The Tigers will renew an old rivalry against the Georgia Bulldogs in front of a national television audience Saturday evening in a game that could have national championship implications.
The story lines are abundant in this game, with high-powered offenses and the ACC versus the SEC, but which team is ready to take that next step toward being an elite team and making a run toward Pasadena?
No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson
Why Georgia Might Win
The Georgia Bulldogs may have the best offense in the country with the potent combination of veteran quarterback Aaron Murray and running backs Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. Murray has had a tendency in the past to start slow or not play to his potential in big games; however, after almost single-handily winning the SEC Championship Game against Alabama, Murray appears to have taken a big step toward being consistent on the big stage. Gurley and Marshall combined for over 2,000 yards in 2012 and will only get better in 2013 behind an experienced offensive line. If Georgia can establish a consistent running game, then Murray can use the play-action pass against Clemson’s young and inexperienced secondary.
Why Clemson Might Win
As loaded as Georgia’s offense is, Clemson doesn’t exactly have a shortage of playmakers on offense either. The Tigers return quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins, along with a plethora of other playmakers. The good news is that the Tigers also return four starters on the offensive line. If Clemson is to be successful Saturday night, they are going to have to establish a running game with Roderick McDowell, Zac Brooks and C.J. Davidson in order to keep the defense from keying in on Boyd and the passing game.
Defensively, Clemson brings back an experienced defensive front led by defensive tackles Grady Jarrett and Josh Watson and linebackers Spencer Shuey and Quandon Christian. The Tigers should be able to get pressure on the quarterback more consistently in 2013, and if they can make Murray uncomfortable the Bulldogs may become one-dimensional.
Chandler Catanzaro: With both teams essentially being even on both offense and defense, the game could come down to special teams. Enter Chandler Catanzaro. Catanzaro missed only one field goal and two extra points in 2012; however, he hit the game- winning field goal in the Chick-fil-A Bowl game against LSU. If the Tigers can stay within striking distance, Catanzaro can be the difference maker late in the game with a big kick.
Vic Beasley: Beasley burst on the scene last season, racking up a team-high eight sacks in just 288 snaps. As a full-time starter in 2013, Beasley is ready to take that number to a whole new level and wreak havoc on opposing teams. The key for the Clemson defense against Georgia will be making Murray uncomfortable and that all starts with Beasley, who can over power an offensive lineman or just run right past them. If Beasley can consistently get past Georgia’s experienced offensive line, then it could be a long night for the Bulldogs.
Clemson Offensive Snap Count: The Clemson Tigers averaged over 80 plays per game in 2012 and ran over 100 plays twice, something the Georgia defense just doesn’t see in the SEC. As fast as the Tigers were a year ago, Morris wants to go even faster this season and push the snap count up to 92-94 plays per game. If the Tigers can run at least 85 plays, they will have an advantage over the Bulldogs on what is sure to be a hot and humid night in Death Valley. Many will make the claim that Georgia’s defense should be well-rested and fresh in the first game of the season, but playing in the heat against an offense that likes to snap the ball with 25 to 30 seconds remaining on the play clock can take a toll on a young defense that has yet to play a game.
What Will Happen
Death Valley will be rocking with what could be the largest crowd since the first Bowden Bowl in 1999, but when the ball is snapped, it all comes down to who can hit the hardest and who can score the most points. Make no mistake about it, both teams are going to score points and both defenses are going to make mistakes. However, with the home crowd behind them, the Clemson defense will make the crucial stops necessary at the end of the game to seal the victory.
FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 31 – GEORGIA 27
Post written by Clemson Girl Sports Bloggess Nikki Steele.