USA TODAY Sports
Georgia junior running back Todd Gurley
No. 16 Clemson at No. 12 Georgia, 5:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN
Clemson got the best of Georgia last season with a 38-35 win in Death Valley. Now the Tigers will go “Between the Hedges” and try to upset the Dawgs for a second consecutive year.
Dabo Swinney’s squad will be without the ACC’s second-leading all-time passer in Tajh Boyd and speedster Sammy Watkins, putting a lot of pressure right out of the gate on Cole Stoudt, who will be starting his first game after backing Boyd up the last three seasons.
The Georgia offense is in a similar situation with school career-leading passer Aaron Murray gone, leaving the job to senior Hutson Mason. Mason has experience, after playing in two-and-a-half games last season when Murray went down with an ACL injury.
What the Bulldogs have going for them, though, is a run game that is among the best in the country. Todd Gurley, along with Keith Marshall, could be the difference-maker in this matchup. Despite losing last season to Clemson, Gurley ran for a career-high 154 yards and two touchdowns.
The Clemson defense, led by All-American defensive end Vic Beasley, must contain the Bulldog rush attack to stay in this one. Getting run over by Gurley and not forcing Mason to make decisions with the football is what will hurt the Tigers on the scoreboard.
Clemson is always a team that will put up a fight, but in the end it will be a big win for a Mark Richt Georgia team that hopes to find itself in the top four of the College Football Playoff.
Prediction: Georgia 35, Clemson 24