With another five yards on one play, it might have been Georgia
that entered this season as reigning BCS champion instead of an SEC
The fifth-ranked Bulldogs will try to get this season’s title
hunt off to a flying start by spoiling No. 8 Clemson’s attempt at
history Saturday night.
Georgia finished with 12 wins in 2012, its most in 10 years, but
the then-No. 3 Bulldogs fell just short in the SEC title game.
Aaron Murray led an 80-yard drive in the final 1:08 but his pass to
Chris Conley on the game’s final play was just shy of the end zone
in a 32-28 loss to then-No. 2 Alabama, which would go on to win a
second straight BCS crown.
“It taught us that we’re right there as a team,” Murray said. “I
think we’re a lot more confident that we can compete in those
big-time games. We’ve got to keep working and keep staying
“I think Georgia’s back where in needs to be in terms of
national respect. Now we’ve just got to push the door open.”
That door could be a heavy one for the Bulldogs with three
matchups against top-15 teams in the first four games.
“We’re trying to be in mid-season form by Game 1. A lot of
things have to be done to get us ready for that gauntlet. We know
it’s coming. We’ll be ready,” coach Mark Richt said.
That stretch begins with a dangerous Clemson squad led by
record-setting quarterback Tajh Boyd.
Boyd broke his own single-season school marks by throwing for
3,896 yards and 36 touchdowns while leading the Tigers to an 11-2
mark, their most victories since going 12-0 while winning the 1981
The 2012 ACC player of the year finished seventh in the country
in total offense and is his team’s top returning rusher after Andre
Ellington graduated. Boyd will also be missing his top target from
last year in DeAndre Hopkins, but Sammy Watkins is hoping to bounce
back after falling far short of matching his production from his
Watkins had 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns in an All-American
season in 2011, but he finished with 708 yards and three TDs last
year while missing two games due to a suspension and one to
Clemson will be looking to pull off an unprecedented feat in the
opener. The Tigers knocked off then-No. 9 LSU in the Chick-fil-A
Bowl last season and can become the first nonconference opponent to
win back-to-back games against top-10 SEC teams.
“It’s a lot about putting our best foot forward and I feel like
we have the team to do that,” Boyd said. “I feel like we’ve got the
people to make special things happen.”
Clemson will be looking to shore up a pass defense that ranked
71st nationally with 240.3 yards allowed per game.
The Tigers should be a little healthier in the secondary after
Martin Jenkins, Darius Robinson and Bashaud Breeland were forced to
miss time with injuries in 2012.
“Everybody knows that’s the area of our team that’s got to
improve the most,” coach Dabo Swinney said.
That secondary would appear to be facing a stiff challenge in a
Georgia offense that returns most of its starters and four of its
top six receivers from a year ago. The Bulldogs are also getting
back their two top rushers in Todd Gurley (1,385 yards) and Keith
Marshall (759), and all of their offensive linemen.
The concern for Georgia is replenishing a defense that had seven
players taken in the NFL draft, including first-rounders Jarvis
Jones and Alec Ogletree.
“As time goes on, players are just going to continue to get
better and better, so sometimes it’s good to be thrown in the
fire,” defensive end Garrison Smith said. “We’re going to be all
The Bulldogs will take an inexperienced secondary into their
matchup with Boyd after safety Josh Harvey-Clemons was given a
one-game suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Cornerback Damian Swann is the only returning starter who will
“It’s definitely a big challenge,” Richt said. “Their offense is
one of the best in America and Tajh Boyd is obviously one of the
best quarterbacks in the country. Playing at their place is going
to be tough.”
Georgia holds a 41-17-4 edge over Clemson. It hasn’t faced the
Tigers since earning its fifth straight win in the series in