NC College Football Previews: Wake, UNCC open 2017 season

Demon Deacons host Presbyterian; 49ers travel to Eastern Michigan

Marc Lebryk— USA Today Sports
Memorial Stadium reflects in the helmet of a Wake Forest Demon Deacons player. (Marc Lebryk / —USA Today Sports)

Wake Forest vs. Presbyterian

BB& T Field  |  Thursday, 6:30 p.m.  |  ACC Network Extra

Preview: The Deacons look to build on the improvement that saw them win seven games, including an upset of AAC champion Temple in the Military Bowl last year. An opening night FCS opponent that won just two games in 2016 should allow for a fast start.

Players to watch: Senior John Wolford emerged from a preseason battle with redshirt sophomore Kendall Hinton to win the starting quarterback job for the fourth straight year. Wolford leads all returning ACC quarterbacks in career passing yards with 5,602. Presbyterian’s top offensive threat is second-team All-Big South WR DaShawn Davis, who compiled a team-leading 975 all-purpose yards in 2016.

Fast fact: Tommy Spangler returns for his second tenure as Presbyterian’s head coach after spending the past four seasons as the team’s defensive coordinator. He was 42-24 with the Blue Hose between 2001-06 before leaving to become defensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech.

What to expect: This game figures to be little more than a glorified scrimmage for the Deacons, who should have an opportunity to sharpen their execution while also getting a lot of players some valuable game experience.

— Brett Friedlander

Charlotte 49ers at Eastern Michigan Eagles

Rynearson Stadium  |  Friday, 6:30 p.m.  |  ESPN3

Preview: Eastern Michigan’s 7-6 season ended with a trip to Nassau for the Bahamas Bowl, the first bowl bid in 29 years for the Eagles. Charlotte finished the season with a three-game losing streak, costing the 49ers a chance at its first FBS bowl bid. Last September, EMU topped Charlotte, 37-19.

Players to watch: Senior WR Johnnie Niupalau helped pace EMU’s win over Charlotte last year with a 49-yard touchdown catch, one of four on the year. For Charlotte, sophomore RB Robert Washington had the only 100-yard rushing game of his career against EMU.

Fast fact: Do not adjust your set. Eastern Michigan is one of two teams in FBS to play on an alternatively-colored field. While Boise State’s blue turf is more famous, the gray turf at Rynearson Stadium gives an old-school black & white feel to the game.

What to expect: The 49ers want to break through with a bowl trip, and the opener seems like a winnable game to get them off on the right foot. With a trip to Kansas State coming up next, it’s probably as close to a must-win as an opener can be.

— Shawn Krest