The time for talking is now over.
After eight months of waiting to play a game since the last time they took the field, the No. 1 Clemson Tigers (0-0, 0-0 ACC) are ready to rub the rock, run down The Hill and begin their national title defense, as they play Thursday at home against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
The contest will be the first live football game broadcast on ACC Network. ESPN and ACCN will air a special edition of College GameDay from Memorial Stadium concourse from 6-8 p.m., with a simulcast on both ESPN and ACC Network from 6-7 p.m. followed by the final hour being aired exclusively on ACCN. Fans are encouraged to get into their seats at Memorial Stadium early to help showcase Clemson's stadium atmosphere on the prestigious pregame program.
In addition, Clemson will honor its 2018 national championship victory by unveiling championship signage on the south side of Memorial Stadium before the game. Clemson enters the 2019 season ranked No. 1 in both The Associated Press preseason poll and the USA Today preseason coaches poll. This marks the first time in history that Clemson will enter a season bearing that distinction in either poll.
Who to watch when Clemson has the ball:
Trevor Lawrence (QB):
This one could be the biggest no-brainer of the entire season, as the sophomore quarterback looks to begin the season, and his Heisman Trophy campaign, with a bang.
In 2018, despite not starting four games, Lawrence posted the 10th season of 3,000 passing yards, 30-plus passing touchdowns, five or fewer interceptions and a 65.0 or better completion percentage by an FBS quarterback since 2000. It was only the fifth such season by a Power Five quarterback in the time frame and the first by a freshman.
He had 13 completions on 18 attempts for 176 yards and four touchdowns, as well as two carries for 11 yards in 35 snaps in 2018.
Travis Etienne (RB):
Almost as big of a no-brainer as Lawrence, Etienne enters the 2019 season in the top 10 by nearly all Heisman Trophy oddsmakers.
Etienne posted school records in rushing yards (1,658) and rushing touchdowns (24) in 2018 despite recording only 204 carries. His record-setting campaign in 2018 resulted in his selection as a Doak Walker Award finalist, as he joined C.J. Spiller (2009) as the only players in Clemson history to be named as a finalist for the honor.
Eitenne had 11 carries for 122 yards and a touchdown, as well as a 3-yard reception for a touchdown, in 27 snaps as a starter in 2018. He had seven carries for 43 yards and a touchdown in 19 snaps, along with two kickoff returns for 33 yards, in 2017.
Charlie Thomas (LB; Georgia Tech):
Thomas saw extensive playing time as a true freshman in 2018, including six starts. Thomas’ three fumble recoveries last season were the most by a Yellow Jacket since Quayshawn Nealy in 2014 (3).
Thomas became only the third Yellow Jacket in the past decade with as many as three fumble recoveries in a season (Jerrard Terrant, 3, 2010; Nealy, 3, 2014). He also tied a single-game school record by recovering two fumbles in the Yellow Jackets’ 66-31 win at Louisville on Oct. 5 of last season, both of which led to Georgia Tech touchdowns.
Who to watch when Georgia Tech has the ball:
The entire defensive line:
The Tigers will look to replace their entire starting defensive line from the 2018 season. With co-starters named at three of the four positions, much of the attention in the Tigers first game will fall on names like Xavier Thomas, Logan Rudolph, Justin Foster, Tyler Davis, K.J. Henry, Nyles Pinckney and Jordan Williams to see if they can continue the tradition of dominant defensive lines.
Derion Kendrick (CB):
The wide receiver turned cornerback earned the starting job from the Tigers' head coach last week, and this week he will look to showcase why he beat out scholarship players for the job.
He impressed immediately, recording an interception against the first-team offense in an early spring scrimmage, and in early April, Swinney noted that the presence of Kendrick was a luxury to have a player that could start for the Tigers on either side of the ball.
Tyler Davis (TE; Georgia Tech):
Davis, a graduate transfer from UConn, is the only tight end on the Yellow Jackets roster with any game experience. The converted quarterback, caught 47 passes for 500 yards and seven touchdowns in three seasons at UConn, including 22 receptions for 237 yards and six scores in 2018.
Davis is on the official watch list for the 2019 Mackey Award, presented annually to college football's top tight end.
Preview and Prediction:
Clemson has won 27 of its last 34 season openers. Head Coach Dabo Swinney is 9-1 in his career in season opening games with the only loss coming at Georgia to open the 2014 season. A win this week would give Swinney his 10th season-opening victory to pass Danny Ford for the second-most by a head coach in school history.
Even though Swinney spent much of his Monday press conference trying to play-up the challenge that the Yellow Jackets, and their new coaching staff, will present, the fact is there is a reason the Tigers are 37-point favorites.
The Tigers roll their way to 1-0 on the season and turn their eyes toward a top-15 matchup against Texas A&M next week.
Zach Lentz: Clemson 59, Georgia Tech 13
Susan Lloyd: Clemson 56, Georgia Tech 0
Jeremy Styron: Clemson 49, Georgia Tech 10