College Football

more stats

(16) Clemson (0-0) at (12) Georgia (0-0)



Saturday, August 30, 5:30 p.m. (ET)

The Sports Network

GAME NOTES: Coming off back-to-back 11-win seasons, the Clemson Tigers will open up their 2014 season in hostile territory, taking on the Georgia Bulldogs in a top 25 showdown at Sanford Stadium on Saturday.

Dabo Swinney's Tigers went 11-2 overall and 7-1 in ACC play, with the lone loss coming in humbling fashion at home to Florida State (51-14), which went on to capture the ACC crown and BCS title as well. Clemson picked up the pieces from that loss and closed strong before dropping the regular-season finale to arch rival South Carolina (31-17). Still, Clemson found its way to a BCS Bowl, earning a bid to the 2014 Orange Bowl, where the Tigers put an exclamation point on another tremendous season with a 40-35 victory over Ohio State.

Swinney's team begins 2014 ranked at number 16 in the nation and just like last year, will open against Mark Richt's Bulldogs. Georgia begins the campaign ranked 12th in the nation. After finishing 2012 with a stellar 12-2 record, Georgia failed to live up to expectations in 2013, finishing at just 8-5, with a 5-3 conference record, good for a third-place tie in the SEC East.

These two teams met in the season-opener last year and the result was one of the best games of the season, a 38-35 victory for the Tigers in Death Valley. Overall, Georgia holds a 41-18-4 series advantage. Georgia holds a 26-7-1 edge in home bouts against the Tigers. Clemson has not won two in a row in this series since games in 1986 and 1990 and hasn't won in Athens since 1986.

There is simply no sugar coating the fact that Clemson needs to find an offensive identity in 2014. Gone are stars Tahj Boyd and Sammy Watkins, along with five other starters from a unit that averaged 40.2 points and 507.7 yards per game.

First and foremost on Swinney's to-do-list is to find himself a quarterback that can keep things rolling. Senior Cole Stoudt will get the first crack at replacing Boyd. Stoudt completed almost 80 percent of his passes in his limited work a year ago and fought off freshman Deshaun Watson for the spot in the spring.

Stoudt has patiently waited his turn in Death Valley.

"I'm proud of Cole, first of all, and how he's prepared every week for the past three years to be ready to be the starter," said Swinney. "He's never complained. He's been very patient. And then he had to come out this spring and he had to win the job, and he won the job this spring. I think we couldn't have a guy more prepared to be the starter in his first game than Cole Stoudt."

Making the transition under center a bit more difficult is the fact that Clemson must also replace Watkins (101 receptions, 1,464 yards, 12 TDs) and fellow star Martavis Bryant (42 receptions, 828 yards, seven TDs).

Senior Adam Humphries (41 receptions, 483 yards, two TDs) is the top returning receiver, although the team is expecting junior Charone Peake (6-2, 205) to return after missing most of 2013 with a torn ACL.

The ground game, which accounted for over 175 yards per game in 2013, must replace 1,000-yard rusher Roderick McDowell. The team has senior D.J. Howard, junior C.J. Davidson and redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman to fill the void.

The Clemson defense performed well a year ago and a lot of that had to do with a ferocious pass rush that recorded 38 sacks. With seven starters returning from 2013, the defense is in great shape.

It certainly helps that First-Team All-American Vic Beasley returned to school, despite being NFL ready. The 6-3, 255-pound senior is a force coming off the edge, recording 13 sacks and 10 TFL a year ago.

Swinney knows what he has in Beasley.

"Well, I just think he's a great player that came back. He chose to come back, you know, and he's not coming back to just kind of go through the motions. I mean, he's coming back to be a great player, so he's highly motivated."

Beasley is not alone in the front seven, as he will be joined by the likes of senior tackles Grady Jarrett (83 tackles, 9.0 TFL, two sacks) and DeShawn Williams (37 tackles), junior tackle D.J. Reader (43 tackles, three sacks) and sophomore end Shaq Lawson (Freshman All-American honors with 35 tackles, 6.0 TFL, four sacks).

The linebacking corps has star power in the form of veteran MLB Stephone Anthony (131 tackles, 9.5 TFL, four sacks), who led Clemson in tackles a year ago.

The secondary must replace last year's starters at cornerback, but does get senior safety Robert Smith (79 tackles, one INT) back, as well as sophomore safety Jayron Kearse (55 tackles, four INT).

Georgia must also deal with finding a new offensive identity under center, as one of the best signal callers in school history, Aaron Murray, has moved on. Senior QB Hutson Mason will do his best to bridge the gap in 2014.

The good news is that star tailback Todd Gurley is healthy after missing three games a season ago. An elite playmaker in the backfield, Gurley still finished 2013 with 989 rushing yards, 441 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.

Mason will also benefit from a number of reliable targets in the passing game, including Chris Conley (45 receptions, 651 yards, four TDs) and Michael Bennett (41 receptions, 538 yards, four TDs).

Defense was a bit of a problem in 2013 and the hope is that new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who held the same role for the national champion Florida State Seminoles last season, can rectify the situation.

Eight starters return to the fold, so Pruitt should have a nice foundation to work with.

All four starting linebackers return. Seniors Ramik Wilson (133 tackles, 11.0 TFL) and Amarlo Herrera (112 tackles, INT) are tackling machines on the inside, while Leonard Floyd (9.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks) and Jordan Jenkins (12.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks) are tough to contain on the outside.

Ray Drew (8.0 TFL, 6.0 sacks) and Sterling Bailey (34 tackles) bring experience along the front line, while cornerback Damian Swann (57 tackles) and safety Corey Moore (35 tackles, INT) and Shaq Wiggins (two INTs) do the same for the secondary.

Richt spoke this week about preparation for the Tigers.

"I liked the energy and the tempo I saw today," Mark Richt said. "It's been a long, tough month of practices, but we're here now closing in on the Clemson game. The guys were focused on their assignments and got the week off to a good start. We just need to make sure we continue to prepare well for the challenge we have coming on Saturday."

This should be another classic battle, despite the absence of star quarterbacks in Boyd and Murray. Setting a defensive tone will be the key to this one. Clemson boasts one of the better defensive units in the ACC, and perhaps in the nation for that matter, but Gurley is a beast in Georgia's backfield. Expect Richt to get the ball in his hands early and often and for the Bulldogs to shorten the game as a result and pull one out "between the hedges."

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia 30, Clemson 27

08/29 15:18:13 ET

Other Stories

  • CBB: Duke at St. John's

    Tomorrow at 1:30 pm on FOX50

  • NBA: Miami at Chicago

    Tomorrow at 1:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • ACC: NC State vs. Notre Dame

    Tomorrow at 6:30 pm on WRAL-FM

Scoreboard
Local
Final
ECU 64
TULSA 66
Final
UNC 78
FSU 74
Final
NCCU 79
COPST 77
 
Final
CHA 76
NYK 71
Final
CHA 76
NYK 71
Final
MIL 101
DET 86
Final
MEM 101
PHI 83
4th
UTA 81
BRK 61
 
2nd
POR 36
WAS 41
 
Final
SENS 13
SENN 34
Final
DREX 53
COC 51
 
Final
XAV 89
DEP 76
Final
PURD 67
IOWA 63
Final
SCAR 43
KENT 58
Final
KYST 63
OKST 53
Final
PSU 79
RUTG 51
Final
ECU 64
TULSA 66
Final
CLEM 59
WAKE 57
Final
HC 76
NAVY 65
 
Final
FUR 82
ALLN 46
 
Final
BU 77
BUCK 92
 
Final
NKENTUCKY 81
JVU 59
 
Final
IUPUI 65
SD 50
 
Final
TENN 61
TEXAM 67
Final
VMI 85
CITA 75
 
Final
INDST 72
LOYC 61
 
Final
WMICH 69
AKR 71
 
Final
MIZZ 60
ARK 61
Final
AFA 68
BSU 77
Final
YALE 69
BRO 65
 
Final
OHIO 63
BUF 61
 
Final
HARV 61
DART 70
 
Final
NEOM 80
DEN 69
 
Final
GWU 74
DUQ 59
Final
KNST 48
FLGC 54
 
Final
UNC 78
FSU 74
Final
TEX 62
KU 75
Final
BST 52
KSU 63
 
Final
LAF 71
LEH 75
 
Final
COL 59
GHND 58
 
Final
WMARY 78
NE 62
 
Final
USCU 91
STET 67
 
Final
WVU 86
TCU 85
Final
MINN 79
ILL 71
Final
MARQ 85
GEOR 95
Final
UGST 75
LALAF 64
 
Final
MNTER 52
RFLSH 40
 
Final
MSST 66
UGA 72
Final
MARS 78
UTEP 71
Final
WKENT 83
TXSA 74
Final
CHIST 41
CALST 57
 
Final
SDU 77
BYU 74
 
Final
WINT 71
CAMP 63
 
Final
TTU 78
ISU 73
Final
HOF 63
JMU 69
 
Final
COOK 70
MDES 74
 
Final
NWST 93
MCNST 67
 
Final
SYR 62
MIAMI 66
Final
NILL 55
UMO 60
 
Final
NEB 79
MSU 77
Final
WYO 63
NMU 62
Final
CCAR 63
PBY 52
 
Final
Terriers 65
RMU 67
 
Final
BRY 66
SHU 83
 
Final
EVAN 75
SILL 66
 
Final
OREG 82
UCLA 64
Final
EILL 52
PEAY 56
 
Final
NCCU 79
COPST 77
 
Final
CMICH 65
EMICH 51
 
Final
RAD 84
LIB 76
 
Final
FD 76
LIU 80
 
Final
MNTST 64
NARZ 71
 
Final
LIP 66
UNF 75
 
Final
EWASH 102
NDAK 80
 
Final
TROY 55
ARKST 64
 
Final
TXST 58
APP 64
 
Final
CSOU 93
GWEBB 80
 
Final
LAMON 53
GSOUT 57
 
Final
ABCHRIST 61
INCWORD 77
 
Final
JVST 63
MORE 66
 
Final
CARK 61
NICST 71
 
Final
UAB 81
ODU 68
Final
SHSU 68
STEPH 79
 
Final
ALAST 84
ALCOR 60
 
Final
MTST 72
CHAR 69
Final
NCAT 52
DELST 67
 
Final
MISS 72
UF 71
Final
SMU 80
HOU 59
Final
FAM 50
HOW 59
 
Final
GRAM 63
JST 74
 
Final
VANDY 75
LSU 79
Final
SCST 63
NORST 76
 
Final
BAY 69
OKLA 58
Final
MVSU 65
PVU 72
 
Final
ARKLR 68
TXARL 75
 
Final
CHAT 81
UNCG 72
 
Final
ORST 59
USC 55
Final
SAV 68
HAMP 66
 
Final
TOL 71
BGU 67
 
Final
UCSB 68
CSFU 49
 
Final
RIDE 59
CAN 46
 
Final
CLMB 47
CORN 57
 
Final
GMAS 73
DAVID 80
Final
ELON 94
DEL 82
 
Final
WOFF 72
ETST 64
 
Final
YOUNG 77
ILLCH 64
 
Final
FRES 66
NEV 62
Final
MAST 77
NDST 71
 
Final
STJOE 52
PENN 56
Final
DAY 63
RICH 60
Final
TENNM 70
SEMIZ 53
 
Final
HIGH 72
UNCA 51
 
Final
CCST 53
WAGN 50
 
Final
SAMF 78
WCU 72
 
Final
MICH 64
WISC 69
Final
UMKC 75
SEAT 55
 
Final
NO 67
TAMCC 71
 
Final
ALAAM 58
SOUTH 65
 
Final
TXPA 73
GRCN 72
 
Final
HOUB 79
LAM 77
 
Final
RICE 45
LATU 58
Final
TULA 55
MEM 57
 
Final
BRAD 61
MIZST 59
 
Final
SIUE 54
MURST 60
 
Final
GONZ 91
PAC 60
Final
UNT 71
SMISS 75
 
Final
ORU 72
SDKST 76
 
Final
UNCW 69
TOWS 65
 
Final
UNLV 79
UTST 77
 
Final
COL 90
WASU 58
Final
ALA 57
AUB 55
 
Final
ARKPB 66
TXSOU 62
 
2nd
WEBER 71
SACST 75
 
2nd
MONT 61
SUTAH 57
 
2nd
NMST 69
WLVRN 44
 
2nd
IDST 76
PORST 72
 
2nd
TENT 54
EKENT 57
 
1st
CSNO 16
LBSU 28
 
Half
USF 43
LMU 30
 
1st
IDAHO 42
NCOL 23
 
1st
COLST 31
SDST 29
 
1st
PORT 31
GAELS 30
 
Half
CPSL 24
UCR 24
 
1st
CAL 4
ARZ 8
 
11:00pm Tonight
SCU
PEPP
 
11:59pm Tonight
STAN
ARST
11:59pm Tonight
HAW
UCI