Heading into the 2014 season with a new quarterback under center has to be a scary thought for Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs after watching Aaron Murray break records during his time there. However, the Bulldogs have enough pieces returning on both sides of the ball that will ease the departure of the record-setting QB.
On the same note, the Clemson Tigers will also be heading into the 2014 season without a quarterback who they’ve been used to seeing behind center for years, Tajh Boyd. The Tigers do, however, have some depth at the position and will be in good hands. Don’t be surprised if Clemson makes a run at the College Football Playoff this season.
Georgia’s six returning starters on offense don’t exactly make up for the departure of Murray, but, like I said earlier, it definitely eases the transition into a new era. Senior quarterback Hutson Mason will be taking over at the position, having some experience from when he had replaced Murray following a torn ACL in 2013. Mason finished with 968 yards and five touchdowns while completing 60.9 percent of his passes over the course of four games. He will have Heisman hopeful junior running back Todd Gurley to take some pressure off the passing game. Gurley finished the 2013 season with 989 yards and 10 touchdowns while still missing five games.
While Georgia’s quarterback situation seems a bit tense and unreliable, the Clemson QB situation might be one that is more solidified and trustworthy. Senior Cole Stoudt rose from a three-player QB battle during the spring and made it clear that he should be the team’s No. 1 guy. His accuracy is hard to ignore as he completed 79.7 percent of his 59 pass attempts in 2013. Losing Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant will hurt Stoudt and the passing game a bit, but Adam Humphries will be the possession receiver and main target who Clemson desperately needs. The running back situation is a bit more clouded than most as there are three or four guys who could potentially win the starting job.
Defensively, the Bulldogs weren’t as impressive in 2013 as they were used to being in previous years. With a new defensive coordinator, Georgia looks to improve on their 78th national ranking in scoring defense and 45th ranking in total defense. Clemson returns six starters on defense, including All-American Vic Beasley, and will be much improved — and veteran — than the 2013 squad. The Tigers ranked 24th in scoring defense and 25th in total defense last season.
Clemson will travel to Georgia to take on the Bulldogs at 5:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, Aug. 30. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN.
PREDICTION: Clemson 21, Georgia 24
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.