More Curious Than Concerned

Just how will Georgia stop or even slow down Clemson? Mark Richt didn't say on Tuesday – probably because he doesn't have the answer.

"I just don't know yet – I don't know how our defense is going to perform," he said in his weekly press conference with the media in Athens.

That didn't make anyone in red and black want to bark very loud.

But that's what happens the first week of the season – you just don't know. You think you might know, but you'd like to see it for yourself. The problem is that everyone sees it with you – and those guys on the other team are running like lighting.

Is Georgia's front seven going to be able to handle Clemson's offensive line? (If that's not the case that begs an even larger question about if they will be able to handle South Carolina's, LSU's or Florida's) Is this patchwork secondary going to be able to stop Clemson's mighty, high-flying offense?

The defense at Georgia is an unknown – not a bad unknown necessarily, but an unknown to be sure.

After all it was Richt who said of his defense: "I'm probably more curious than concerned," so there is some confidence there. I think a lot of people are in that camp, but curiosity might not do a lot of good going up going up against a known commodity: Dynamic duo Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd.

We know that Watkins has shown the ability to take over games. We know that Boyd had a great game to end 2012 against LSU. We know that Clemson is playing at home and won't have to deal with noise while on offense. We know that a team that averaged scoring more than 40-points a game understands how to put the ball into the end zone – no matter who they line up against.

But throwing the ball isn't at all like running it, which is where Clemson could run into problems. The quarterback has to turn and hand the ball off directly to a running back on a run, which is pretty simple (unless Joe Cox and Washaun Ealey are on the field at the same time – then it can get tricky).

A pass, on the other hand, means the quarterback has to step backwards, have protection and throw a pass to another guy who has to catch it. A lot more can go wrong on a pass, and that's where Georgia's front seven may be able to tip things in its favor, which is also where Richt's curiosity is probably coming from.

"The best way to slow down a receiver is to disrupt the quarterback," Richt said.

Enter James Deloach, Jordan Jenkins and newcomer Leonard Floyd. Those three will be given the chore of rushing the passer – we already know what Jenkins can do, and people won't shut up about Floyd's ability to rush the passer.

If you read between the lines that's basically Georgia's game plan – pressure Boyd and see if he can play mistake-free and beat Georgia. Because if Boyd plays mistake-free (and if history is any judge) the Tigers will likely win the season opener.

Perhaps the best example of what Boyd means to the Clemson offense should be taken in the context of playing SEC teams (good ones – not 2011 and 2012 Auburn… we all know they were not good).

Boyd was mistake-free against LSU (36 for 50 with 2 TD, 0 INT), and Clemson won 25-24 in 2012. He hasn't played mistake-free against South Carolina, yet (22 for 53 with 2 TD, 3 INT), and Clemson has been outscored 61-30 in those two losses.

Put simply: Clemson is undefeated when Boyd doesn't throw an interception. Sure, you say, that sounds pretty simple – and so it is. That means one thing for Georgia's defense – put the pressure on Boyd. (By the way… Georgia can't quite say the same about Aaron Murray; Murray has lost three times when he's not thrown a pick and won twice when he's thrown three picks).

"I am just not sure what we are going to get out of our guys. You never know until they get out there," Richt said.

Judging by recent history Richt had better hope his newcomers can force Boyd into some bad decisions, or it certainly could be a long night.

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