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Georgia at Clemson
August 30th, 12:00 PM ABC
The Bulldogs will pull into Clemson fresh off an SEC Championship and a Sugar Bowl win over Florida State. This will also be another installment of what was one of the nation's best and most bitter rivalries in the late 1970's and 1980's. Clemson lost a heartbreaker in Athens last year 31-28 as Aaron Hunt's missed field goal in the final seconds landed just inches short of the crossbars.
It was another thrilling ending to what has been a closely contested battle most years. Georgia beat Clemson in Athens in 1983 on Kevin Butler's 61 yard field goal with less than 15 seconds remaining. Clemson returned the favor 2 times over in 1986 and 1987 when David Treadwell booted the Tigers past the Bulldogs in the waning seconds of both contests.
It will be the season opener for both teams and the game has now been scheduled for a 12:00 noon kickoff on ABC.
Key Returning Players For The Bulldogs
Georgia probably lost as many starters on both offense and defense as any team in the country. A lot of that was due to the natural attrition of seniors, but a handful of Bulldogs simply opted for the NFL draft. While Mark Richt has recruited well the past several seasons in Athens, the amount of losses the Bulldogs have suffered this year is bound to knock them down a step or two on the proverbial Southeastern Conference ladder.
|Former SEC Freshman of the Year QB David Greene completed 218-of-379 passes (58%) for almost 3,000 yards, 22 touchdowns and just 8 interceptions in 2002.|
On defense, the Bulldogs return only 5 starters, but one of them happens to be preseason All American junior end David Pollack (6-3, 278). The entire secondary is back as well with senior cornerbacks Decroy Bryant (5-11, 195) and Bruce Thorton (5-11, 195), senior rover Kentrell Curry (6-1, 198) and junior free safety Sean Jones (6-2, 212).
Solid place kicker Billy Bennett is back as well.
The Bulldogs are blessed with 2 very good (and different) quarterbacks in Green and Shockley. Green should be the starter on August 30, but the question marks on the offensive line may force Mark Richt to go more with the elusive Shockley if the line cannot hold up the Tiger front 7. This is a great situation to be in, assuming both are healthy on August 30. Expect to see both get playing time against the Tigers, with the quarterback that can move the chains best closing out the game.
David Pollack is one of those players that nobody can seem to contain. He single handedly beat South Carolina in Columbia last year, and he can literally carry the defense if asked to. In fact, the entire defensive line is talented and deep in Athens and should present a multitude of problems for the Tiger offensive line.
While the entire offensive line will be new on August 30th, the Bulldogs won't be without talent at most line positions. One particular area that they are not very good, however, is at right tackle where underachieving sophomore Dennis Roland (6-9, 309) and redshirt freshman Daniel Inman (6-7, 315) will battle for the starting job. Concerns are also at center where sophomore Russ Tanner (6-4, 290) tries to bounce back from injuries last year. Regardless of the talent at the other offensive line positions, almost all of them will be making their first starts and getting significant playing time. In October, the offensive line will probably not be a major weakness for the Bulldogs, but August 30 it probably will be.
|SEC Player of the Year David Pollack finished the 2002 regular season with 97 tackles, 13 sacks, 22 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery and 2 interceptions.|
Depending on suspensions (see below), the secondary could also become a question mark in the game versus Clemson. Most think the secondary at Georgia is a weakness even with the returning players eligible. I disagree. The Georgia secondary was solid last year, especially as they began to come on late in the season.
Almost all the intangibles for this game point in Clemson's favor. Consider the following ideas that could point to a favorable situation for the Tigers.
1) Tommy Bowden will coach this game as if it is his last (which may not be too far from the truth!).
2) Clemson is playing at home in a friendly and rowdy environment.
3) Georgia potentially could have as many as 7 players suspended for the Clemson game for various violations over the offseason.
4) Georgia will be playing 10 or more players that have little or insignificant experience in big games.
5) The Tigers have the confidence of knowing that they could have won last year on the road against what ended up being one of the top teams in the country before the end of year.
6) Also, don't forget the Bulldogs still are floating around on cloud nine after the completion of last season and walk into Clemson with a little bit of overconfidence.
Coming off an SEC Championship, there's little doubt that UGA will come into Clemson favored somewhere between 4-7 points.
Tommy Bowden Breaths Sigh Of Relief as the Tigers Down Dawgs 24-20. Clemson will move to 1-0 on the season, and shake some of their inferiority complex off by slipping past Georgia. In my mind, there are simply too many question marks for Georgia to overcome in the game.
The Bulldogs will probably be a Top 15 team by the end of the year when the suspensions are played out and experience is gained by their talented (if inexperienced) players. The Bulldogs, however, will not be a Top 15 team on August 30th, and Clemson will take advantage of of playing in the friendly confines of Death Valley.
The Tigers move to 1-0 and start to receive a smattering of "Other Votes" in the Top 25 polls.
Scott Rhymer can be reached at email@example.com. Scott is the co-host of the CUTigers.com Pregame Show on WCCP 104.9 FM, which airs 2 hours prior to the Tiger Tailgate Show on Clemson Gamedays.