August 30, 2013

Stepping out on a limb

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Georgia faces Clemson Saturday night on ABC (8:22 p.m.) in the 2013 season opener, a game that will mark the first time the 5th-ranked Bulldogs have opened against a team also ranked in the top 10. The Tigers come in at No. 8.

Below, here are five things I predict that will happen.

1. Georgia will pass the ball at least 35 times: With Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall in the Bulldog backfield, look for the Tigers to employ a similar strategy to what they did in the regular-season finale against South Carolina. Although the Gamecocks were without the injured Marcus Lattimore, Clemson still focused on stopping the South Carolina running game and as a result, quarterback Dylon Thompson completed 23 of 41 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns.

If the Tigers try to do the same against the Bulldogs, Aaron Murray will likely enjoy similar success. No doubt the fifth-year senior will gladly accept any opportunities for one-on-one coverage. It's an interesting dilemma for Clemson DC Brent Venables, who certainly has to pick which poison to try and stop for his unit to be successful.

2. Despite the focus, Gurley will still rush for 100 yard: I know, that's not exactly going out on limb, but after watching the running back become the only running back to rush for 100 yards against both Alabama and Florida a year ago, one has to figure he'll do the same against Clemson, no offense intended.

It's just that Gurley is that good. At 232 pounds, Gurley is in the best shape of his life and ready to take his place as one of the finest running backs, not only in the SEC, but the entire country this fall.

For those keeping count, Clemson allowed nine players to run for over 100 yards last year.

3. Tajh Boyd will throw for over 300 yards but Tigers won't rush for more than 130: I know there are some Bulldog fans who question whether or not Boyd is the real deal, but be assured, he is. With a veteran offensive line and talented receivers like Sammy Watkins, Charone Peake and Martavis Bryant[/d], Boyd will make plays - and will likely exploit the young Bulldog secondary with a couple of long ones.

Georgia's young corners will have their work cut out, but keep an eye on freshmen [db]Brendan Langley. The former Kell standout picked off three passes and broke up another in Georgia's final two scrimmages, including one off of Murray.

But although Boyd will get his yards, Clemson will miss the graduated Andre Ellington, who rushed for 1.081 yards and eight touchdowns. Roderick McDowell may well develop into a more than capable replacement, but one has to figure with so much youth in the Bulldog secondary, that Boyd will try to take advantage as much as he can.

4: Leonard Floyd makes his presence known: Will someone please pass the Kool-Aid? I'll have some of that cherry, if you don't mind. Unless you just haven't been paying attention, the freshman from Eastman has been the buzz of preseason camp. In fact, none other than head coach Mark Richt made quite the statement two weeks ago when - unsolicited - sang the praises of the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder.

Sight unseen, we'll pretend for a moment that Richt and company weren't pulling our collective leg. So, while Clemson keeps focused on Jordan Jenkins at the Will, look for Leonard to sneak in a couple of sacks from his Sam position.

5: Traffic getting in and out of Clemson will be some of the worse you'll see: Nothing against Clemson, it's a nice little town and I've got family that live near there. But when it comes to getting in and out of Tiger Town on Game Day, I'd just as soon sit through a four-hour root canal.
So, if you're going, pack your patience and maybe leave a bit earlier than you intended. If this is your first time making the drive, it will remind you of going to Auburn - one way in and one way out. Pack your patience!

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