The Wake Forest Demon Deacons will open up the 2019 season at home against the Utah State Aggies. Kickoff is set for 8:00 EST Friday at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem, NC. You can watch the game on the ACC Network.

Oddsmakers opened up with the Demon Deacons as a slim 2.5-point home favorite, but it’s been bet up slightly to Wake Forest -3.5. The total is still 63.5 at most places, but there are some 63s out there.

Click here for a full look at the Week 1 NCAAF lines for more links to our game previews.

Vegas Betting Odds & Game Preview: Wake Forest vs Utah State

Utah State Aggies

The Aggies are coming off an impressive 11-2 campaign, that featured a 10-game winning streak. Utah State lost the opener at Michigan State 31-38 as a 24-point dog. They didn’t lose again until falling at Boise State in the regular-season finale. A defeat that cost them a spot in the MWC title game. Utah State went on to annihilate North Texas 52-13 in the New Mexico Bowl.

The bad news for the Aggies is their success led to head coach Matt Wells getting a much better gig as the head guy at Texas Tech. The good news is they replaced Wells with Gary Anderson, who was the head coach here from 2009-2012, before leaving for Wisconsin.

Even with a familiar face in Anderson, it won’t be easy matching last year’s success. Utah State gets back their star quarterback in Jordan Love, but the only other starter back on the offensive side of the ball is tackle Alfred Edwards. The defense does have 7 starters back, but have to replace 4 of their top 5 tacklers.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

The Demon Deacons are coming off a solid 7-6 campaign, which they capped off with a 37-34 upset win over Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl. That’s now 3 straight winning seasons for Wake Forest under head coach Dave Clawson. All coming after he went just 6-18 over their first two years on the job.

While it definitely feels like the program is headed in the right direction, they got to start winning more inside the ACC to take that next step. They have just a 10-14 record in the ACC the last 3 seasons (12-3 non-conference). Still they were 2-14 in ACC play over Clawson’s first two years.

Only 12 starters (7 offense, 5 defense) return, but this is a much more experienced team than that, as they lost 34 starts to injury last year. I think it has this team flying under the radar in 2019.

Matchup History

The most recent meeting in the series came in 2017. That game was also played at Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons won the contest 46-10, easily covering as a 13-point favorite.

Betting Prediction & Free College Football ATS Pick: Wake Forest -3.5

I’m not going to sugar-coat this. I like Wake Forest quite a bit in this one. I recently did a college football win total podcast on SportsCapping and two of my plays were on these two programs. I gave out the Demon Deacons OVER 6 wins and the Aggies UNDER 6.5 wins.

Click on the link for more free college football picks from our experts on staff.

I go into quite a bit of detail on the podcast on why I like Wake Forest and why I don’t like Utah State. I’ll touch on a few of them here. The biggest thing for me with the Aggies is I feel like people are just assuming that because they hired Gary Anderson it’s going to be s smooth transition. I like Anderson, but the guy was gone for 6 years.

As is often the case,  new head coach often means new schemes on both sides of the ball and that’s the case here with Mike Sanford taking over the offense and Justin Ena now in charge of the defense. I think that transition is a lot tougher when you don’t have experience and this is one of the least experienced teams at the FBS level.

The combination of Anderson being a name people know, getting Love back at QB and just how good this team was in 2018, has them way overvalued in this matchup. This line is basically saying these two teams would be a pick’em on a neutral field and I don’t see it.

The thing with Wake Forest is that this is not a program you can expect a guy to come in and turn things around in the blink of an eye. They have done a tremendous job of letting Clawson build this thing up from scratch and we have really seen the offense take off the last two years. In Clawson’s first year they average 14.8 ppg and 216 ypg. One of the worst offenses in the country. Last year they had 32.8 ppg and 450 ypg.

They 7 starters back on offense and I just don’t see Utah State being able to keep pace offensively in what is going to be a hostile environment at BB&T Field. Give me the Demon Deacons -3.5!