Clemson and Georgia did themselves no scheduling favors this season.
The two teams open the season against one another Saturday in a top-five matchup, something that’s only been done a handful of times before. While both squads are talented, ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit believes the victor will be determined by the offseason work and preseason practices.
“Any time you get two powerhouses together like that without a game or two to warm up before meeting, who’s done a better job in August of hitting each other and going through camp in a very physical way is probably the team that’ll come out here with a win,” he said this week. “If you’ve not done a good job of scrimmaging and getting that tempo and that speed in practice, then you’re going to be caught on national TV.”
Out of everyone, Herbstreit believes Bulldogs quarterback J.T. Daniels will take a big stride in his progress for that reason. The Southern California native will have had a full offseason under offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Todd Monken, who’s only in his second year with the program. At the same time, Daniels will face a daunting task of hoping his offensive line can block well enough for him to keep away Clemson’s imposing defensive line.
The same can be said for Tigers quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei and what he’ll face.
“As far as Georgia’s defense, what they do is they’ve got to be themselves, which is tough to run on,” said Herbstreit, who can’t provide a game prediction because he’s calling the game on ABC. “Always one of the toughest teams to run on in the country. If that plays out in this game and you make Clemson one-dimensional, that’s a huge advantage for Georgia’s defense.”
The key for the two quarterbacks, though, will be to “avoid the disastrous play” — things like trying to force a play and throwing an interception. Whoever has the best line and quarterback play will be in the better position to win, he said.
“I’m just hoping and praying that it’s a last-second field goal that decides it,” Herbstreit said. “When you call the game, that’s what you cheer for, a game that goes down to the last 30 seconds and hopefully, it’s a really competitive game.”