Which game should you be most excited about in this first week of college football? This one.
Let's take a look at one of the most exciting Week 1 matchups of the college football season, No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 8 Clemson.
Week 1 usually features elite schools beating on smaller opponents, otherwise known as the 'cupcake' games. These clashes let the major programs shake off some of the rust before their first true test against ranked opponents.
But this game is different. Not only does it feature two teams ranked in the top 10, it has the top ACC team take on one of the heavyweights of the SEC.
For the Clemson Tigers, this game doesn't just represent a trial-by-fire for their upcoming season; it's a chance for the ACC to take a bite out of the ever-dominant SEC.
Of course, that's if they win. For Georgia, it's their shot to once again establish themselves as one of the strongest teams in the country, and perhaps the top challenger to Alabama in the SEC. Good times ahead.
5 Georgia Bulldogs vs. 8 Clemson Tigers
LIVE on ESPN via Foxtel, 10 a.m. Sunday September 1.
The Georgia Bulldogs come into the 2013 college season ranked No. 5
by both the AP and USA Today polls. They finished the previous season with a 12-2 record, including wins over big-time schools such as Florida and Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. Their two losses came against South Carolina and the eventual national champion, Alabama.
The Clemson Tigers begin their 2013 campaign ranked No. 8
by both AP and USA Today polls. They also finished 12-2 last season with a win over LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and losses against Florida State and South Carolina.
The Bulldogs' offense unquestionably runs through quarterback Aaron Murray
, who returns for his senior season. After setting school single-season records in touchdowns and passing yardage, he looks ready to take the team to next step. He could be the best quarterback in the SEC, and he was voted as such
by the league's coaches (yes, supposedly better than Heisman-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel
The Bulldogs have a pair of solid running backs in Todd Gurley
and Keith Marshall
and a host of targets for their quarterback in receivers Michael Bennett
and Malcom Mitchell
and tight end Arthur Lynch
. They will have eight starters return on offence this season, and the Tigers' secondary (a definite weakness) will have a ton of trouble dealing with the Bulldog attack.
The Bulldogs' weakness could be their defence as they only returned three starters this season. Keep an eye out for sophomore defensive back Josh Harvey-Clemons
and sophomore linebacker Jordan Jenkins,
both set to make a splash in 2013. Still, it's tough to see Georgia's defence being as strong as it was last year, and it'll have its hands full with Clemsons' own Heisman-candidate quarterback.
That quarterback is Tajh Boyd
. Considered to be the best playcaller in the ACC, Boyd is extremely athletic (he ran for over 500 yards and managed 10 touchdowns on the ground in 2012), but is also developing his pocket presence and passing game. If he can improve in the pocket and start the season with a win over a top-10 team such as the Bulldogs, he could be the top Heisman candidate this year.
The Tigers have six starters returning on offence including troubled receiver Sammy Watkins
. After a fantastic freshman year, he had a terrible season in 2012, largely due to an arrest-related suspension and injuries. This year he's back on track and by all accounts looks great. They also have running back Rod McDowell
ready to be the starter for the first time in his college career who is eager to prove he can be an every-down back.
Clemson also has six starters returning on defence, but as mentioned above their secondary should have some problems with Georgia's quarterback. The Tigers do have some weapons, however, including defensive end Vic Beasley
and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett
. Clemson's defensive line will be key in this matchup, and if they can keep Murray uncomfortable and under pressure it has a chance to limit Georgia's scoring.
Because of the strength of both teams' quarterbacks, this game will come down to which defence can make the most plays. A high-scoring game is expected as both quarterbacks are the best in their conferences, but whichever defence can force a key turnover should win this one.
I like what I see from Boyd. It would be a small upset, but I'll go with Clemson 28-24
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