College Football Game of the Week: No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 3 Clemson
After a season filled with uncertainty and empty stadiums, college football is returning to normalcy with many marquee matchups in the very first week of the season.
One of these games provides a glimpse into what a College Football Playoff game may look like this year, as No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs and No. 3 Clemson Tigers square off in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Both teams are coming off interesting seasons last year. The Bulldogs, led by head coach Kirby Smart, have a little debacle on who should run the helm of the offense. That question was later answered when USC transfer JT Daniels stepped in and produced massive numbers, throwing for 1,231 yards, 10 touchdowns, and only two interceptions.
Georgia comes off an emotional Peach Bowl victory in its home state as it defeated No. 9 Cincinnati Bearcats 24-21. The defense stood strong towards the end of the game, not allowing a single touchdown to be scored by the Bearcats after their first possession in the second half.
As for Clemson, it comes off the 2020 season with a chip on its shoulder after losing to No. 4 Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinal. The Tigers defense could not find one answer to anything Buckeye head coach Ryan Day threw at them.
They had their woes during the middle portion of the year, with quarterback Trevor Lawrence staying on the sidelines due to health and safety protocols related to COVID-19. This put a damper on their expectations due to his absence causing an upset to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend 47-40 in double overtime.
Looking ahead to the matchup on Saturday, the quarterback play stands out on both sides. For Georgia, Daniels gets the nod to lead the charge into Bank of America Stadium. As for Clemson, their shining star of Lawrence left for the NFL Draft, leaving second year quarterback DJ Uiagalelei the keys to this offense.
Uiagalelei saw most of his freshman-year action during the two-game span Lawrence was out. In those two games, he threw for 781 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions against tough competition in Notre Dame and a rising team in Boston College.
Uiagalelei, however, is touted as one of the best college football quarterbacks in the nation and has a good chance at winning the Heisman Trophy. The supporting cast around him must step up in major ways for him to reach that goal, but head coach Dabo Swinney has been able to keep his offense consistent over the years.
On the other side of the ball, Clemson faces a potent Georgia defense ranked first in rush defense in 2020. The defensive line, led by linemen Trayvon Walker and Jordan Davis, held strong on the rushing attack, only allowing 723 rushing yards in 10 games.
On offense, the Bulldogs have a three-headed monster in the backfield with Zamir White, Kendall Milton and James Cook rushing the ball down the field. The air raid, however, may seem lackluster on the outside, but Smart has found ways for those guys to produce in recent years.
In the primetime game for the opening weekend of college football, an absolute dog fight will occur in North Carolina. These two teams have high expectations around them and seem to have a strong case as to why they can win it all this year.
People have been drawing comparisons to this year’s Bulldog team being better than the 2017 SEC Championship team, saying Daniels can lead them to its first title since 1980. Clemson has a storied dynasty building over the past few years, but its star power seems to have left for the pros.
Both teams will fight to the end, but Georgia will get the job done due to the experience around the locker room.
Prediction: Georgia Bulldogs 31 – Clemson Tigers 24
Jonathan Draeger is a second-year student majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Second Year / Broadcast Journalism