CLEMSON - The NFL Draft is behind us, the NHL and NBA Finals are complete, we're done with the U.S. Open/Triple Crown watch and we now move into the part of summer when we're amused by the World Cup, Wimbledon, NBA Draft, The Open Championship and the occasional baseball series that intrigues.
So I think I speak for many of us when I write: who's ready for summer college football previews? Raise your hands.
Another question: could we interest you in 22 days worth of Clemson online coverage? Of course we could. I mean, that's not a guarantee, but we COULD.
Here goes with 12 game previews from now through July 1, followed by the return of our Top 10 Tigers series which will take us through to Dabo Swinney's golf outing and media session with the assistant coaches on July 15.
My partner-in-chime, Ryan Wood, kicked things off yesterday with the Texas A&M-South Carolina preview, so be sure to check out his Spur of the Moment blog for all things Gamecocks . if that's what you're in to. But remember, be nice.
Now, before we launch into Clemson's 2014 season opener, I need to make sure no Georgia players have transferred or been dismissed from the program in the last 10 minutes. (Checking.) We good? We good. OK, off we go.
Game 1: No. 22* Clemson at No. 8 Georgia, Aug. 30, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Georgia coach: Mark Richt (126-45, 14th season)
Returning starters: 13 (five offense, eight defense)
2013 record: 8-5, 5-3 SEC; third place SEC East
Scoring offense: 36.7 points per game (21st in FBS)
Scoring defense: 29.0 points allowed (79th)
Series: Georgia leads 41-18-4, including 26-7-1 in Athens
Last meeting: Clemson 38, Georgia 35 in Death Valley (Aug. 31, 2013)
Golden Nugget line: Georgia 9-point favorite
Opposing beat writer to follow: @SethEmerson
Three things to know about Georgia
1. Goodbye Murray, Hello Mason: After saying goodbye to a popular (but sometimes polarizing, for no real reason) longtime starting quarterback, the program ushers in that alum's longtime backup to lead the team his senior year. Any of that sound familiar around here? Thought so. One difference: whereas Cole Stoudt will be making his first Clemson start in late August, Hutson Mason received a slight head-start when Aaron Murray tore his ACL in the team's Kentucky game, thus throwing Mason into action against Georgia Tech and Nebraska. As such, Mason actually worked his way to a near-1,000-yard passing season in 2013, and has tallied 1,324 career yards on 94-of-157 passing (a cool 60 percent) with eight touchdowns against three picks. Not quite as efficient as Stoudt's lifetime numbers (742 yards, 72.3 percent, 8 TD, 1 INT) but a tad more experience in bigger games.
2. Gurley the Gorilla: That guy who broke through the Clemson defense for a 75-yard touchdown in the first quarter last year? Yeah, he ended up with a sophomore slump. Only 989 yards, six per carry, and 10 touchdowns in 10 games. Stiff. Compared to Gurley's freshman breakout year (1,385 yards and 17 TDs despite splitting time with fellow rookie Keith Marshall), 2013 was a downer. That means if Gurley's on the Watkins diet (see what I did there?), he's going to explode his junior year, and that could be very bad news for Clemson in the early goings. The 6-1, 218-pound Gurley, who had nine 100-yard games his freshman year (no Tiger has ever had more than seven,) is regarded as perhaps the nation's top back entering in 2014, with a chip on his shoulder. It seems like if Clemson's promising defense doesn't corral Gurley, it could get ugly between the hedges.
3. Debacle in the secondary: Hang on, let me check again: any more Bulldogs defensive backs get booted since you started reading this? Nope? Super. It's not a potshot: an unbelievable three of Georgia's four starters in the secondary from last fall have left the program, either on their own or the university's accord. Cornerback Shaq Wiggins and safety Josh Harvey-Clemons are now at Louisville and safety Tray Matthews has moved on to Auburn, leaving corner Damian Swann as the only holdover in the bunch. Certainly, the Georgia defense has much room for improvement from last year's No. 79-rated group, and it helps having the entire front seven back plus new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt brought in from Florida State, but we saw what happened when Clemson's offense picked on an unproven UGa defense on opening night last year. Stoudt, given time to operate and the steady routes/hands of receivers, could get some things done picking apart the unproven UGa secondary.
Week before: None
Next week: South Carolina State
On the horizon: @Florida State
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