Scouting report: Clemson at Georgia
Leading up to this week’s season openers, Saturday Down South’s Brad Crawford breaks down scouting reports for the SEC’s out-of-conference opponents and what makes them click:
- Boise State vs. Ole Miss (Atlanta, Thursday), 8 p.m., ESPN; Temple at Vanderbilt, 9:15 p.m., SEC Network
- UT Martin at Kentucky (Saturday), Noon, SEC Network
- TODAY: South Dakota State at Mizzou (Saturday), 3:30 p.m., SEC Network; West Virginia vs. Alabama (Atlanta, Saturday), 3:30 p.m., ABC
- THURSDAY: Idaho at Florida (Saturday), 7 p.m., ESPNU; Southern Miss at Mississippi St. (Saturday), 7:30 p.m., SEC Network
- FRIDAY: LSU vs. Wisconsin (Houston, Saturday), 9 p.m., ESPN; Utah State at Tennessee (Sunday), 7 p.m., SEC Network
Opens Saturday at Georgia (5:30 p.m. ET; ESPN)
THE SKINNY: Dabo Swinney’s Tigers have posted consecutive 11-win seasons but this year’s group will be performing for the first time in three years without quarterback Tajh Boyd and electrifying wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Same car, new paint as play-caller Chad Morris doesn’t expect much drop-off in his no huddle attack with senior Cole Stoudt at the helm.
KEY PLAYER: Georgia must account for Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley, one of college football’s most talented pass rushers and probable Top 10 draft pick next season. Beasley’s decision to return for his senior season was the best news the Tigers and defensive coordinator Brent Venables received the entire offseason and assures Clemson that it will have one of the ACC’s top units. Beasley’s 21 career sacks is the most among active players in the conference.
WHAT TO WATCH: If there’s one weakness the Bulldogs have coming into Saturday’s opener it’s an unproven secondary. Damian Swann’s the only returning starter at the back end for first-year coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, a unit that’s sure to be tested by the pass-heavy Tigers who are without their two leading rushers from last season. Stoudt completed passes at a nearly 80 percent clip in mop-up duty for Clemson as a junior, tops in the nation among quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts.
FINAL SAY: Last season’s opener was a classic and don’t expect the 2014 installment to be any different. Both teams may be breaking in new quarterbacks, but there’s talent at nearly every position in one of the most hyped matchups of opening weekend. Will Clemson contain Todd Gurley? Can the Tigers take advantage of an inexperienced secondary? The fact this one’s between the hedges gives the Bulldogs the edge.