The ESPN College GameDay crew hits the road for the first time in the 2020 college football season to take in an ACC showdown between the No. 1 Clemson Tigers and Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and the crew spent Week 1 at ESPN studios in Bristol, Connecticut, before officially taking the show on the road, identifying Clemson as the first big team to showcase during its pregame show.
With no fans in the stadium because of the coronavirus pandemic, College GameDay will look different too. ESPN has offered a way for 3,500 fans to participate as virtual fans as the show gets ready to take place from the 50-yard line at Truist Field.
Understandably given the weight of the matchup, this is the first time the crew will touch down at Winston-Salem and the 14th time it's Clemson in a headline spot.
College GameDay Week 2 Info
Date: Saturday, September 12
Time (ET): 9 a.m. to noon; game is at 7:30 p.m.
Location: Truist Field
Live Stream: ESPN
The unorthodox nature of the season has understandably been a big talking point around Saturday's marquee contest.
While Wake Forest fans won't pack the stadium for the showdown, Demon Deacons coach Dave Clawson made a point to stress he's proud of his team for making it to this point, per a team press release:
"We are thrilled to be hosting College GameDay for the first time in Wake Forest Football history. Our players have done all the right things since we returned to campus in mid-June and having our brand showcased on these national platforms is a reward for their discipline and for the recent accomplishments of the program."
Clawson has every right to be satisfied of the job done since 2014, when he started with a pair of 3-9 seasons before winning at least seven in each of his past four, including four bowl appearances with three wins.
Granted, the Demon Deacons haven't scored a touchdown against the Tigers in three years, but that speaks more to Clemson's dominance as of late than anything else. And Wake Forest hopes that changes this year in part because of quarterback Sam Hartman's return. The starter from the 2018 season who suffered a broken leg that year and only played in four games a season ago has the attention of someone like Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, according to The Athletic's Grace Raynor:
Besides going against a team like Clemson, Hartman's biggest issue is looking for the next man up after wideout Sage Surratt, owner of 11 touchdowns last season, opted out of the season.
The Tigers won't have any such issue with finding guys to produce.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence returns under center after a season in which he completed 65.8 percent of his passes with 3,665 yards and 36 touchdowns against eight interceptions, spurring the Tigers to the title game, in which it lost to the Joe Burrow-led LSU.
That made it five seasons in a row with 12 or more wins for head coach Dabo Swinney, and he heads into Saturday seemingly not too concerned with the possibilities around an unorthodox matchup, as captured by Todd Shanesy of GoUpstate:
Lawrence will have plenty of help regardless, including the return of star running back Travis Etienne, owner of 1,614 yards and 19 touchdowns last year on a 7.8 per-carry average.
While Wake Forest projects to return a solid defense, few units in the nation figure to slow the Lawrence-Etienne tandem in 2020 regardless of venue or pre-game spectacle.
The chances for an upset in this one are about as slim as it gets.
Clemson, after all, seems like the overwhelming College Football Playoff favorite for a varying number of reasons, chief among them the talent under center with Lawrence.
It's also worth noting there isn't the type of home-field advantage the Demon Deacons would enjoy during a normal year. There are going to be some growing pains for the offense, and no unit will do much to slow the Clemson attack.
A loss here won't crush the Wake Forest program's superb upward momentum, but Saturday does have the feel of a stepping stone for the Tigers as they eye bigger goals.
Prediction: Clemson 35, Wake Forest 20