Georgia vs. Clemson – Pregame Analysis.
- Vegas Spread
The line opened at Georgia +3.5, which means Vegas has picked Clemson to win in a close game, likely decided by a field goal. Though even with the injury news out of Georgia, that line has not really changed. It is currently (8/30/21 @ 8:04 AM) hovering around Georgia +3. If Vegas thought the injuries would seriously affect Georgia, the line would have shifted in the opposite direction. One thing Georgia is blessed with is depth. I am interested to see what the line moves to on game day, as all the final bets are placed.
- Location and Travel
Another thing to consider is the location of the game. The game will be played at a neutral site, Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. The advantage of less travel goes to Clemson. Charlotte also has a large population of Clemson fans, but Georgia fans are known to travel in mass.
- Notable Injury List:
Warren Ericson (C):
The most underrated injury is center Warren Ericson. Currently, he is practicing with the team and may play, but if he doesn’t, the starter will probably be true freshman Sedrick Van Pran. The reality is that Van Pran is a true freshman center, starting for the first time, that start being one of the biggest games of the season, and against one of the best defensive lines in the nation. The center is crucial in literally every single snap.
Tykee Smith (DB)
Smith was the big transfer from West Virginia. He is expected to be the starting STAR linebacker. It is hard to tell how much his absence will affect the Georgia defense because he has never played a snap for the Dawgs. Senior Latavious Brini will likely play this role as the STAR linebacker. He did so against Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl and played well. You can also expect Adam Anderson to play a few snaps at this role since he has done so in the past.
Darnell Washington (TE)
Ohio State repeatedly utilized their TE in the red zone in their 49-28 routing of the tigers in the College Football playoffs last year. TE John Fitzpatrick, who was questionable for the game due to injury, will likely be the starting TE. He may not have the athleticism as Washington, but he is capable and consistent at his position.
Joseph Ngata (WR)
He had a hamstring issue but is back at practice and likely to play. The question surrounding him is will he be at full strength?
JT Daniels (junior) was a 5-star quarterback recruited by the University of Southern California (USC) in the class of 2018. D.J. Uiagalelei (sophomore) was a 5-star quarterback recruited by the University of Clemson in 2020. Both quarterbacks are from the suburbs of Los Angeles.
Georgia has a high-quality QB that reminds me of the days with Matt Stafford. JT Daniels is a pro-style former 5-star recruit who committed to USC. As a true freshman, he threw 14 TDs with ten interceptions and had 2,672 passing yards, but then he tore his ACL in the 2019 season opener and remained out the rest of the season.
Daniels transferred to Georgia in 2020, though did not get to play until he started against Mississippi State. He then started against South Carolina, Missouri, and Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl. He was 4-0 in all the games he started, threw for a total of 1,231 yards, 80 completions on 119 attempts (67.22% overall), and had a 10:2 Td/Interception ratio.
In 2020, D.J. played two games in Trevor Lawrence’s place when Lawrence was Covid positive, Boston College and Norte Dame. He had a 1-1 record.
Both quarterbacks had a small sample size for statistics in 2020. JT Daniels is more experienced due to his True Freshman year at USC before his injury. Due to JT Daniels’ experience, I would have to say that the advantage for QB goes to Georgia.
- Offensive Line
The next thing to look at is the status of the offensive line, one of the most underrated positions in football. In 2020 the O-Line struggled with only Ben Cleveland and Trey Hill being the returning starters. Now that Matt Luke has had the proper amount of time to prepare for the season, and the O-Line is returning three starters, Jamaree Salyer, Warren McClendon, and Warren Ericson – expect a massive improvement.
Georgia has depth also, Xavier Truss(15th OT nationally in 2019 class), Broderick Jones(5Th OT nationally in 2020 class), Amarius Mims(3rd OT nationally in the 2021 class), and at center, Sedrick Van Pran (#1 C prospect Nationally). This is an extremely talented O-Line.
Clemson is fielding an inexperienced line. Clemson ranked 11th in the ACC in rushing yards, though they had a stud Travis Etienne in the backfield. In 2020 Clemson had to replace four starters on the line. This year, they get three starters back but lost Cade Stewart (center) and 2x all ACC Jackson Carman (LT). Dabo Swinney has yet to name a starting center for the game. Again, center plays a crucial and often overlooked role in the offense.
- Running Backs
All Running backs have returned, Zamir White, James Cook, Kenny McIntosh, and Kendall Milton. They also added sophomore Daijun Edwards, who Rivals rated as the #9 RB in the nation in the 2020 class.
This is a highly talented RB unit that is going to be running behind a high-quality offensive line. As a result, the run game will show improvement in yards per carry. Expect to see more successful running plays.
Clemson lost its top RB, Travis Etienne. Senior Lyn-J Dixon returns; he had a decent freshman year in 2018 but has not been utilized lately. Some highly touted recruit’s freshman Will Shipley and Phil Mafah make up the remaining unit. This will be a very inexperienced unit.
Georgia will field more talented running backs than Clemson will.
This is where it starts to get tricky. Georgia lost its #1 receiver George Pickens after an ACL tear this spring. JT Daniels’ top target was George Pickens, who was targeted 24% of the time. Jermaine Burton was the #2 in 2020 (targeted 20%) and will likely be the #1 receiver in 2021. The next receiver on the list, Kearis Jackson, who shined often in 2020 and was targeted on 10% of Daniels’ passes, had to rehab from minor knee surgery in the offseason but should be fully healthy in time for the Clemson game.
Clemson lost their top two receivers to the NFL, Amari Rogers, and Cornell Powell. The receivers returning with experience are Frank Ladson Jr., Justyn Ross, and Joseph Ngata. Frank Ladson Jr. is a returning Junior who struggled with drops in 2020. Justyn Ross is a redshirt Junior who missed all of 2020 with an injury. From 2018 – 2019, he recorded 112 passes, 1,865 yards, and 17 touchdowns. Keep an eye on him. Joseph Ngata was ranked as the 5th best receiver in the nation by Rivals and the 21st best overall player in the country. He had a good freshman year in 2019, but in 2020 he struggled with injuries. He is not at 100% right now, and that is another receiver to keep an eye on.
- Defensive Line
Phil Steele has the Clemson defensive line ranked #1 in the country. Clemson is returning all starters from last season. Bryan Bresee DT, Myles Murphy DE, Tyler Davis DT, and KJ Henry DE. They have a graduate senior, DE Justin Foster, who was unable to play in 2020. He has a decent record in the ACC and was a highly touted recruit.
Many Clemson fans believe that this defensive line will perform as well as the 2018 tigers which helped them finish with the championship and a 15-0 record. 2020 was a step up from the 2019 season, but the Tigers played an all-ACC schedule to be fair. They ranked 5th in the nation in sacks per game (3.8). Against Ohio State, they allowed 5.8 yards per carry, the highest all season. Ohio State beat Clemson by utilizing their running game.
The Dawgs played in an all-SEC schedule. They ranked in the top tier of defenses nationally. They held 8 of 11 opponents under 100 yards rushing. Georgia has experience returning, starters Travon Walker and Jordan Davis, and super seniors Devonte Wyatt and Julian Rochester.
Nakobe Dean, some pundits think he’s the new Roquan Smith. In 2020 he had 71 tackles in 10 games. Nolan Smith, Quay Walker, and Adam Anderson are some big names returning. Channing Tindall, a Sr, had a good season in 2020, it and Georgia fans can expect more from him.
Clemson returns most of their top tacklers in this group. James Skalski, Baylon Spector, and Trenton Simpson. Skalski struggled with keeping up with speedy backs in the middle and Justin Fields in the postseason. Spector had moments in big games where he was out of position. He often blitzed, leaving a gap open. Simpson, a freshman in 2020, is a promising young talent that should have an improved season in 2021.
Clemson will try to beat Georgia by utilizing their wide receivers. It will be up to the S Lewis Cine-led secondary to stop them. He is one of the fastest defensive backs in football. The rest of the secondary is seemingly inexperienced. CB Derion Kendrick, an experienced transfer from Clemson, must defend against his former team. CB Kelee Ringo sat out his freshman season with an injury but has finally returned. Ameer Speed and freshman Jalen Kimber were the starting cornerbacks on G-Day. True freshman four-star recruit Nyland Green may also see some playing time.
Clemson returns more experience in their secondary but with less talent. CB Andrew Booth Jr., S Mario Goodrich, and Malcolm Greene. Georgia has drafted more blue-chip recruits in this area than Clemson over the years, but the talent of the Dawg’s secondary is still mostly raw.
Clemson will have a difficult time stopping Georgia’s talented running backs. The Tigers will use their talented wide receivers against the inexperienced defensive backs of Georgia. Both defenses of Georgia and Clemson are top quality If Georgia can establish the run game and utilize the arm of JT Daniels by making the occasional big passing play downfield, I have no reason to doubt that Georgia can win this game. I don’t think Clemson will be able to run the ball effectively. They would have to rely on throwing the ball on nearly every play. With the heavy pass load, we can expect an interception or two from the Georgia secondary. If Georgia can capitalize on the turnovers, maintain possession, and be successful in the red zone, there is no reason to doubt that Georgia can make a statement.
Dawgs on top.