Clemson Football: Previewing the Georgia game

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Clemson’s defense will have to hold back Todd Gurley to win the season opener.

The highly anticipated Clemson football vs. Georgia game is quickly approaching as the summer flies by, and speculations about the game’s outcome are already being made.

Last year, Clemson played Georgia at home for the season opener and had an incredible win that boosted their confidence for the rest of the 2013 season. Hundreds of thousands of fans from both Clemson and Georgia alike flocked to Death Valley to see the two top 25 teams compete for the first time in years. The excitement produced from that matchup will carry into the 2014 game on August 30th at 5:30 in Sanford Stadium. With the change of location and the loss of star players from both teams, this year’s outcome could be entirely different.

First of all, it is no secret that the home team has a slight advantage, and Georgia will get that bonus this time. Clemson definitely benefited from the positive energy surrounding them in their home field last year as they won 38-35. The home field advantage is part of the reason that Georgia has been the favorite to win this close matchup. However, Georgia was favored to beat Clemson last year as well.

Both Clemson and Georgia will be suffering from the loss of graduated players along with suspended players. They both lost their starting quarterbacks along with players from each team who have been suspended from the season opener. Georgia has also had multiple starters transfer, which will impact how they play against Clemson along with the remainder of the 2014 season.

From Georgia, four players were arrested for attempting to double dip on a check from UGA. Starting safety Tray Matthews, defensive lineman Jonathon Taylor, outside linebacker James DeLoach and wide receiver Uriah LeMay were all arrested and charged with theft by deception. Matthews and LeMay both later decided to transfer schools, leaving the Bulldogs without a talented starter and the opportunity to ever see LeMay play at Georgia. Although Matthews is the biggest loss out of this group, the absence of the remaining two will still affect Georgia’s defense. Taylor had appeared in 10 games in the last season and DeLoach appeared in 18 games over two seasons. Without them in the season opener, UGA’s defense will have less depth and a hole caused by Matthew’s exit.

Along with the four players who have been suspended for criminal behavior are other players who decided to transfer or were dismissed during the off-season. Cornerback Shaq Wiggins, safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, quarterback Christian LeMay, and offensive tackle Mark Beard have all recently departed from the Bulldogs. Harvey-Clemons has 11 career starts and is another big loss for Georgia’s defense.

Clemson will be down four players for the season opener as well, due to violation of team rules. Offensive linemen David Beasley and Shaq Anthony, defensive end Corey Crawford and defensive back Gary Peters will all sit out of the Georgia game. Luckily for Clemson, the loss of these players for this game wont be too detrimental since there are other talented players who can provide coverage in these areas. The biggest loss however, is Anthony. The junior right tackle is a key part of the offensive line, and even though co-starter Joe Gore can fill the gap, Anthony’s absence is a loss of offensive depth. Although Crawford is talented and the loss of him for this game is not ideal, Clemson has a strong defensive line with immense depth.

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Georgia’s Todd Gurley will be playing against one of the best defensive lines in the nation.

With both teams relatively in the same quarterback situation, the two offenses may be a close match. Georgia’s Hutson Mason had been playing under long-term starter Aaron Murray until he had to step up to the starting position when Murray got injured. Mason has a bit more starting experience than Clemson’s Cole Stoudt who has been the backup to Tajh Boyd for years. Georgia also still has their star running back Todd Gurley and tailback Keith Marshall while Clemson lost star wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant.

Clemson’s new offense will have a lot to prove against Georgia in the first game of the season, but they will be going up against a defense that has just recently lost a lot of talent and depth. Clemson has one of the strongest defensive lines in the nation and should be able to hold back Georgia’s offense. The old saying that “defense wins championships” may come into play in this early season faceoff. Fans can expect a very close and exciting game.