The Clemson Tigers begin their defense of their national championship with a home game against the Kent State Golden Flashes. The game is scheduled for noon on Saturday, September 2, at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina. It will be broadcast on ESPN.

The Tigers are currently favorited by 38.5 points by oddsmakers, with the total points at 51.5. However, early betting has actually favored Kent State, as Clemson originally opened as 40-point favorites. Click here for a full list of Week 1 betting odds.

Clemson vs. Ohio State Betting Odds & Game Preview

Clemson fans are undoubtedly on Cloud 9 after last year’s national championship, which was won in dramatic fashion against Alabama, college football’s preeminent program. Unfortunately, that leaves nowhere to go but down, giving Dabo Swinney a lot of work to do if Clemson has any chance at repeating.

The Tigers have 10 starters to replace this season, including six who were selected in the NFL Draft. The most notable losses are quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver Mike Williams, who were both first round selections. Of course, during Swinney’s nine seasons at Clemson, he’s proven to always have talented players waiting in the wings who are ready to step into prominent roles.

Meanwhile, the Golden Flashes are justing hoping to do something to dispute their reputation as one of the worst teams in college football. Head coach Paul Haynes is just 12-35 in four seasons at Kent State, yet he’s getting a fifth year to see if he can turn things around. The team endured a second straight 3-9 campaign in 2016, including an embarrassing loss to FCS school North Carolina A&T.

That being said, Kent State was competitive in most of its conference games last season, despite a 2-6 MAC record. Of course, opening the season with a trip to Clemson may not be the best way to give Haynes and the Golden Flashes a confidence boost ahead of an important season for both the coach and the program.

College Football Free Vegas Line Prediction: Clemson -38.5

Even with a spread of more than five touchdowns to cover and a slew of key players to replace from last year’s team, it’s hard not to lean toward Clemson in this game. Junior Kelly Bryant beat out a pair of younger competitors to win the starting quarterback job. Despite a lack of experience after serving as Clemson’s third-string quarterback last season, Bryant is similar to Watson in both his size and dual-threat ability.

More importantly, he’ll have plenty of help around him. Despite losing Williams, top rusher Wayne Gallman, and tight end Jordan Leggett, the Tigers have no shortage of weapons around Kelly. Wide receivers Deon Cain and Hunter Renfrow return after combining for more than 1,200 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns last season. The Tigers also possess a monster offensive line that should have no trouble overpowering Kent State up front, giving Bryant time in the pocket and opening up holes for a stable of talented running backs.

Defensively, there should be little doubt that Clemson will once again be one of the best teams in the country. Christian Wilkins and Clelin Ferrell should set the tone on the defensive line, particularly when playing against a smaller school like Kent State. Meanwhile, both the linebacking corps and secondary had enough depth last season to cope with the loss of a few graduating seniors

Click here for more free betting picks from our expert handicappers.

Kent State will hope to counter with quarterback Nick Holley, who ran for nearly as many yards as he threw for in 2016. However, at just 5’ 10’’ tall, he could find it difficult to see over the Clemson defensive line or run away from some of the amazing athletes the Tigers have in their front seven. 

A 38.5-point spread is asking a lot of a Clemson team with an unproven quarterback. But with the amount of excitement and energy that will be present at Memorial Stadium coming off last year’s national championship, the Tigers will have plenty of inspiration to be at their best and blow out an overmatched Kent State team in Week 1.