10. It's Death Valley in 2003
No matter what way you look at last year's game in Athens, the Clemson Tigers could have easily walked out with a victory. This year, Clemson has the luxury of opening up the 2003 slate at home, in front of 83,000 orange clad fans that will yell their head off from start to finish. Home field advantage is critical in this series...the Tigers are 9-8 in Death Valley versus Georgia.
9. Charlie Whitehurst is in Control
Amazingly, nobody is talking about Charlie Whitehurst this offseason. It's always about the offensive line, or Justin Miller, or the situation at running back. Folks, the strength of this team is with it's starting quarterback and it's wide receivers. There maybe only other quarterback in the league I'd rather have, and I doubt you'll even be able to convince me of that after this season. Assuming Charlie Whitehurst stays healthy this year, there won't be another season in his Clemson career where he isn't looked upon as the star of this team.
8. Georgia Lost Everybody
Well, almost everybody. The Dawgs lost their entire offensive line, their starting running back, most of their linebackers, and a sprinkling of other players here and there due to suspensions. No matter how many back-to-back top 10 recruiting classes head coach Mark Richt has been able to put together, losing that kind of senior talent will come back to haunt you- especially this early in the season. I'll be the first to admit that the guys that will replace last year's starters are talented, but this isn't the Miami Hurricanes. They've got some work to do to get back to last year's high level of play.
7. It's the Opening Game
History has shown that if you are going to beat Georgia, the time to do it is early in the year. Whether it was Quincy Carter's 5 interceptions against South Carolina, or Brandon Bennett's touchdown dive on 4th and goal, Georgia has stumbled out of the gates more times than not during the last 10 years or so. The Dawgs managed to escape Clemson and South Carolina last year with two narrow wins, but that task looks much more daunting in 2003. Sure, Georgia is going to be a good team this year, but they may not be that good out of the gates.
6. It's a Day Game
While most fans will groan at the thought of a noon kickoff, Tommy Bowden coached teams have always played better earlier in the day. Bowden himself has admitted that he prefers playing early as opposed to letting his team wait around all day for a night game.
5. Sense of Urgency is There
As much as I hate to admit it, I think that this will be one of the biggest factors for the Tigers in this game Saturday afternoon. Everybody on this team, from the coaches, to the players, to the trainers have a much higher sense of urgency this year. That alone should keep this team more focused, make them more resilient, and provide a better atmosphere for high performance than anything else. Tommy Bowden knows that a win over Georgia would be the fast track back to respectability in the ACC, and he's been preparing for it like mad all year long.
4. Because Clemson Should Win
The oddsmakers aren't crazy. Georgia will likely enter this game only as a 1-to-2 point favorite. The Tigers have talent, have coaching, and have the home field advantage this year. Sure Georgia has great talent too, but the Dawgs could walk away from this game with a loss and still accomplish their main goal- another SEC Championship. Nobody will tell you that this game is more important to Clemson because players from both sides view it as such a rivalry, but in the grand scheme of things it really is. Clemson walks away with a win and it could very well set the tone for the year. Georgia walks away with a loss and the Dawgs can still easily regroup and head into SEC play with a legitimate chance for another championship.
3. Weaknesses Aren't as Weak
From the offensive line to special teams, the Tigers will be an improved team in 2003. With competition at nearly every position on the line and the addition of Cole Chason and Jad Dean, the Tigers should be a much more fundamentally sound team in these two key areas. A quick look back to the game last year will show you how just a small change in one or two plays on special teams alone could have led to a Clemson win.
2. The Tide Needs to Turn
If nothing else, a win would sure shut up the idiots in the media that are calling for everybody's head in Tiger Town. If this team is truly going to "turn the corner" this year and make something magical happen, it starts with a win over Georgia. History has proven that any year the Tigers beat this team, a great season is generally on the horizon. We've all seen the Tigers go up and come back down during Tommy Bowden's four seasons here. If ever there was a time for the Tigers to start heading back up- this would be it.
1. The Talent is There
That's right, the talent level in the 2003 version of the Clemson Tigers is there. On both sides of the ball, the Tigers have the players and the coaches in place to win this game. Think Dabo Swinney won't make a difference in these wide receivers this year? Think again. The addition of Swinney and David Blackwell (linebackers) won't just make a difference in recruiting- it will make a difference on the field as well. With improved play on the offensive line, a mixture of incredible skill players, and any sort of defensive performance, the Tigers can walk out of Death Valley with a hard fought victory.
10 Reasons Why Clemson Can Win Saturday
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