Previewing Georgia Bulldogs at Clemson Tigers

Tajh Boyd-Clemson Tigers

Daniel Shirey-USA Today Sports

Who: No. 8 Clemson vs. No. 5 Georgia

Where: Memorial Stadium

Time: 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC

The best game of the opening weekend features two teams ranked inside the top-10, and should be one of the best of the year as it features Heisman candidates at quarterback in Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd. ESPN’s College Gameday will be at Death Valley in South Carolina, with the loser of this game seeing their BCS Championship Game aspirations go down the drain.

When Georgia has the ball:

Murray is going to finish his career as the all-time passing leader in the SEC, and this year’s Bulldogs team could establish new school records with Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall at running back. Gurley is my top running back in the country and could play his way into the Heisman conversation with a strong opener.

Georgia’s receivers Michael Bennett and Malcolm Mitchell are healthy. Combined with top tight end and Mackey Award watch list member Arthur Lynch, they give Clemson a number of playmakers to contend with.

The Tigers secondary has been besieged by injuries to veterans Garry Peters and Darius Robinson, along with freshmen five-star recruit Mackensie Alexander, Jayron Kearse and Adrian Baker. The injury report will be interesting to see for Clemson as they need as many able bodies to combat the Bulldogs’ offensive assault.

I like the front seven a lot, especially Vic Beasley, who should have double-digit sacks as a starter this year after eight as a reserve in 2012. Clemson’s linebackers, led by Spencer Shuey, will be tested against the physical running of Gurley.

When Clemson has the ball:

The Tigers will go as far as Boyd can take them this season, and that could potentially be all the way to the BCS title game if they can get past this game. Sammy Watkins looks to return to the form he showed as an All-American in his freshman year after a disappointing sophomore season, and could very well turn in better numbers than DeAndre Hopkins did last year if he’s healthy and focused.

Watkins is confident heading into this game vs. a rebuilt Georgia defense that has three new starters in its secondary. Running back is a concern with Andre Ellington gone, and the team will go with a committee approach with Roderick McDowell getting the first opportunity to fill his shoes. Zac Brooks and D.J. Howard will fight for carries, and Chad Morris could elect to ride the hot hand in the opener.

Georgia lost 12 key performers on Todd Grantham’s defense from a year ago, including SEC defensive player of the year Jarvis Jones, but look for Jordan Jenkins to have a monster game at his old outside linebacker spot. Freshman Tray Matthews will be tested vs. Watkins and the Clemson passing game, but I think he’s one of the top rookies in the conference.

The average ticket price for arguably opening week’s best game is $248.74, according to Razorgator. The cheapest ticket available is $142 and lower level seating starts at $259.

Patrick’s a college football writer for Rant Sports and radio host on Sportstownchicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt and add him to your Google network.

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