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College football games on TV today: Clemson is top cat to start a surreal season

Even Vegas seems at least momentarily befuddled, and those guys know everything. As noted by 247′s Bud Elliott, last weekend’s limited slate featured only three contests that finished within a touchdown of the point spread and only two that finished within seven points of the over/under total.

With all that in mind, I present to you the first full weekend of what is certain to be the most bizarre college football season any of us ever have witnessed.

Syracuse at No. 18 North Carolina

Louisiana at No. 23 Iowa State

Charlotte at Appalachian State

Eastern Kentucky at West Virginia

Arkansas State at Kansas State

Duke at No. 10 Notre Dame

Georgia Tech at Florida State

Campbell at Georgia Southern

Austin Peay at Pittsburgh

The Citadel at South Florida

No. 1 Clemson at Wake Forest

Western Kentucky at Louisville

Coastal Carolina at Kansas

Earlier this month, Iowa State trotted out a seemingly ambitious plan to have approximately 25,000 fans at Jack Trice Stadium for Saturday’s season opener against Louisiana even though Iowa’s coronavirus numbers were spiking. After that fact was strenuously pointed out, the school reversed course and said the game would be played in a mostly empty stadium (family and friends of the Cyclones’ players will be allowed to watch live, along with a small group from Louisiana and the Iowa State marching band). Expectations again are high for a Cyclones team that’s ranked in the Associated Press preseason poll for a third straight season, something that has never happened previously. They’re hoping to avoid the close losses that sent them spiraling to 7-6 in 2019, when they suffered three losses by two points or fewer and another defeat by seven. Louisiana quarterback Levi Lewis, whom Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell offered a scholarship out of high school, had 26 touchdown passes and only four interceptions last season. He will present an early challenge for the Cyclones.

Duke is around a three-touchdown underdog against Notre Dame, which is usually a good spot for Blue Devils Coach David Cutcliffe. From 2013 to 2018, Duke was 27-10-1 against the spread as an underdog with 20 outright wins, but last year the Daniel Jones-less Blue Devils sputtered to 2-4-1 against the spread in such situations with only two outright wins. Devoid of experience all over its offense, Duke lost five of its final six games, averaging just 14.2 points in those losses. Chase Brice, better known as Trevor Lawrence’s former backup at Clemson, gets his first start after transferring to Duke. He faces a Notre Dame defense that, at least initially, could be a little shaky up front (the Fighting Irish’s defensive line lacks the size of other powerhouses) and in the secondary (they have to replace both starting safeties and their top cornerback from last season).

Winner of two of the past four national titles, ranked as the nation’s preseason No. 1 team for a second straight year and possessing a quarterback (Lawrence) who already has been penciled in as the top draft pick in next year’s NFL draft, Clemson doesn’t have many weaknesses as the Tigers enter their opener at Wake Forest. The fact that so many big presences from last year’s national runner-up now are playing in the NFL could cause at least a bit of pain, but Lawrence is the Heisman front-runner and running back Travis Etienne (2,046 yards from scrimmage and 23 touchdowns) is there alongside him. And who, exactly, in the mostly middling ACC can stop them? Dave Clawson has been something of a miracle worker at Wake Forest, leading the Demon Deacons to four straight bowl appearances, but his teams have never come closer than 14 points in their annual meetings with Clemson. The previous two were 63-3 and 52-3 routs.



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