Sapakoff: Clemson must win the turnover battle in Athens

A 4-2 turnover edge helped Clemson defeat Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

ATHENS, Ga. - Contrary to popular belief, not all close Clemson-Georgia football games come down to David Treadwell or Kevin Butler making long field goals.

If tonight's game at Sanford Stadium is close - and every indication points that way - turnovers will make the difference, as Clemson players learned in their four big games last season.

Georgia: 38-35 win at Clemson. The Tigers had the turnover edge, 2-1.

Florida State: 51-15 loss at Clemson. Turnovers: 4-1, Seminoles.

South Carolina: 31-17 loss in Columbia. The game shouldn't have been that close considering the 0-6 turnover deficit.

Ohio State: 40-35 win at the Orange Bowl. The 4-2 Clemson turnover edge was critical.

It has rained at Sanford Stadium this afternoon. Even if it doesn't rain during the game, the football is likely to be a bit slippery.

Factor in first-game jitters, too.

There will be opportunities for fumble creation against a running team. Both teams have quarterbacks opening a college season as a starter for the first time.

The No. 16 ranked Tigers must force more mistakes than they make against No. 12 Georgia, or suffer the consequences of watching Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall pound the ball with a lead.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff