The biggest matchup of the weekend is the neutral site matchup between No. 3 Clemson and No. 5 Georgia. It's only week one but there are major College Football Playoff implications in this contest.
A win by Clemson means the Bulldogs are in a single-elimination mode the remainder of the season. A win by Georgia could really hurt Clemson's playoff chances due to the fact the ACC doesn't present the Tigers with much of a challenge the rest of the way.
BRYAN DRISKELL, PUBLISHER
Prediction: Clemson 34, Georgia 24
I've been back-and-forth on this game for weeks, but I'm settling in on Clemson winning in somewhat convincing fashion. The Tigers need this game in a big way and they have the better defense, especially up front. Clemson should have one of the best front sevens in college football, if not the very best front seven in the game. That unit will be matched up against a Georgia backfield that could also be the game's best, but is the Georgia offensive line up for the challenge? That's one area where I believe Clemson has an edge.
I'm also not as high on the Georgia secondary and I believe Justyn Ross is going to quickly get back on track. He won't be alone, and Clemson's talented young wideouts are set to emerge and play well for quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei. Of course, that presumes that Clemson's offensive line can hold up, which isn't a given, especially the way the unit played last season.
Georgia quarterback JT Daniels is a talented player and I expect him to have a big year, but he'll be short-handed in this matchup against what I expect to be an improved Clemson secondary. I expect Clemson to be aggressive taking away the Georgia quick game and force Daniels to go down field, which will force the Bulldog line to hold up against what will be a very disruptive front seven.
It will be close early but I see the Tigers pulling away in the second half.
VINCE DEDARIO, FOOTBALL ANALYST
Prediction: Clemson 27, Georgia 21
Who has the better pieces around a new game one starting quarterback? I think that is part of what makes this an intriguing matchup in week one of the college football season. Ultimately though I think it comes down to the defenses. Which defense can stop the opposing offense? Can Georgia finally parlay their recruiting victories into wins on the field? I just do not trust the coaching staff at Georgia. I think Clemson wins with a solid performance from their QB and a great performance from their defense.
GRANT DELVECCHIO, STAFF WRITER
Prediction: Clemson 42, Georgia 35
You might as well flip a coin. Both teams are absolutely loaded on both sides of the ball. I can’t wait to watch.
ANDREW MCDONOUGH, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Georgia 28, Clemson 27
Sometimes, when picking games between evenly matched teams, it comes down to gut feeling – and that is what is behind taking Georgia over Clemson in a classic. If not now for Georgia under head coach Kirby Smart, then when? The Bulldogs return a veteran-laden team led by one of the top QBs in the nation in JT Daniels. Furthermore, the only teams they lost to in 2020 – Alabama and Florida – have first-year starting quarterbacks and are replacing a boatload of talent lost to the NFL. Daniels took over midway through last season, and with him at the helm, the Dawgs averaged 8.3 more PPG than under previous starter Stetson Bennett.
Clemson also lost a ton of talent to the NFL on offense, headlined by first round picks Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne. As has become typical for the Tigers, there are talented players waiting in the wings – though short on experience. QB D.J. Uiagalelei will look to build on his success filling in for Lawrence last season, and WR Justyn Ross returns from a neck injury.
The difference in this game will come down to the ability of Georgia’s defensive line to win the battle against Clemson’s offensive line and prevent the Tigers from establishing the running game. The O-line was a problem last season in Clemson’s two losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State, and those losses showed that Clemson can be beaten when the Tigers become one-dimensional and are forced to rely only on the pass – even when putting up gaudy passing numbers.
With Uiagalelei not presenting the rushing threat that Lawrence did either, the Dawgs can pin their ears back. In the end, Clemson will have to settle for one too many field goals in the red zone as the Georgia defense, led by preseason 2nd team All-American Jordan Davis on the defensive line, makes just enough stops to hang on. Georgia will stake its claim as the team to beat in the SEC.
JP SCOTT, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Clemson 37, Georgia 27
This one comes down to trust for me -- program trust. I trust Clemson to put a quality, championship caliber program on the field every season, regardless of who they lose to the draft and graduation. On the flip side, I trust Georgia as the annual "this is our year!" team, only to fall flat on their faces repeatedly. Until I have evidence of otherwise on both sides, I like Clemson.
RYAN ROBERTS, RISENDRAFT
Prediction: Clemson 31, Georgia 20
Georgia enters the season with a ton of hype, returning quarterback JT Daniels and a group of talented playmakers who ended the season on a high note. Their defense always has dudes, presenting an interesting challenge to the Clemson Tigers. This also might be the right time to watch Clemson.
The turnover of a player like Trevor Lawrence would be too much for most programs to handle. When you have a player like rising sophomore DJ Uiagalelei taking over, already with some live game reps, that worry is mediated. Although a somewhat young roster, Clemson continues to reload not rebuild. Death Valley is rocking in prime time and Clemson starts with a huge home victory.
SHAUN DAVIS, ESPN CHICAGO
Prediction: Clemson 31, Georgia 28
his game comes down to the signal callers and who you trust the most. Both teams sport stingy defenses, and the running games might be in neutral all night. Which receiving corp makes the most big plays? Both units have the talent to take over.
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