The 1980’s college football era began with a boom in the cities of Athens, GA and Clemson, SC. The Georgia Bulldogs coached by Vince Dooley won the national championship in 1980 and the Clemson Tigers coached by Danny Ford won the national title in 1981. The two towns are about an hour and a half from each other. Thus a fiery rival game was sparked between both schools that went on to last the entire decade. The teams and coaches faced each other a total of nine times with Georgia outscoring Clemson 153-152 with a record of 4-4-1. CBS Sports college football insider Tony Barnhart has said that “the Georgia-Clemson series has been compared to war.”
I was fortunate enough to attend the 1987 game in Athens when Clemson walked away with a 21-20 win. I can remember the clean hatred between the two schools and how much was riding upon the game. Overall, Georgia has dominated the series (41-17-4) with an average score of 18.6 for the Dawgs to 11.5 for the Tigers. The last time these Dawgs and Cats met each other was in Death Valley where Georgia exited the back alley with a 30-0 win in 2003. That loss has left a bitter taste in Tiger fans ever since and they are looking for revenge. The 30-0 loss was Clemson Tigers coach Dabo Swinney’s first game as a Tiger. When asked about the game, Dabo replied, “Yeah, I’ve tried to forget that one, thanks for reminding me.”
This year marks the first year both teams will face each other while also being ranked in the top ten (#5 Georgia, #8 Clemson) since the 80’s decade. Georgia has been picked by league media to win the SEC East Division while Clemson was tabbed to win the ACC Atlantic Division. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray was chosen SEC 1st team qb while Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd was picked ACC preseason Player of the Year. Georgia has a 1st team running back in Todd Gurley and Clemson has a first team wide receiver in Sammy Watkins.
There are more similarities. Clemson has 4 offensive linemen returning and Georgia has 5. In 2012, Clemson was 8th in the nation in total yards (513) and Georgia was 11th (468). Clemson was 9th in the nation in total points per game (39) and Georgia was 18th (35). Both defenses have concerns in the secondary. Going into the game, Georgia has injuries in the secondary and has already suspended 6’5’ safety Josh Harvey-Clemons. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables has said the Tigers have depth issues and that freshmen will be playing a lot. Clemson is also thin at the tight end position.
This game could go either way but I have to give the edge to Georgia. A veteran coach whose squad normally plays well on the road (41-11) and usually defeats nonconference teams (49-8) will be ready to play. Georgia is coming off back to back SEC East championships and an SEC Championship loss to Alabama where five yards made all the difference in deciding who would be playing for a national championship. Either way, we can all sit back in our recliners and enjoy the best nonconference matchup of the year….just like old times! The game will be broadcast nationally on ABC at 8 pm on Saturday, August 31.
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