CLEMSON – Maybe it was playing to the masses with the storyline, or maybe it’s simply fitting ESPN analysts were a split decision picking the game of the week: two for No. 5 Georgia, two for No. 8 Clemson, during Saturday’s broadcast of College GameDay from the heart of Clemson’s campus.
Naturally, when longtime GameDay favorite Lee Corso threw on the Bulldog head in his trademark prop picking manner, the few thousand Clemson fans booed their disapproval. Along with the mascot head, Corso and fellow GameDay desk analyst Kirk Herbstreit closed the show with live puppy bulldogs on the set.
David Pollack joined Corso in picking Georgia, not a particular surprise considering Pollack was a three-time All-American linebacker for the Bulldogs from 2002-04. He was a sophomore and junior for the last two Georgia teams to play and defeat Clemson.
However, Desmond Howard tabbed the Tigers to win this evening, and so did celebrity guest picker Eric Stonestreet, an actor on ABC’s Modern Family.
“(Clemson) lost a lot on defense, but they got a Heisman candidate, and the campaign starts tonight,” Stonestreet said. “That’s why I picked Clemson. And I’m a performer, and I know my audience.”
Stonestreet wore his Kansas State shirt and hat – a bold move considering the defending Big XII champion Wildcats’ upset loss Friday night to FCS powerhouse North Dakota State – but enjoyed his first weekend in Clemson.
“The atmosphere here, it’s great. Went out last night, reminded me of where I went to school in Manhattan, Kansas,” Stonestreet said. “Grand school, good people, nice time.”
After GameDay gave way to games – starting with Texas A&M-Rice, with Heisman winner Johnny Manziel suspended for a half – the ESPN personalities turned around and addressed the throngs still cheering from Bowman Field.
Host Chris Fowler thanked Clemson fans for providing a “tremendous, tremendous scene” for a record-setting four-hour long episode of the popular traveling preview show.
Of course, the signs were out in full force. A sampling of some of the more clever signs (crude efforts were politely discarded by event management):
- “Tajh for Heisman: At least his girlfriend is real:
- “Clemson: SEC Speed. Players who can read.”
- “Clemson can’t protect a rock”
- “Hey Johnny, can I borrow a Sharpie?”
- “I slept on this board for tickets!”
- “Watching Dawgs Football … Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That”
- “Set TiVo 2 ‘Biggest Loser’ … It Recorded Georgia Football”
Those last two were the brainstorms of two Clemson students: Mellette Sutton, 21, of Columbia, and Olivia Botts, 22, of Kansas City, entering their season year.
“Reading everybody’s signs, they were a lot more creative than I thought,” said Sutton, studying communications and journalism at Clemson. “I know a little bit about GameDay, but I love college football, so it’s exciting that it’s back.”
While many premier teams across the country open their seasons against less competition to work their way into playing shape, the mystique surrounding Georgia-Clemson is many national-themed goals are on the line from the opening kickoff.
“I’m excited. I’m a little nervous, because it’s not that kind of game,” said Botts, a biology major. “But everyone’s pumped, and we’re ready for the season to start.”
Bradley Tucker, 21, of Ocilla, Ga. and his brother arrived in Clemson at 6 a.m. His total allegiance is to Georgia – he attends an agriculture school connected to UGa – but he used to work in the Clemson concession stands.
“It’s been awesome. The energy’s great, the crowd’s great, I love Clemson fans, I love Georgia fans,” Tucker said. “So I’m really excited about tonight.”
One of GameDay’s live segments involved Fowler interviewing George Whitfield Jr., a private quarterback tutor for Clemson’s Tajh Boyd and Georgia’s Aaron Murray, the headline matchup of the night.
“Really, truly, I think it’s going to come down the kickers,” Whitfield said. “Because both these two (quarterbacks), it’s not like they have to avoid any major mistakes. I mean, they’re so well-tested.”
Check back this afternoon on postandcourier.com for another story, and read which superstar NFL quarterbacks Whitfield compared Boyd and Murray to in anticipation of tonight’s top-ten showdown.