In 2013, Clemson and Georgia opened the college football season with one of the most exciting games on the early schedule, as the Tigers defeated the Bulldogs, 38-35. A year later, the two teams are set to meet again, as they begin their quests to be a part of the first ever college football playoff and compete for a championship.
Last year’s game was highlighted by the play of Clemson quarterback Tajh Body, who threw for three touchdowns and added two more scores on the ground. In the 2014 matchup between the two teams, Georgia won’t have to worry about stopping Boyd, who was taken in the sixth round of the NFL Draft. This time around, senior signal caller Cole Stoudt will lead the No.16 team in the nation.
After serving as the Tigers’ backup for three years, Stoudt will finally get his chance to prove what he can do on the field. He was able to make the most of his time last season, completing 47 of his 59 pass attempts for 415 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. Even though Clemson may no longer be touting a potential Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback, the Bulldogs know the Tigers’ offense still has a chance to be very explosive.
“They put people away early a lot of times last year and they were able to get their second- and third-team quarterbacks in,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said, via the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “Stoudt is a very, tall accurate passer, who’s very efficient at what he does. I don’t know that he’s a big QB-run guy but he makes good decisions and is very accurate.”
If Georgia’s defense plays like it did for much of last year’s 8-5 season, they could find themselves on the losing end against Clemson for the second straight year. In 2014, though, expectations are high for the No.12 team in the country, and the Bulldogs have the talent necessary to be in the national title picture.
Georgia is hoping to disrupt Clemson’s offense, and force Stoudt into committing turnovers. The team did a poor job of forcing takeaways in 2013, and it’s something they’re looking to change this season.
“We’ve got some good ball skills back there. They’re catching the ball pretty good right now. We’re serious about disrupting the ball as far as getting fumbles, punching it out, stripping it out, whatever it may be,” Richt said, via the Macon Telegraph. “We work really hard on recovering fumbles, whether it’s out in space, scooping it, securing it and trying to score, or if it’s a bunch of bodies around there just to get on it.”
On the offensive end, Georgia has the advantage. While Clemson lost its top stars to the NFL, the Bulldogs brought back a Heisman Trophy candidate. Running back Todd Gurley could be in line for a big season, following a strong 2013 campaign. He only ran the ball 165 times, but was still able to compile 989 yards and 10 touchdowns. Stopping him might be the key to keeping Clemson in the game.
In front of their home fans, the higher ranked Bulldogs are expected to start the season with a win. The betting odds as at most Las Vegas casinos have Georgia giving Clemson 7.5 points, with the over/under set at 55 total points.
The contest will be broadcast on national TV at 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN on Saturday.