that would seem unimaginable just 3 years later.
Utah State is in the midst of rebuilding their defense, and Wake Forest will likely take advantage of the shakiness to come out on top, 28-20.
Sept. 23: Wake Forest at Appalachian State
The Sept. 23 game at Appalachian State will represent Wake Forest’s chance to equal their sizzling-hot 4-0 start of last season — within the context of this season, though, it will also represent the last game they’re expected to have a fighting chance in until they take on Syracuse on November 11 on the road.
Wake Forest should be 3-0 entering this game and have an abundance of momentum, but Appalachian State is known for upsetting higher-ranked opponents, and Wake Forest will have their work cut out for them against last season’s Sun Belt conference champions. Wake Forest will win this matchup, 24-21.
Sept. 30: Wake Forest vs. Florida State
Florida State’s 17-6 win last season against Wake Forest looks promising for a hungry Deacon team on paper eager to seek revenge this year, but smart money says that the Seminoles will come out on top once again this year. Second-year Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois will have another year to prove himself as one of the elite quarterbacks in the country, and Florida State’s incredibly difficult schedule should allow them to prepare well for the Deacons. However, an upset here would do wonders for Wake Forest’s confidence and record, and anything is possible at home. The final score will favor the Seminoles, though, 27-16.
Oct. 7: Wake Forest at Clemson
Wake Forest will take on Clemson at the midpoint of the season, and will likely have be rebounding from a bruising contest against the Florida State Seminoles. Last season’s Heisman-winning quarterback Deshaun Watson has moved onto the NFL, but the Clemson Tigers are expected to once again lead the ACC with a potent offense. Expect Wake Forest to struggle early on in this game as they adjust to Clemson’s Death Valley atmosphere and fall 45-14.