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(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

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
CAR 4
TOR 1
Final
DUKE 66
UCONN 56
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
CHA
 
Final
CHI 103
NYK 97
Final
HOU 90
NOP 99
Final
SAC 107
MIL 108
Final
GSW 114
OKC 109
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
CHA
 
7:00pm Tonight
ORL
UTA
 
7:30pm Tonight
CLE
BRK
 
7:30pm Tonight
BOS
MIN
 
7:30pm Tonight
DET
TOR
 
7:30pm Tonight
MIA
WAS
 
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
CHI
 
8:00pm Tonight
SAN
POR
 
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
LAC
 
10:30pm Tonight
LAL
OKC
 
Final
RICE 72
STTHOMASTX 61
 
Final
UVA 70
CLST 54
Final
LIU 69
FIU 58
 
Final
STET 67
GSOUT 76
 
Final
QUIN 80
LEH 65
 
Final
SFLA 69
SHU 89
Final
RICH 65
SALA 54
Final
CAN 60
USB 59
 
Final
DEL 62
TEMPL 82
Final
WCU 56
WRST 69
 
Final
VERM 56
YALE 57
 
Final
SDKST 75
IDST 72
 
Final
RIDE 62
MRGST 48
 
Final
LATU 79
NICST 54
 
Final
CHAR 75
APP 65
Final
MISS 71
CCAR 68
 
Final
DUKE 66
UCONN 56
Final
BRAD 80
EUREK 38
 
Final
PEAY 76
OAKC 52
 
Final
JST 66
SMISS 46
 
Final
SD 55
MNTST 53
 
Final
UAB 70
LSU 79
Final
EVAN 81
OHIO 69
 
Final
CSFU 72
CSDH 50
 
Final
ORST 90
DEP 59
Final
PAC 69
NEV 65
Final
USF 77
PORST 40
 
Final
IDAHO 86
WALLA 39
 
Final
UTST 57
CALST 56
 
1:30pm Today
YOUNG
WILB
 
2:00pm Today
TULA
JST
 
6:00pm Tonight
RAD
SIENA
 
7:00pm Tonight
MERC
COOK
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUCK
CASEWEST
 
7:00pm Tonight
LIB
CPNC
 
7:00pm Tonight
SCAR
CLEM
 
7:00pm Tonight
CMICH
CONC
 
7:00pm Tonight
MIAMI
EKENT
 
7:00pm Tonight
GWEBB
HIWASSEE
 
7:00pm Tonight
ODU
MDES
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUF
NIAG
 
7:00pm Tonight
KSU
NCAT
 
7:00pm Tonight
FAM
UNF
 
7:00pm Tonight
NORST
NARZ
 
7:00pm Tonight
DART
NILL
 
7:00pm Tonight
MORE
NKENTUCKY
 
7:00pm Tonight
UCSB
SDCHR
 
7:00pm Tonight
STJ
GAELS
 
7:00pm Tonight
ALA
STILL
 
7:00pm Tonight
HAMP
TENST
 
7:00pm Tonight
TENN
TENT
 
7:00pm Tonight
WMARY
WSHMD
 
7:30pm Tonight
FLGC
FUR
 
7:30pm Tonight
CALST
SDKST
 
8:00pm Tonight
MTST
CHAT
 
8:00pm Tonight
NDAK
DICKINSON
 
8:00pm Tonight
LAMON
LSUALEX
 
8:00pm Tonight
PRIN
LIP
 
8:00pm Tonight
LAM
MLGN
 
8:00pm Tonight
MINN
SEAT
 
8:00pm Tonight
LOYC
SUTAH
 
8:00pm Tonight
SELA
WINT
 
8:05pm Tonight
SILL
NO
 
9:00pm Tonight
MARQ
ALAAM
 
9:00pm Tonight
TTU
ARKPB
 
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
COLST
 
9:00pm Tonight
CREI
TXPA
 
10:00pm Tonight
CAL
EWASH
 
10:05pm Tonight
UTST
IDST
 
11:00pm Tonight
UTEP
ARZ
 
11:59pm Tonight
CHAM
HAW
 
Final
PIT 1
COL 0
Final
PHI 1
FLA 2
Final
CAR 4
TOR 1
Final
CLB 4
WAS 5
Final
MON 1
ANA 2
Final
SJS 4
EDM 3
Final
LOS 6
STL 4
7:00pm Tonight
NJD
TAM
 
7:30pm Tonight
OTT
ANA
 
7:30pm Tonight
DET
NYI
 
8:00pm Tonight
WIN
BOS
 
9:00pm Tonight
CAL
DAL
 
Final
JAC 21
TEN 13