banner

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

  • ACC: North Carolina at Virginia

    Today at 12:25 pm on WRAL-TV

  • World Series: Kansas City at San Francisco

    Tonight at 7:30 on FOX50

  • NFL: Seattle at Carolina

    Tomorrow at 1:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NFL: Indianapolis at Pittsburgh

    Tomorrow at 4:25 pm on WRAL-TV

  • Logan Zone with Steve Logan

    Today at 10:00 am on 99.9 The Fan

  • Big Ten: Michigan at Michigan State

    Today at 3:30 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • World Series: Kansas City at San Francisco

    Tonight at 7:00 on 99.9 The Fan

  • NFL: Carolina Panthers vs. Seattle Seahawks

    Tomorrow at 1:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

Scoreboard
Local
Final
EDM 6
CAR 3
12:30pm Today
UVA
UNC
2:00pm Today
NCCU
SAVST
 
Final
SFG 2
KAN 3
8:07pm Tonight
SFG
KAN
 
Final
ORL 92
DAL 117
Final
TOR 83
NYK 80
Final
MEM 98
MIA 104
Final
CHI 112
MIN 113
Final
HOU 96
SAN 87
Final
UTA 100
PHO 105
Final
LAL 92
SAC 93
Final
GSW 119
DEN 112
Final
LAC 89
POR 99
Final
CIN 34
SFLA 17
Final
SALABAMA 27
TROY 13
Final
BSU 55
BYU 30
Final
CAL 41
OREG 59
12:00pm Today
WISC
MD
12:00pm Today
SMU
MEM
12:00pm Today
ILL
MINN
12:00pm Today
RICE
UNT
12:00pm Today
NEB
RUTG
12:00pm Today
KST
TEX
12:00pm Today
ARK
UAB
12:30pm Today
UVA
UNC
1:00pm Today
EMICH
NILL
1:00pm Today
NAVY
SJST
2:00pm Today
BST
AKR
2:00pm Today
GASTATE
GASO
2:00pm Today
TOL
UMASS
2:00pm Today
WMICH
OHIO
2:00pm Today
COL
UCLA
2:30pm Today
UMO
KSU
3:30pm Today
WAKE
BC
3:30pm Today
BUF
CMICH
3:30pm Today
MARS
FATL
3:30pm Today
PITT
GT
3:30pm Today
SMISS
LATU
3:30pm Today
MSU
MICH
3:30pm Today
KENT
MSST
3:30pm Today
STAN
ORST
3:30pm Today
TCU
TTU
3:30pm Today
OKST
WVU
4:00pm Today
WKENT
ODU
4:00pm Today
UTST
UNLV
4:00pm Today
MIZZ
VANDY
5:00pm Tonight
UCF
TEMPL
6:00pm Tonight
WASU
ARZ
7:00pm Tonight
CLEM
SYR
7:00pm Tonight
LAMON
TXST
7:00pm Tonight
TXSANANTO
UTEP
7:00pm Tonight
COLST
WYO
7:15pm Tonight
LSU
MISS
7:30pm Tonight
TENN
ALA
7:30pm Tonight
AUB
SCAR
8:00pm Tonight
PSU
OSU
10:00pm Tonight
UTAH
USC
10:45pm Tonight
WASH
ARST
11:59pm Tonight
HAW
NEV
Final
NJD 2
DAL 3
Final
WIN 2
TAM 4
Final
COL 7
VAN 3
Final
EDM 6
CAR 3
Final
ANA 4
CLB 1
4:00pm Today
SJS
BUF
 
7:00pm Tonight
TOR
BOS
 
7:00pm Tonight
NYI
DAL
 
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
DET
 
7:00pm Tonight
OTT
NJD
 
7:00pm Tonight
MON
NYR
 
8:00pm Tonight
STL
CHI
 
8:00pm Tonight
NAS
PIT
 
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
TAM
 
9:00pm Tonight
ARI
FLA
 
10:00pm Tonight
CAL
WAS
 
2:00pm Today
NCCU
SAVST