Two national championships, with an over-hyped flop for an encore: that's what the Tigers and Bulldogs gave their fans to kick off the 1980s.
1980: Georgia 20, Clemson 16
In retrospect, Georgia's run to the 1980 national title almost ended before it started.
The Tigers let one get away on their September trip to Athens, as the Bulldogs dodged bullet after bullet en route to a four-point victory.
Clemson missed an opportunity to take control early when Obed Ariri misfired on a field goal attempt, and then another drive into Georgia's red zone ended with Homer Jordan throwing an interception.
The Bulldogs, who had done nothing offensively up to that point, roused the crowd with a 67-yard touchdown punt return by Scott Woerner. On the following series, Woerner foiled another Clemson threat when he stepped in front of a Jordan pass at the goal line and returned the interception 98 yards before being chased down at the Clemson two. The Bulldogs cashed in, and despite having no yardage and no first downs, led 14-0.
After an exchange of fumbles, backup quarterback Mike Gasque led the Tigers on a short scoring drive, capped by a touchdown play on which he recovered a fumble by teammate Cliff Austin and scored from five yards out. Clemson threatened again late in the first half, but had to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Ariri.
Georgia answered on its first possession of the second half with a field goal of its own, and then added another after intercepting a pass by Gasque.
Trailing 20-10, Clemson pulled within a touchdown on a 45-yard field goal by Ariri, and then cut Georgia's lead to 20-16 with another field goal midway through the fourth quarter.
The Tigers' inability to cash in for touchdowns gave Georgia the margin it needed for the victory, though the Bulldogs had to dodge one last threat. An interference penalty against the Bulldogs gave the Tigers the ball at the Georgia 10 in the closing seconds, but Gasque's pass was intercepted in the end zone by Jeff Hipp.
1981: Clemson 13, Georgia 3
Turnabout turned out to be fair play for the Tigers in 1981, as they rode the momentum from an early-season victory over Georgia all the way to the national championship.
Clemson's swarming defense forced the fourth-ranked, defending national champions into nine turnovers, including two lost fumbles by Herschel Walker. The nine turnover total, which included five interceptions and four fumbles, still stands as a Clemson single-game record.
Walker worked hard for his 111 yards - almost half of Georgia's total - while Clemson's offense scrapped out enough points for a victory that vaulted the Tigers onto the national scene.
An interception by Tim Childress set up the game's only touchdown - an eight-yard pass from Homer Jordan to Perry Tuttle. Donald Igwebuike provided the rest of Clemson's points with field goals of 39 and 29 yards.
“We've got no excuses - they beat us," said Georgia's Walker. "We made a lot of mistakes. They played a good game and we didn’t.
"Georgia wanted to go toe-to-toe and jaw-to-jaw, and I think our guys accepted it real well," said Tiger coach Danny Ford. "That’s the same thing we told our players. We just wanted to prove we could play with them...and we did.”
1982: Georgia 13, Clemson 7
Up until this year certainly the most hyped game in the series, the 1980 and 1981 national champions met in a nationally-televised 1982 Labor Day night clash at Sanford Stadium.
The first college game ever televised on Monday night, it proved to be a rather lackluster affair.
The two teams combined for fewer than 500 total yards and committed six turnovers. In his return to his hometown, Homer Jordan struggled against the Bulldogs' defense, as he rushed for just 15 yards on nine carries, was sacked three times, and threw a career-high four interceptions.
Clemson's only score came on a short run by Jordan after a fumble recovery by William Perry. Georgia, meanwhile, scored on a blocked punt and a pair of field goals by Kevin Butler, and then came up with a key fourth-and-one stop early in the fourth quarter.
Georgia went on to an undefeated regular season and played for the national championship for the second time in three years, but lost to Penn State in the Sugar Bowl. Clemson went 9-1-1, ran the table in the ACC, and finished No. 8 in the final AP poll.