For the previous several months, fans and experts alike have broken down the 2013 college football schedule. With Week 1 looming large on the horizon, tailgating plans have been made and TV schedules have been studied. Beer has been bought. There are games that everyone is excited for, there are others that obviously look like throwaways.
Then there is Georgia at Clemson. Alabama and Virginia Tech are squaring off in what promises to be a fantastic game in the Georgia Dome. LSU and TCU face each other in the cavernous home of the Dallas Cowboys. There are many – many – Week 1 matchups that deserve attention.
Only one, however, pits two preseason top 10 teams against one another, and in a raucous collegiate environment no less. Only one pits two record-setting senior quarterbacks against one another in a game that carries national title significance right out of the gate.
ESPN’s College GameDay crew is headed to Clemson for the Bulldogs’ highly-anticipated showdown against the Tigers, and with great reason. Students waited (this is not a joke) 164 hours just for the chance at tickets.
Again, with great reason – after all, who wouldn’t want to see these two offenses put on a show?
The home team boasts Tajh Boyd, who posted a total of 46 touchdowns as a junior in 2012. He will be looking to the elite Sammy Watkins, split out wide, early and often. Especially after losing DeAndre Hopkins and his 18 receiving touchdowns of a year ago to the NFL Draft. Speaking of Hopkins, if the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Martavis Bryant steps up, Boyd will not miss him. Bryant only caught 10 passes in 2012, but compiled 305 yards and four scores. He is a deep threat if there ever was one.
A retooled Georgia defense is obviously going to have its hands full, but the talent is there with linebackers Amarlo Herrera and Jordan Jenkins leading the way. Clemson’s defense, on the other hand, has always been questionable, and it could wind up being the games biggest factor (read: non factor).
Cornerback-turned-receiver Malcolm Mitchell had a full offseason to work with senior signal-caller Aaron Murray. Perhaps more importantly, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Michael Bennett has made a full recovery after tearing his ACL five games into the 2012 season. When he went down, he was the team’s leader with 24 catches for 345 yards and four touchdowns.
Clemson will not be able to key in on just one of them, plus tight end Arthur Lynch – especially with the two-headed backfield monster better known to Dawgs fans as “Gurshall” ready to bust free at any moment. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall combined for 2,144 yards as true freshmen in 2012, and Gurley enters the fall individually as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Yes, both teams in this showcase, out-of-conference matchup boast explosive offensive units. Clemson’s promises to be the best in the ACC, while Georgia’s should prove to be the same in the SEC.
Will this Week 1 contest come down to which squad can play just a bit more defense? The Tigers, for all the criticism, proved it can hang against tough SEC rushing offenses when it beat LSU in last season’s Chick-fil-A Bowl. Georgia had trouble stopping people despite trotting out future NFL Draft picks at several positions.
How will the retooled defensive units respond? We honestly do not know, but perhaps you do.
After months of debate, of agonizing over depth-charts, recruiting classes, coaching changes and so many more factors, the time is finally here to stop all the talk.
It’s time to settle it.