By Zac Ellis
One of this season's premier out-of-conference games comes on opening weekend, as Clemson will host Georgia on Aug. 31. Yet though the matchup is likely to feature two preseason top-15 teams, at least one player thinks the result should be a blowout.
“Behind the scenes we like our schedule,” he said. “People talk about Georgia, Florida State and South Carolina, but I’m not worried about them, I’m concentrated on what we do.
“If we come out and beat Georgia, not just beat ‘em but beat the mess out of ‘em like we should, I don’t see no problems in getting started in the right direction. I don’t have disrespect for them or for nobody else, I just believe we can be just the kind of team we want to be, the talent is here, we know how to win.”
A first-team All-America selection as a freshman in 2011, Watkins struggled on and off the field in 2012. While fellow wideout DeAndre Hopkins thrived, Watkins started just seven games following a suspension and injuries, and he finished with 57 catches, 708 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He made 82 catches for 1,219 yards and 12 scores in 2011.
Watkins said last year's setback is behind him:
“Last year is in the past,” Watkins said, “I’m not worried about last year, I’m more grown up now, I’m past all that stuff; I’m focused on what Clemson can do this year, but not just this year, I mean these next four, five, six years.
“We put ourselves at that top level now,” he said, “we’re championship material, we’re a team that can be 11-1, 12-0, whatever it takes, that’s who we are.”
Georgia won the SEC East last season and lost a 32-28 heartbreaker to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Behind quarterback Aaron Murray and running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, the Bulldogs averaged 37.8 points per game, 19th in the nation. The Dawgs return eight starters from that attack, including Murray.
Clemson's offense was even more potent behind quarterback Tajh Boyd, who returns as the team's leading rusher (514 yards, 10 touchdowns) as well as one of the nation's top passers (3,896 yards, 36 touchdowns). Clemson's attack finished first in the ACC and sixth in the country with a scoring average of 41 points per game. The Tigers racked up 512.7 yards of total offense per game in 2012, ninth in the FBS.