CLEMSON - Don't be so quick to assume Georgia's offense will simply become The Todd Gurley Show.
CLEMSON SEASON OPENER
What: No. 16 Clemson vs. No. 12 Georgia
Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
When: 5:30 p.m.
Notable: The matchup features two first-year generals of the offense, Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt vs. Georgia's Hutson Mason. But it might be which defense is more aggressive and sturdy in week one who takes home a victory.
"They're too balanced in what they do, whether Aaron Murray's gone or not," Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said Tuesday. "Offensively, for many years, they have showed tremendous balance and a commitment to both the run and the pass. You can't gang up on any one thing."
Sure, Murray's name is cut-copy-pasted throughout record books school and SEC alike, and he's gone to the pros.
Yeah, Gurley's a preseason All-American who hopes nagging injuries marring his sophomore year are in the rearview mirror.
And of course, Clemson's defense better contain Gurley, and Keith Marshall, and the next wave of Bulldogs' 5-star horses, freshmen Sony Michel and Nick Chubb Saturday night.
"They've got two creatures at running back, and then they signed two more creatures at running back," Venables acknowledged. "Plenty of sleepless nights with Marshall and Gurley on the horizon. But it's exciting, the challenge they can present."
Writing off Murray's replacement, senior Hutson Mason, would be an error in judgment - not to mention glossing over history.
In offensive coordinator Mike Bobo's eight years guiding Georgia, he's been heralded as a balanced playcaller - making stars out of quarterbacks Murray and Matthew Stafford, and running backs Gurley and Knowshon Moreno.
In six of Bobo's eight years, the Bulldogs have rated higher nationally in yards per pass attempt than yards per rush attempt. The exceptions are 2007 (No. 36 rush, No. 39 pass) and 2009 (No. 28 rush, No. 35 pass.)
The last four years have been even more vivid: Georgia was outside the top 70 nationally in rushing average in 2010 and 2011, then improved to 30th with the arrival of Gurley and Marshall in 2012 - but ranked No. 1 in the country in yards per pass attempt that year. In 2013, Murray and Mason helped Georgia to No. 11 in the category, while Gurley and Marshall spearheaded the No. 48-rated yards-per-rush clip.
Maybe Bobo's ninth year is different, with a proven commodity in Gurley and a longtime backup quarterback in Mason making his third start.
"We don't expect very much of a dropoff," defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said. "But we know to beat Georgia, we have to stop the running game at the end of the day, because that's their bread and butter."
Georgia did roll up 545 yards last year on Clemson, the most the Bulldogs have gained on the Tigers since yardage totals have been tabulated going back to 1975 - a stretch including 20 games.
"You have to win the trenches, eliminate the big plays and gotta tackle well. You do those three things, and you realistically give yourself a chance to win the game," Venables said. "But Georgia's physicality - you don't take care of that, it's going to be a nightmare of a game."
Location, location, location
Georgia is Clemson's chief rival ... on the recruiting trail.
Pointing out that Athens is 70 miles from Death Valley and Atlanta is just two hours away, head coach Dabo Swinney made an intriguing admission comparing the Bulldogs to Clemson's natural in-state rival, South Carolina.
"Everybody thinks we recruit head-to-head against South Carolina - we really don't a whole lot," Swinney said. "The campuses are so different. Most the time, if a kid really likes Clemson, he's probably not going to like Columbia, and if he really likes Columbia, he's probably not going to like Clemson. So we really don't recruit against them as much as we do Georgia."
This isn't a new revelation. Clemson's 1981 national championship roster rendered state borders useless; the Tigers had 23 players from South Carolina and 22 players from Georgia.
"Georgia is a state we recruit like it's in-state, to be honest with you," Swinney said. "We've had a lot of success with Georgia kids that have come up here."
This year's roster includes 16 from the Peach State, though four can't play: defensive end Corey Crawford, offensive guard David Beasley and cornerback Garry Peters are suspended while running back Tyshon Dye is out with a knee injury.
IN THE AIR TONIGHT
Georgia's yards-per-attempts averages by year in the Mike Bobo era:
2006: Pass 7.1 (T-56th), Rush 3.8 (67th)
2007: Pass 7.1 (T-39th), Rush 4.53 (36th)
2008: Pass 9.0 (T-5th), Rush 4.53 (41st)
2009: Pass 7.6 (T-35th), Rush 4.68 (T-28th)
2010: Pass 8.8 (T-12th), Rush 4.07 (T-72nd)
2011: Pass 7.9 (T-27th), Rush 3.95 (T-73rd)
2012: Pass 10.0 (1st), Rush 4.87 (T-30th)
2013: Pass 8.9 (T-11th), Rush 4.55 (T-48th)
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