Clemson - UGA Preview and Prediction


by - Correspondent -
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This year's contest with UGA has turned into a must win game for Tommy Bowden if you believe a lot of what you read and hear. Many fans seem to think a win leads to a great season, while a loss is the end of the world, as we know it. It is true that this game is important, but a career and season should not ride on it.


A win could go a long way towards building momentum that could carry the team through the year. A loss would hurt, but should not be reason enough to think all is lost. This is why it is nice to start the season with a lesser opponent that leads to a sure win. For one, it allows the team to work out some kinks. Secondly, it makes game week easier on the fans. An opener like Georgia usually means the fans spend the week riding an emotional roller coaster. Finally, it gives the team an opportunity to get their feet wet and gain a little confidence.


There has been a lot of talk about the UGA suspensions and injuries. Some make it sound as if they have lost all 85 scholarship players while others would lead you to believe they have only lost their starting defense. The Tigers are not quite that lucky.


More than anything, Georgia has lost depth. All but three starters are still in place - Ken Veal, Will Thompson, and Kentrell Curry. Kedric Golston is replacing Veal, the starting nose tackle. Golston began last season as a starter and played in all 14 games. He may not have been the starter entering the season, but he's just as good as Veal.


Robert Geathers has stepped in to fill Will Thompson's shoes. Many Clemson fans that follow recruiting remember Geathers from a few years ago. He was a highly sought after prospect that has had a solid career thus far. He started two games last year and has played in all but one game in his two years at Georgia.

Curry - whom some say will play - will have his spot manned by Thomas Davis. Davis moves back to the secondary after being named the starter at outside linebacker earlier this fall. Davis started two games at free safety last season. He should have no problem making the adjustment.


The only true unknown at this point in terms of the starting 11 will be the man taking over Davis' spot at outside linebacker, Arnold Harrison. Other than Harrison, all of the players that have earned starting positions due to injuries have started in the past and received plenty of playing time. It appears UGA's recruiting success in past years is paying off.


Losing some key back-ups has hurt. However, that should be no excuse after all of the chest thumping that Bulldog fans have done in recent years when discussing their recruiting rankings. Injuries and suspensions are no excuse for the fans at this point. Their talent is one of the biggest reasons they are still favored and rightfully so.

BREAKDOWN

With this being the first game of the season, it is hard to analyze and compare each position group. Therefore, it is more appropriate to look at 3 keys Clemson must have go their way if they are to win. Of course, such things as winning the turnover battle, limiting penalties, and success in the red zone and short yardage situations are givens so they will not be discussed.

1. Line Play - This refers to both the offensive and defensive lines. If the o-line can be moderately successful, the offense will thrive. Clemson needs to be able to run the ball to win this game. A decent running game will allow the Tigers to take advantage of a somewhat inexperienced linebacker corps by utilizing play action passes and isolations in the running game.

The d-line is going to have to get pressure on Greene and Shockley if the inexperienced secondary hopes to have any success. An all-star defensive backfield can get picked apart when the quarterback has all day to throw. These guys also need to improve tremendously on last year's ability to stop the run. If Georgia is able to run the ball successfully, the Tigers could be in for a long afternoon.

2. Special Teams - Can it get any worse than last year? Yes.


Is that likely? No.

There is no need to rehash last year's pathetic performance that essentially cost Clemson the game. Everyone remembers just how awful it was. The good thing is that the mistakes made are correctable. The Tigers need a big day from their return men and good first impressions from Cole Chason and Jad Dean. If Clemson scores a touchdown on special teams while not giving up any, they will win this game.


3. Luck - Yes, Clemson needs Lady Luck to bless the Tigers with her presence on Saturday afternoon. While it seemed as if Georgia got all of the breaks on their way to a 13-1 season last year, Clemson struggled through bad break after bad break. Any time a team plays someone with more talent and a higher ranking they almost always need luck on their side. It is time for Clemson to have some things go their way. A few lucky bounces will go a long way towards a victory.

PREDICTION

Clemson lost a very close game to a good Georgia team to start last year's mediocre season. They will be looking for revenge as well as a chance to prove something to all of their naysayers. Meanwhile, Georgia will look to build upon last year's success as they make another run at a top five finish.


Predicting this game is comparable to predicting the weather. Get it right and no one says a word. Get it wrong and people are ready to attend your public execution.


However, my pick is Clemson 28-27 simply because it's time for the Tigers' luck to change by winning a big game.

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