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Week 1 - Georgia at Clemson
Posted Aug 29, 2013

Week 1 Fearless Prediction & Preview - Georgia at Clemson

Georgia (0-0) at Clemson (0-0) Aug. 31, 8:00, ABC

Why You Should Give A Hoot: There are only a few games each season that play a really, really big role in the national title chase, and no non-conference game might mean more than this one, especially for Clemson.

While the Tigers have done some nice things under head coach Dabo Swinney, and the ACC championship a few years ago was great, this is bigger. This is bigger than the Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU to close out last year, even though that was the breakthrough moment that proved the program can play with the big dogs. The tone is set and the spotlight is on, and now if Clemson can pull this off and beat the Bulldogs for the first time since 1990, it might be a three game season – Florida State, at South Carolina, ACC championship – for a shot at the BCS title.

There’s a margin for error with Georgia, who can afford one loss and still play for the whole ball of wax by winning the SEC championship and finishing 12-1. However, with South Carolina coming up next and LSU looming at the end of September, this might be a must win situation for a loaded team full of enough talent to win the first national title since the Herschel Walker era.

Why Georgia Might Win: Do the Tigers have a lockdown corners good enough to keep up with the Georgia receivers? Clemson’s secondary struggled throughout last season despite the help of a terrific pass rush, and while there’s just enough experience and just enough talent to get by, it might be target practice for Aaron Murray. This is not the team of the offense to go against when you’re trying to break in new players in key positions. Clemson ranked 110th in the country, just between UTEP and Eastern Michigan, in the number of plays yielded of 30 yards or more – expect a lot more to come to kickoff 2013.
Why Clemson Might Win: Oh yeah, defense. You don’t get better after losing Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree, John Jenkins, and on and on and on. It’s Georgia, so the defense will find talented athletes who can fill in the gaps, but if there’s no consistent pass rush early on when Tajh Boyd settles in the pocket, it should be bombs away. There’s almost no experience returning to the Bulldog defensive front, and while the Tiger line probably won’t be a killer, four starters return.

Who To Watch Out For: The quarterbacks. It’s a marquee matchup in several ways, and while the BCS championship dream is in play here, the Heisman could be part of the equation, too. Considering it should be a wild shootout with lots of big plays and lots of swings – at least that’s the hope in terms of entertainment value – Tajh Boyd and Aaron Murray could come up with a classic. Murray closed out last season with 427 yards and five scores in the win over Nebraska, while Boyd finished up with 346 yards and two touchdowns – and a last-second, game-winning drive – to beat LSU. The loser of this game is probably out of the Heisman hunt.

- While the focus will be on the passers, this is the type of game that makes national superstars out of other key players. Murray and Boyd might get lots of attention, but Bulldog running back Todd Gurley and Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins are far, far better pro prospects.

- Georgia won the 1980 national championship helped by a 20-16 win over Clemson in the second week of the season. Clemson won the 1981 national championship helped by a 13-3 win over Georgia.

- Clemson scored 27 points or more in nine games last season and only went under the mark three times. Those three games? Auburn, South Carolina and LSU – the three games against SEC teams. Georgia hasn’t scored fewer than 30 points in its last seven games against ACC teams, but all of those game against Georgia Tech. The last game against a team from the ACC other than Tech was against Virginia Tech in the 2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl. Georgia scored 31 in the win.

What Will Happen: The last team to get the ball wins? Be extremely disappointed if this isn’t an up-and-down shootout with both gunslingers coming up with magical things. Georgia’s offense will be a bit more balanced, and the defense a wee bit better despite the lack of experience, in a thriller.
Prediction: Georgia 34 … Clemson 31
Line: Georgia -1.5 o/u: 70.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 5