Friday’s announcement that Georgia and Clemson will kick off in Athens at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 30 with ESPN televising the game nationally means the Tigers and Bulldogs won’t have a second consecutive clash in prime time, but that’s not really surprising since this year’s game most likely won’t pit two Top 10 teams or a pair of Heisman-potential quarterbacks like last year’s did.
Still, it’s going to be one of the marquee events of college football’s opening weekend.
Mindful of how hot and muggy Athens usually is in late August, UGA fans are thankful that the unusual kickoff time means at least half the game will take place after the sun has started subsiding, but it’s still going to be tough on players and fans. As Christopher Ryan Whitworth noted on the Junkyard Blawg’s Facebook page, “Good Lord, it’s gonna be hot!” Added Angela Wilson: “I was hoping for a 7:30 or 8:00 kickoff. That will be a hot one — all sun — in Section 101!”
It should be an exciting game, though, and in fact may well be the highlight of a pretty strong lineup of home games the Bulldogs will be playing in 2014. In an informal quickie poll of fans I took Friday, the Clemson and Auburn games are the ones that UGA fans are most looking forward to, though the Tennessee and Georgia Tech games should be big draws, too.
Personally, I think Georgia-Clemson is the “don’t miss” game of 2014 for a lot of reasons, not least being one of the rare occasions these days when we get the Tigers, formerly an annual major rival, playing Between the Hedges. On top of that, Georgia will be looking to avenge last year’s close 38-35 loss, while both teams will be looking to get their seasons off to a fast start with a big win. After winning last year’s game, the Tigers went on to finish 11-2 and No. 7, while the Dogs stumbled later in the season after a couple of big wins over South Carolina and LSU, and wound up unranked.
There probably won’t be any word until early August on whether “ESPN GameDay” will return to Athens for the Georgia-Clemson match-up, but there are plenty of back stories to this one to goose media interest.
Both teams will be starting senior quarterbacks who have been career backups. Clemson’s Cole Stoudt served as Tajh Boyd’s backup the past three seasons and will be making his first career start. Likewise, Georgia’s Hutson Mason waited (not so) patiently behind Aaron Murray, but should have the edge in that he did start the last couple of games last season after Murray got hurt.
Otherwise, Georgia returns almost all its starters on offense, most notably Todd Gurley and Malcolm Mitchell, while the Tigers’ offense won’t be quite as high-powered as last year’s edition, having lost Boyd and Sammy Watkins. However, while the Dogs’ defense remains a giant question mark as new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt tries to figure out who’ll be in his secondary, the Clemson D looks to be the strength of Dabo Swinney’s team, especially the veteran defensive line, which includes All-America candidates Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett.
Off-field problems will make the game interesting for both teams. Clemson has suspended four players for the game, including starting defensive end Corey Crawford, but the Tigers are so deep on the DL that he may not be missed that much, with Shaq Lawson having quite a bit of playing experience. Meanwhile, it’s not yet known how many Georgia players will be suspended for the game other than receiver Justin Scott-Wesley, but a lot of folks will be surprised if safety Tray Matthews, defensive end James DeLoach and defensive lineman Jon Taylor, all of whom allegedly were involved in a check-cashing scam, take the field.
With that new sound system cranked up and the crowd no doubt well lubricated by kickoff, Sanford Stadium should be rocking come 5:30 p.m.!
So, is the Clemson game the one you’re most excited about? Or does that late-season opportunity to avenge the Tipped Pass against Auburn loom larger for you?
A NEW UGA ANTHEM?
Incoming Dogs running back Sony Michel has a side career as a rapper called 2Stackz, and in that capacity he released a Soundcloud track this week called “UGA Anthem.” As College Spun notes, it “features the normal sport/team-specific rap platitudes; he shouts out fans, teammates, and coaches, calls out rivals, and there is plenty of auto-tune the ubiquitous hip hop air horn is all over the place.”
The Spun folks conclude that it’s not a bad effort, and I agree, though I think it might benefit from the UGA athletic department folks getting Frank “Awaken the Nation” Martin to make a spirit video to go with it.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg