WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Wake Forest surged to a winning season and a bowl victory with Jamie Newman playing quarterback down the stretch in 2018, and the junior will begin this season as the starter for the Demon Deacons in Friday's opener at home against Utah State. Newman stepped in when Sam Hartman was lost to a leg injury and directed the Demon Deacons to victories in three of the final four games, winning MVP honors in the Birmingham Bowl after accounting for four touchdowns.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ACC Network. LINE: Wake Forest -3.5
"It's hard for those guys to go through that every day," Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson told reporters in explaining the decision. "That lets them settle into their roles and lets the team know." The Demon Deacons do have the luxury of Cade Carney returning at running back after rushing for 1,005 yards a season ago, but must replace leading receiver Greg Dortch and three starters on the offensive line. Defensively, the Demon Deacons hope new defensive coordinator Lyle Hemphill – promoted to the position in late November – can find a way to improve a unit that allowed 33.3 points and 458.6 yards per game last season. The Aggies rehired head coach Gary Anderson, who coached the program from 2009-12, and return junior quarterback Jordan Love to direct a high-powered offense that averaged 47.5 points a season ago (second in the nation).
ABOUT UTAH STATE (2018: 11-2)
The Aggies return nine starters on offense but none are more valuable than Love, who passed for 3,567 yards and 32 touchdowns last season while winning Mountain West offensive player of the week five times. Senior Gerold Bright returns after rushing for 888 yards and 10 touchdowns a season ago. Seven starters return to a defense that led the nation with 32 forced turnovers in 2018, anchored by junior linebacker David Woodward (134 tackles last season).
ABOUT WAKE FOREST (2018: 7-6)
Newman finished with 1,083 yards passing and nine touchdowns in six games a season ago, adding four rushing touchdowns and 247 yards on the ground. Sophomore receiver Sage Surratt (14.2 years per catch, four touchdowns) leads the returners at receiver while senior left tackle Justin Herron was granted a medical redshirt year after suffering a knee injury on opening day last season. Senior linebacker Justin Strand led Wake Forest with 105 tackles a season ago while recording 8.5 tackles for loss.
1. The Aggies have averaged 42.2 points per game in Love's 19 career starts.
2. The Demon Deacons were picked to finish sixth in the Atlantic Division in the ACC preseason media poll.
3. Wake Forest used 588 yards of total offense to beat Utah State 46-10 at home in 2017.
PREDICTION: Wake Forest 34, Utah State 27