It might seem early in the season for such a conversation, but Wake Forest appears ready to talk about a certain championship.
The Demon Deacons are determined to repeat as the mythical Big Four champions, signifying the top team among in-state Atlantic Coast Conference teams.
That quest begins Saturday night against host North Carolina State at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C.
This will mark the season opener for NC State, which had a surge in coronavirus cases late last month, causing the postponement of a matchup at Virginia Tech.
The Wolfpack are looking to bounce back after a miserable 4-8 campaign in 2019.
Wake Forest (0-1, 0-1 ACC) could use the diversion in attention toward the in-state rivalry after suffering a 37-13 setback to No. 1-ranked Clemson in last Saturday night's opener.
"I think there's a lot of positives to build on," coach Dave Clawson said after the takedown at the hands of the Tigers. "... We had very few penalties. We didn't turn the ball over. We just had some missed opportunities. We had a lot of good players play a lot of football for the first time."
Meanwhile, the Wolfpack players are anxious to take the field.
"We have a little bit of rust," NC State tight end Cary Angeline said. "I definitely think we're ready for Wake Forest. ... A few weeks back, we didn't know if we were going to play."
Seeing Wake Forest play last weekend only made the Wolfpack hungrier to be in a game. It also provided a chance to observe the first opponent with a scouting mindset.
The Demon Deacons have won the past three meetings with NC State. The only time Wake Forest has won four straight in the series came from 1951-54.
Among positives this week, Clawson said the Demon Deacons mostly avoided the injury bug in the Clemson game. He said multiple players should be available who missed the opener because of injuries or coronavirus-related tests.
"Hopefully we can be close to full strength as we try to start defending our Big Four championship," he said.
Last year, Wake Forest posted home victories against North Carolina, NC State and Duke. That was the first time the Demon Deacons swept those opponents since 2007, though for many recent seasons they didn't face North Carolina because of post-ACC expansion scheduling.
NC State is 6-1 in openers under coach Dave Doeren. This will be the first opening game against an ACC foe with Doeren in charge.
NC State announced this week that redshirt junior linebacker Isaiah Moore will wear jersey No. 1, which goes to a player displaying special character and leadership. He's also a team captain.
"Isaiah has led our team both athletically and socially," Doeren said. "He is a great person, player and teammate. He has overcome many obstacles and continues to shine in the face of adversity as a leader who brings strength to the Pack."
Wake Forest receiver Taylor Morin, a redshirt freshman, racked up team bests with nine receptions for 93 yards in the Clemson game. He scored the team's only touchdown on a 1-yard pass from third-string quarterback Mitch Griffis late in the game.
Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman, who's in his third season, has never played against NC State.
NC State has new coordinators with Tim Beck (offense) and Tony Gibson (defense).
"He has done a good job of making it easy on us," Angeline said of Beck.
--Field Level Media
Need more winners Against the Spread? Get $60 in Free Premium Member Only picks from Doc’s Sports – A recognized leader and trusted name in sports handicapping since 1971. Click Here.
News Breaking News
Key Players to Watch
NC State Wolfpack
- UndisclosedQues Sat | questionable
Ingle missed the last game with an unspecified injury, and it is unclear if he will play Saturday against Pittsburgh.
- UndisclosedQues Sat | questionable
Wilson sat out the previous game with an undefined issue, and it is uncertain if he will be in Saturday's lineup against Pitt.
- HipQues Sat | questionable
Martin left the last game due to a hip injury, and his status for Saturday's matchup with Pitt is in question.
- Undisclosedout for season | out
Acceus has an undisclosed injury and will be forced to sit out the remainder of the season.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
- UndisclosedQues Fri | questionable
Rucker has missed the previous two games with an unspecified ailment, and it is unclear if he will play Friday against Campbell.
- BackQues Fri | questionable
Greene is dealing with a back contusion, and he will not suit up against Campbell on Friday.
- UndisclosedOut Sat | out
Davis is tending to an undetermined injury and will not be available for Saturday's contest versus NC State.