The Clemson Tigers and Georgia Bulldogs kick off their 2013 seasons at Memorial Stadium Saturday, as the two top-10 teams square off in a great opening week matchup. Television coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
Both teams are coming off strong 2012 campaigns, with star quarterbacks returning and expectations sky-high. Clemson returns 13 starters from a team that went 11-2, tying for first in the ACC's Atlantic Division and capping off the season with a dramatic last-second field goal win in the Chick-fil-A bowl against LSU.
Georgia returns 10 starters on an offense that ranked 22nd in the nation in yardage last year, with four more starters coming back on defense. The Bulldogs are hoping to improve on a season that saw them go 12-2 and lose by four in the SEC Championship Game to eventual national title winner Alabama.
The two teams have a storied history, but have not played since 2003 (a 30-0 Georgia blowout). Clemson has not won the matchup since 1990, losing the last five contests between the two schools. The two schools are separated by about 70 miles, and this piece on the rivalry from former Dawg Sports site manager T. Kyle King is a must-read.
Rankings and records: Georgia is ranked fifth in both the AP Top 25 and the Coaches Poll. Clemson is ranked eighth in both polls. Georgia holds a 41-17-4 advantage in the all-time series, winning by an average of around seven points.
Vegas: Clemson is a two-point underdog at home Saturday. The over/under is 69 points. OddsShark has details and wagering information.
Weather: The forecast calls for isolated thunderstorms, a 30 percent chance of rain and a high of 87 degrees in Clemson Saturday.
Three names to know
Preseason ACC Player of the Year Tajh Boyd is a force to be reckoned with, and so is his two star-wideout, Sammy Watkins. Boyd, a senior, has thrown for at least 3,800 yards and 33 touchdowns in each of the last two seasons, and has added a combined 15 scores on the ground. Last year, he had five games of 400+ total yards, including a 529-yard, eight-touchdown effort against North Carolina State.
After an explosive freshman year in which he caught 12 touchdown passes, defenses focused their efforts quite a bit more on Sammy Watkins last year. The sophomore was held to "just" 57 receptions for 708 yards and three touchdowns, opening up passing lanes for senior DeAndre Hopkins, who caught 82 passes for 1,405 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Amid some controversy, Georgia senior Aaron Murray was named the quarterback on the SEC coaches' preseason all-conference team over reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. Don't let that fool you -- Murray was one of the best quarterbacks out there last year, finishing second in the nation in passing efficiency while throwing for 3,893 yards and 36 touchdowns. Joining Murray on the all-conference team was running back Todd Gurley, who ran 222 times last year for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns as a true freshman. Aided by a Georgia offensive line that could be improved compared to recent years, Murray and Gurley could lead one of the fiercest attacks in the nation.
The Bulldogs lost a lot of talent in the front seven, but have plenty of players ready and eager to step up both on the line and in the linebacking corps. With Jarvis Jones and his ridiculous numbers gone (24.5 tackles for a loss, 14.5 sacks), Georgia is going to have to turn to some young, high-profile recruits like Jordan Jenkins, Josh Dawson and Leonard Floyd, as well as some older, more experienced players like Chase Vasser and T.J. Stripling. The talent is certainly there; Mark Richt just has to find the right combination for Saturdays.
Shakin the Southland also took a look at Georgia's 3-4 defense (and the 3-4 in general) that is definitely worth a read.
Two things at stake
Both schools are national title contenders this season, and a loss here would significantly hamper their chances. For Clemson, playing in the weaker ACC, it would be a more definitive blow, but for both teams it's a must-win situation.
How to witness
Online streaming: None.