The Georgia Bulldogs have their sights set on an SEC title in 2014 and a spot in the inaugural college football playoff but face a tough test to start their season with a marquee non-conference tilt against the Clemson Tigers. Last season, the Bulldogs lost a 38-35 shootout to the Tigers that really hurt Georgia’s momentum out of the gate. This season, UGA is looking for revenge and will be leaning on stud running back Todd Gurley to lead the way. But can Gurley carry Georgia past the tough Clemson defensive front this Saturday?
There is no denying the talent of Gurley when he has the ball in his hands. Last season, he finished as Georgia’s top rusher, picking up 989 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns in just 10 games played. His 98.9 yards per game average was fourth-best in the SEC last season and he would have been a lock to blow past the 1,000-yard mark in 2013 if he had played in every game. With another year of experience under his belt and a clean bill of health, Gurley is a Heisman Trophy contender in 2014 as the focal point of the Georgia offense.
But he’s not going to get any soft starts to get up to speed. Clemson led the nationin tackles for loss last season and return every single contributor to the defensive front for 2014. Led by defensive end Vic Beasley and linebacker Stephone Anthony, the Tigers made a living on creating havoc in opposing backfields. They will be relying on that ability to create negative plays to bring down Gurley in the backfield and put the pressure on first-year starter Hutson Mason to throw the Bulldogs to victory.
While last season’s matchup was a back-and-forth offensive display with Gurley exploding for 154 yards and two touchdowns, this season’s game is shaping up to be a defensive showdown. In the end, this game could come down to Todd Gurley against the Clemson defensive front. If Gurley gets on track, look for Georgia to control the game and win it late. If the Tigers shut him down, expect back-to-back wins for Clemson in this marquee matchup.