Our three-part Clemson-Georgia breakdown and three more predictions and a pick...
With Georgia, you throw out the total offense numbers because of their pace of play (slow). The Bulldogs return 10 of 11 starters from the nation’s most efficient offense last season – posting a top-20 scoring offense to boot (37.8 points per game).
Tigers get another shot at top SEC team
The two-headed monster of sophomore tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall make it go. They both averaged over six yards per carry last season, making up two of only five backs in the SEC top-20 rushers to do so. Gurley led the SEC and was seventh nationally with 49 runs of 10-plus yards. Marshall popped off for three touchdown runs of 60-plus yards in conference play.
Name an SEC passing record and senior Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray either has it or will by season’s end. Murray was the only quarterback in the nation to average 10 yard per pass attempt last year.
What also doesn’t hurt? Having a behemoth starting o-line with 99 career starts. Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo’s squad is solid top-to-bottom.
The Tigers are licking their chops eyeing Georgia’s rush defense numbers last season.
Overall, they finished 77th nationally, but in the last two games against Alabama and Nebraska, the Bulldogs’ 3-4 scheme surrendered 589 yards on the ground at 5.7 per attempt. They return one starter on the d-line and three total with starting experience in the front-seven. The low mark isn’t exactly a trend under defensive coordinator Todd Grantham – finishing 11th nationally in 2011 – but definitely a spot to watch.
Georgia’s secondary is down to one returning starter (cornerback Damian Swann) and lacking depth coming in due to injury and suspension.
On the offensive side, for all of Murray’s success – inconsistent at best describes his play against better competition. He is 3-11 in his career against opponents that finished in the AP top 25, with as many interceptions in those 14 games (16) as he does in 27 contests against unranked opponents.
Clemson will hit The Hill for a rubber match in a three-consecutive game series with top-10 SEC opponents.
Last time in Death Valley, the Tigers held the halftime lead and South Carolina dominated the second half to deal Clemson a 27-17 loss.
Closing out 2012, Dabo Swinney’s Tigers rallied from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit versus Les Miles’ Tigers for the 25-24 triumph.
Elite offenses on both sides meet up with defenses stocked with talent, question marks and some motivation hearing talk of a presumed shootout.
The kicking game goes to Clemson if a clutch kick decides it – the Tigers armed with senior Chandler Catanzaro, who has made 26 of his last 27 attempts.
A slight underdog to the Dawgs, much of the intangibles are on the Tigers’ side in front of a rocking Death Valley in what should be a down-to-the-wire thriller.
Clemson is 17-0 the last two years carrying a lead into the fourth quarter and 1-1 with a under two-touchdown deficit. Georgia is 20-1 in the same scenario – the one loss to Alabama – and 1-2 when trailing by less than two TDs.
Three Predictions & a Pick
1. The Tigers score as many touchdowns or more on the ground than the air.
2. Sammy Watkins has at least seven receptions and 100 yards receiving.
3. Aaron Murray is sacked at least three times and picked off once.
Final Score: Clemson 34-31