Countdown to kickoff: Tigers, Dawgs in transition going into Athens opener

RICHARD HAMM/THE BANNER HERALD
Georgia Red team quarterback Hutson Mason (14) is pressured by Black team defensive back Corey Moore (39) and inside linebacker Ramik Wilson (51) during the annual G-Day Game at Sanford Stadium on Saturday in Athens, Ga.

Photo by Richard Hamm

RICHARD HAMM/THE BANNER HERALD Georgia Red team quarterback Hutson Mason (14) is pressured by Black team defensive back Corey Moore (39) and inside linebacker Ramik Wilson (51) during the annual G-Day Game at Sanford Stadium on Saturday in Athens, Ga.

The countdown is on to Clemson football first in Athens (Georgia) and then back in TigerTown on Sept. 6 (S.C. State).

We’re counting down the Clemson schedule – by strength of schedule – with a quick profile, team I.D. and prediction.

Today, we arrive at the opener in Athens, an early preview for the ACC-SEC showdown next month.

Clemson Countdown to Kickoff

12) S.C. State

11) Georgia State

10) Wake Forest

9) N.C. State

8) Syracuse

7) Boston College

6) Georgia Tech

5) Louisville

4) North Carolina

3) South Carolina

2) Georgia Bulldogs

Quick Profile

Plays Clemson: at Sanford Stadium, Aug. 30, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN).

2013 Record: 8-5 (5-3 SEC, third in the East Division).

Coach: Mark Richt (126-45 career record).

Offense (2013 ranks): Pro-style (Scoring offense: 21, 36.7 PPG; Yards per play: 13, 6.7; Field position advantage: 91).

Defense (2013 ranks): 3-4 (Def. yards per play: 54, 5.4; Scoring defense: 79, 29 PPG; 3rd down defense: 64, 39.5%).

Returning starters: Offense – 5; Defense – 8; Kickers – 2;

Key Returners

2,800-yard passer(s): N/A; 700-yard rushers/receivers returning: RB Todd Gurley (989); 40 catches or more: WR Chris Conley (45); Michael Bennett (41). 80 carries or more: Gurley (165); Brendan Douglas (84); 5 sacks or more: LB Leonard Floyd (6.5); DE Ray Drew (6), LB Jordan Jenkins (5); 65 tackles or more: LB Ramik Wilson (133); LB Amarlo Herrera (112); 8 TFL or more: LB Jordan Jenkins (12), LB Ramik Wilson (11), LB Leonard Floyd (9.5), DE Ray Drew (8); 5 PBUs or more: DB Damian Swann (8), LB Amarlo Herrera (6); 70% FG rate: Marshall Morgan (91.7).

Georgia Identity

Georgia tailback Todd Gurley runs past Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony to score a touchdown in the first quarter.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Georgia tailback Todd Gurley runs past Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony to score a touchdown in the first quarter.

1. Gurley’s still good - Todd Gurley rushed for his season-best total against Clemson last year (154) on just 12 carries, reaching the endzone twice. He missed three games midseason and still rushed for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns. The N.C. product has a 6.1 career yards per carry average, totaling almost 2,400 in his first two seasons as a Dawg. Former five-star prospect Keith Marshall’s status for 2014 isn’t 100 percent certain to due to a knee injury (1,005 career yards/9 TDs), but his presence is more insult to injury for opponents alongside Gurley.

2. Murray for Mason - Hutson Mason has an idea of what Cole Stoudt’s going through preparing for the opener, replacing another record-shattering QB. Aaron Murray finished his Georgia career with SEC records for completions (921), passing yards (13,166), total offense (13,562) and touchdown passes (121). The Marrietta native and fifth-year senior redshirted in 2012 and was forced into action late last season when Murray went down to injury. Mason (6-3 202) completed 61 percent of his throws at 8.8 yards per attempt with five touchdowns and three interceptions. He has as good a receiver trio as any in the SEC in Chris Conley, Michael Bennett and Malcolm Mitchell. The Bulldogs face replacing 109 career starts upfront, returning center David Andrews and tackle John Theus.

3. So, about that defense… - Former Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt – all of one year – is calling the shots in Athens after Todd Grantham took a better offer from Louisville. He takes over a unit that returns a number of key cogs off a defense that was talented yet mediocre-at-best last season. The real fun is in the secondary, where three shoulda-been returning starters have all transferred out for various reasons. Pruitt navigated some turnover with the ‘Noles last year to a top-flight unit, but he has work cut out for him this year.

(Way too early) Georgia pick: 34-33 Bulldogs.

Analysis: The wild cards abound in this one – new QBs, o-line shifts, secondary shuffles and loads of talent on either side of the ball. Over the last three seasons, the Tigers have one win in four tries at ranked road opponents, beating Virginia Tech by 20 in 2011, and losing by 16 points per in the rest. In that span, Georgia is 3-2 against ranked opponents in Sanford Stadium – on top by as much as 38 (Auburn, 2011) and on the wrong side by as much as 15 (Missouri, 2013). Clemson’s no stranger to a tough opener, but the venue’s a bit different – the first at a Big Five conference team’s home field since the trip to Georgia in 2002, a 31-28 heartbreaker. Over the last five seasons, Georgia is 0-3 opening versus ranked opponents, but this is its first try at home. Clemson’s 2-0 in the scenario counting last year’s date with the Dawgs (38-35) and the neutral site win over Auburn (26-19). Dabo Swinney’s club is currently a nine-point underdog, but expect this one to go down to the wire.

Next up: 1) Florida State Seminoles – Are the ‘Noles that good, again?

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Comments » 8

robtthetiger44#293707 writes:

This is a nationally hyped game and it's just too bad it has to be the first game of the year. GA has a great offense and we have a great defense. If GA performs as expected on the offensive side of the ball, we HAVE to play as well as advertised on our defensive side of the ball. Who knows about GA's defense. These are two heavy weights having to go at it the first game and in my opinion GA and Clemson and the entire college football world is being short changed by this being each teams first game. I do think our defense will be good enough to keep them out of the end zone and I believe it will be a low scoring game. Our front 7 can hold Gurley to a minimum amount of damage. Our A game, even on the road will beat their A game "tween the hedges." I honestly believe what I am writing and yes, I've taken my medication today!

Zach_Johnston writes:

I truly believe we are going to win this game. As long as we establish a positive running game, and we don't make stupid mistakes, everything else will open up for Stoudt and the receivers. Our front 7 obviously is going to have to show up to stop Gurley. Although we did a great job with him and Marshall between the tackles, they are both still a dangerous threat to the outside with the toss play. Needless to say, our secondary will be the difference in this game. If they play well, I think we win this by 10.

Xander5000 writes:

I want Clemson to win and I'm glad Clemson won against them last year. So that means Georgia is chasing a win. I think Georgia will score a touchdown, because they do have talent but being it is the first game of the season.... there will be some game rust for both teams. Game rust and a healthy giant running back like Gurley coming downhill at you near the goaline usually means he is scoring. Having said that, the guy can't do it all game long against us. Clemson will display more team effort offensively and defensively as the game goes on. Clemson wins 27-20.

robtthetiger44#293707 writes:

in response to Zach_Johnston:

I truly believe we are going to win this game. As long as we establish a positive running game, and we don't make stupid mistakes, everything else will open up for Stoudt and the receivers. Our front 7 obviously is going to have to show up to stop Gurley. Although we did a great job with him and Marshall between the tackles, they are both still a dangerous threat to the outside with the toss play. Needless to say, our secondary will be the difference in this game. If they play well, I think we win this by 10.

You made a very knowledgeable and enlightened comment that I agree with 100%. They will do everything they can to get Gurley and Marshall on the corner so our DE and corner backs will have to play the best they possible can or those old boys might get around the corner on us once too many times and cost us the game. Our coaches and players know that and we will be ready for them. Our secondary will play a major role in this game. If they play well, we will win. Our defensive backs better pay attention or we could be in trouble. I am wondering how has their defense improved since last year's game? Maybe not any and if not, then GA is in trouble if our young guys play as advertised. It should start the season getting all Tiger fans blood running quickly threw their veins and arteries. The "bull doggies" got the same concerns as we do. This won't be a day at the beach for them, either.

lhaselden writes:

I think Clemson score more than 30.... Final
Clemson 33
UGa 23

TheTruth46 writes:

in response to lhaselden:

I think Clemson score more than 30.... Final
Clemson 33
UGa 23

I have no idea what you've been smoking or drinking, or maybe you just forgot your meds for several days. Possibly a fall and hit your head. Whichever it is, please get back on your program for your own safety, good health, and overall well being.

radtiger writes:

in response to TheTruth46:

I have no idea what you've been smoking or drinking, or maybe you just forgot your meds for several days. Possibly a fall and hit your head. Whichever it is, please get back on your program for your own safety, good health, and overall well being.

Truth 46, my thoughts also, I will say that Clemson has the most delusional fans, year after year...Im sure we will lose 4 possible 5 games this year...Georgia, Louisville, Fla State, SC and possible NC.....Yep Im keeping it real.....Get mad if you want to, The "Truth hurts" but it should set you "free"

f8thwlk writes:

This game will come down to our defense and how well we can stop Gurley. The thing is we are very stout up front this year and I dont think he will gain over 100 yds. We need our offense to put up at least 28 pts for us to win this game. This will be a good game. Clemson wins this one! Because of Venable's "D"

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