Friday, August 30, 2013 1:06 PM
Clemson vs. Georgia prediction
In case you haven’t heard, there are big things happening in Clemson this Saturday.
The Clemson Tigers open the season against the Georgia Bulldogs, renewing what was once a sizzling rivalry between the two schools that sit less than 100 miles apart. This year, both schools have national title hopes and a win on Saturday would go a long way towards that goal.
Both teams feature dynamic offenses and have questions on defense. Georgia has quarterback Aaron Murray and running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, while the Tigers have quarterback Tajh Boyd and a bevy of talented wide receivers, including a rejuvenated Sammy Watkins.
This one ought to be a good one for the GameDay folks, the fans in attendance, and the people watching on national television.
The Georgia gameplan should be fairly easy to figure out – run Gurley and Marshall, control the clock and let Murray take his chances down the field with the play-action pass. The news for Clemson in the secondary has not been good the last couple of seasons, and there are still a ton of questions heading into this season. And I might be different than most people – I think the corners will be ok during this game. The players who are going to play – Bashaud Breeland, Garry Peters, Martin Jenkins and Darius Robinson – all have experience, and Peters played well at the end of last season. The question is at the spots manned by Travis Blanks and Robert Smith. Both players are going to be good, but young safeties have a tendency to peak into the backfield and get beat over the top. Heck, Clemson’s experienced safeties got beat that way the last two seasons. If the Bulldogs are able to establish the run – watch out for those sweeps with Gurley and Marshall – look for Murray and company to try and hit the big play down the field. Gurley rushed for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns on 222 carries last season, while Marshall ran 117 times for 759 yards and eight scores. They return every starter on the offensive line, so that group is experienced. Clemson’s front seven needs to get pressure on Murray early and often – Murray has a tendency to throw into coverage under pressure – and control the running game. If they don’t, it could be a long night. It all starts with Boyd, the triggerman for Chad Morris’ offense. Boyd is missing three valuable weapons from last season – running back Andre Ellington, tight end Brandon Ford and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins Hopkins. Can the Tigers find replacements for those workhorses? The answer is yes, but there are questions surrounding the running back rotation, where senior Roderick McDowell gets his first chance to start, and with a thin tight end group. The good news is that Watkins looks even better than he did his freshman season and Boyd has weapons all over the field with burners like Martavis Bryant, Charone Peake and Germone Hopper, newcomer Mike Williams and the ever-steady Adam Humphries. If the Tigers can establish any kind of running game to take the pressure off of Boyd and can find an answer at tight end among Darrell Smith, Stanton Seckinger and Jordan Leggett, Boyd and the offense should be better than ever. Four starters return on the offensive line, and Georgia has a suspect and young secondary and inexperience along the defensive line. MLB Amarlo Herrera is the team’s top returning tackler – he had 70 last season – after starting nine games. Big DE Garrison Smith had 57 tackles last season. Josh Harvey-Clemons will be the starting safety for the Bulldogs, but he won’t play Saturday as he serves a one game suspension. He could be replaced by Connor Norman – a walk-on that originally signed with Presbyterian. Boyd just needs to play like he did against LSU and not repeat his South Carolina performances, especially if the Bulldogs get ahead early. On a big night, in front of a big crowd with big implications, Boyd and the offense show up. The Tigers return All-American kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who missed one field goal last season, and feature the big leg of Bradley Pinion at punter and on kickoffs. The Tigers suffered in the return game last season - on offense and defense – and need to cure those ills if they want to have a good season. The word is that Watkins will be more of a factor in the return game this season, and the hope of the coaches is that he can replicate some of his freshman performances. For Georgia, we don’t know the status of kicker Marshall Morgan, who was arrested over the summer for boating under the influence. Georgia head coach Mark Richt has said that there won’t be a formal announcement regarding Morgan, and we will either see him kick or we won’t. The guess is that we see him at some point Saturday, but if he sits out the entire game the pendulum swings in Clemson’s favor. If he plays the entire game, things are a little more even. Both teams will score points and move the football – the big key will be whether Clemson can control Gurley and still run its own offense. We’ve heard good things about the front seven during the spring and fall camp and they played well against LSU, but let’s face facts – it looked like a 12-year old was calling plays for LSU in the bowl game. Georgia won’t have that problem, and Murray is facing a secondary that we simply don’t know anything about. If Boyd gets into a rhythm, look out. Same thing goes for Murray, who also has a lot of weapons at his disposal. If you think the offenses even out and the defenses even out, then Clemson gets the edge in the kicking game and the homefield advantage. Defensive end Vic Beasley announces himself to the nation by pressuring Murray, and even though Gurley gets 100 yards, the Tigers get the big kick at the end from their All-American. It will be high-scoring, but not as high as some people think.
|WHAT:||No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson|
|WHERE:||Memorial Stadium (85,000) - Clemson, S.C.|
|WHEN:||Saturday, August 31st, Sometime after 8 p.m.|
Mickey Plyler - 6-9AM on WCCP 104.9FM EST - 31-28 Clemson
Nikki Steele - TigerNet Writer - 31-28 Clemson
Tony Crumpton - TigerNet's Associate Editor - 34-31 Clemson
Lawton Swann - Clemson Sports Talk / TigerNet Talk - 37-31 Clemson
Pigskin Prophet - 39-34 Clemson
Butt-Head - Friend of the Prophet who said anyone could do this - 48-31 Clemson
|Game||Actual||David Hood||Mickey Plyler||Tony Crumpton||Nikki Steele||Lawton Swann||El Swann||Pigskin Prophet||Georgia||?||37-34 CU||31-28 CU||31-28 CU||34-31 CU||37-31 CU||39-34 CU
||Points|| - ||0||0||0||0||0||0
* Points: 3 pts for best prediction of the week (tiebreaker is Clemson score), 1pt for picking the correct winner
David Hood can be reached at email@example.com