History is not on Clemson's side, going 2-23-1 in Athens since 1914. But the No. 16 Tigers believe they've got a mature enough squad to hang with the No. 12 Bulldogs. Here's a closer look at Saturday's matchup.
The returning personnel favors the Bulldogs. Tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, H-Back Quayvon Hicks and wide receivers Michael Bennett and Chris Conley accounted for 428 yards at Clemson (78.5 percent of the nightly total), and all five are in the starting lineup. Only 95 of the Tigers' total yardage from that night returns.
Of course, the two captains steering those offenses are in the pros; Georgia's Aaron Murray is replaced by Hutson Mason, who played two and a half games to end 2013 after Murray's knee injury, while Clemson's Tajh Boyd gives way to Cole Stoudt. Mason and Stoudt are seniors who know their systems extremely well.
Because we don't quite know how Mason or Stoudt will react to adversity - namely, hulking defensive ends making their acquaintance - the better pass rush will gain a major advantage. The Bulldogs have attacking linebackers in Ramik Wilson, Jordan Jenkins and Amarlo Herrera, while the Tigers are more traditional with All-American defensive end Vic Beasley leading a dominant front four.
There is this to note about big-time season openers; it's not so much about which team is better overall, it's which team has prepared better through fall camp. The Tigers passed those tests in 2012 (vs. Auburn in Atlanta) and 2013 (vs. Georgia), while the Dawgs have something to prove after losses to Oklahoma State, Boise State and Clemson the past five years - though none of those defeats were at Sanford Stadium.
Georgia 27, Clemson 14