Premature Prognostication: A Way Too Early Preview of Georgia’s Game Against Clemson
This is the first in a series of way, way, way too early previews of Georgia’s games in 2013.
Georgia at Clemson:
On August 31st the Georgia Bulldogs will renew their once bitter but lately latent rivalry with the Tigers of Clemson. The Dawgs and the Cats last met on August 30, 2003 (a game that Georgia won by a final score of 30-0), but prior to the latest decade-long reprieve these teams squared off 57 times. The Bulldogs hold the series edge with a 38-15-4 record.
- Clemson University is named after its founder, a man named Clem, and the three pillars on which the institution was founded: Chivalry, Honor and Knowledge. Missing from those pillars: spelling. Thus Clem added Shivalry, Onor and Nowledge to and came up with the name “Clemson”. But…if you’re pronouncing it correctly, you’re saying “Clempson.”
- The Tigers went 11-2 in 2012 finishing second in the ACC’s good division behind Florida State. They bookended the season with a pair of victories over SEC Tigers in Chick-fil-A themed games at the Georgia Dome – defeating Auburn 26-19 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic on September 1st and taking down LSU by a score of 25-24 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The Tigers lone losses were to Florida State (49-37) and South Carolina (27-17).
- Tajh “Mahal” Boyd was in charge of a high-powered offense that averaged 41 points per game. Boyd hit on 67% of his passes for 3900 yards, 36 TDs and 13 INTs.
- Defense has rarely been Clemson’s calling card, and the Tigers gave up notable point totals against Ball State (27 points), FSU (49 points), Boston College (31 points), Georgia Tech (31 points) and NC State (48 points).
Georgia plays Clemson, South Carolina and LSU before the month of October, and initially this was the most concerning of those three games for the following reasons:
- The game is on the road and at a somewhat hostile environment.
- Clemson will bring an experience QB and a big play offense against a very green defensive Georgia squad.
- The points above seem to make Clemson a bigger threat than a South Carolina team that will be missing its All-American running back and instead will feature two QBs that Spurrier now has 7 months to completely mentally dismantle.
- And, points 1 and 2 seem to outweigh the potential of a seemingly offense-less LSU team traveling to Athens.
Upon Further Review:
This game isn’t quite as scary as I thought. Yes, Tajh “Mahal” Boyd is back, but he will be playing without DeAndre Hopkins (1405 yards receiving, 18 TDs) and Andre Ellington (1313 yards of offense, 9 TDs). Add Brandon TE Brandon Ford (480 yards receiving, 8 TDs) and WR Jaron Brown (348 yards of offense) to the list of departing contributors and suddenly there is a whole lot that needs to be replaced. That group accounted for 3,543 of Clemson’s 6,665 total yards (53.16%) and 35 of the Tigers’ 66 offensive TDs (53.03%). Clemson’s best returning playmaker, Sammy Watkins, has seen his on-turf production decrease (2297 total yards and 13 TDs as a freshman, 1125 total yards and 4 TDs as a sophomore) decrease and his grass consumption increase (Sammy Potkins, anyone?).
Furthermore, I think Georgia will largely be able to neutralize the crowd by suiting up an unbelievably experienced offensive unit. The crowd won’t be a factor while the Dawgs’ young defense is on the field. And, while that defense is on the field it will be facing a more than fair share of youth and inexperience within Clemson’s offense.
Initially I pegged this game as an offensive shootout, but I must say I like Georgia’s offense (returning 11 of 12 starters from a year ago) against Clemson’s mediocre defense much more than I like Clemson’s offense (returning less than 47% of last year’s production) against Georgia’s young defense. After all, isn’t a young, inexperienced SEC defense better than most ACC defenses? Let’s work on that assumption and to be generous let’s pretend that Clemson’s offense will be as good on August 31st as it was in 2012. The top-half ACC defensive efforts against Clemson in 2012 allowed 37,38,42, and 45 points. That’s an average of 40.5 points per game. I feel confident in Murray and company’s ability to score more than 41 points against Clemson.
Way Too Early Prediction:
Aaron Murray asserts himself as the better senior QB in as much as Georgia shows the SEC’s superiority to the ACC. Georgia, likely the third or fourth ranked SEC team when the season (behind Alabama certainly and possibly Florida and/or Texas A&M) will defeat the ACC’s best team 45-35 in a fun one.
That’s all I got/