Our history of making tater salad was interrupted by the addition of the eighth game, it dates back to the Gilded Age, 1897, with the Dawgs shutting them out 24-0 and winning the next 2 before starting the longest losing streak in the series, one that cast darkness over Athens for 7 years, finally coming to an end in 1907 with a win in Augusta. Playing annually until 1916 when WW1 forced a suspension of hostilities, the series resumed in 1919 through 1921, and not until the '60's did the series return to an annual one, if not briefly, from '62-'71, '73-'87. In the meantime, the Dawgs strung together 10 wins in a row, the longest for either side.
Recent history though and great teams made the rivalry what it is, for during the '62-'71 run, UGA was 8-0-1, but from '73-'87, UGA was 8-6-1. Better Clemson teams made play much tougher. In the '90's, we met 4 times, the Dawgs winning the last three meetings. Being so close to one another make the rivalry a natural one and should we go to 12 games permanently, I for one would love to play them annually. All time, UGA enjoys a comfortable 39-17-4 over the Tigers.
We begin another brief series with Game 1 in Athens to begin the season. HC Tommy Bowden will lead his Tigers (7-5, 4-4 ACC) into Sanford Stadium with a new QB in Willie Simmons (Pictured Right), a capable backup to Dantzler, and a new RB Bernard Rambert, who was the leading rusher in the Humanitarian Bowl with 101 yards. The receiving corps is talented, 5 experienced players returning, perhaps easily the most talented we will face this
Fall and a very stern test for the Dawg secondary. Simmons is a fourth year
Junior and has extensive experience and a nice touch on the ball, but having any
time to sit in the pocket or run effectively is going to be tenuous, especially
in our game.
The OL may be the thing that slows down the Tiger attack, as they lose 4 starters, including All-American C Kyle Young, that averaged 421.5 ypg, 184.3 on the ground. Only eight letterman total for CU, only three with significant playing time.
Defensively, the Tigers return 8 starters and 16 players with 100 snaps or more, progress should be expected, even with a new DC, John Lovett. Methinks the defense will be ready for us. The top two tacklers are back, LB John Leake and LB Rodney Thomas. Three of four are back on the DL, and the secondary returns three of four.
Clemson will be a good opening test, on offense they will present a measuring stick for our secondary. I look for their attack to more closely resemble our own and perhaps FSU's. The youth on the OL will be a liability until they get some time to bond under fire. Experience around them will help, Simmons will be a great help there. As our DL will be equally green as a unit, this may very well be the difference in the game. Should the Dawg front 7 win that battle, victory is certain.
On defense, even with all those experienced players and some inside info from the former AU DC, the Dawgs OL should dominate the somewhat smaller Tigers, providing time for Greene to utilize our many weapons, for they weren't very stingy last year in surrendering yards or points.
It is not a reach to state that this could be a real white knuckler, the potential is certainly there with the offensive weapons on both sides and both teams have sound kicking games. The war in the trenches will determine the victor and the degree of that victory. The homefield advantage will be the edge for Georgia.
In August, we will revisit the Tigers and Dawgs as the haze clears from Fall two-a-days and the lineups are determined.
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