No. 16 Clemson and No. 12 Georgia will square off in a Week 1 SEC vs. ACC matchup that has both, the potential to be one of the best games on the entire opening slate of matchups – and one of the most profitable pairings. Click here for more college football betting.
— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) August 28, 2014
While both teams have hopes of reaching the brand new, four-team playoff that will ultimately decide who the 2015 national champion is, one team will see its postseason playoff hopes vanquished with a loss in this contest.
Let’s take a look at this intriguing affair before I offer up my expert pick on which team will walk away from this contest as the winner, both, straight-up (SU) and against-the-spread (ATS).
Georgia vs. Clemson Saturday @ 5:30 p.m. Sanford Stadium Gates Open – 4 p.m. BE EARLY, BE LOUD, WEAR RED! pic.twitter.com/HqzQZpzGz1
— Georgia Bulldogs (@UGAAthletics) August 28, 2014
College Football Week 1 Free Picks No. 16 Clemson at No. 12 Georgia
Clemson (11-2 SU, 7-6 ATS) closed out its 2013 campaign by winning five of their last six games, including their thrilling 40-35 win over Ohio State in the 2014 Orange Bowl. The Tigers also finished the season on a solid, 3-1 ATS roll that included their bowl game win as a 2.5-point underdog.
Clemson returns a dozen starters this season with seven of those on offense. Unfortunately, the Tigers will have a new starting quarterback this season in senior Cole Stoudt after losing former starter Tahj Boyd to the NFL Draft.
The Tigers also have a new starting running back in D.J. Howard, though they could go with a running back by committee approach at least until one back separates himself from the pack.
Georgia (8-5 SU, 3-8-2 ATS) returns 15 starters with 10 of them playing on the defensive side of the ball, but they will also have a new starting quarterback senor Hutson Mason.
Head coach Mark Richt however said he believes his new starter will do fine because of his experience.
"Hutson has been in our system obviously going into his fifth-year. But there’s been no change in our system,” Richt told reporters recently. “I think we’ll transition well."
The good news for the Bulldogs is the fact that they have one of the nation’s best running back in junior Todd Gurley. While Gurley rushed for fewer yards last season than he did in 2012, the elusive back still managed to average 6.0 yards per carry. Georgia closed out its 2013 campaign by dropping two of their last four games, including a 24-19 loss to Nebraska in the 2014 Gator Bowl. The Bulldogs failed to cover the spread as an 8.5-point favorite to fall to a pitiful 2-7 ATS over its last nine games.
Clemson senior defensive tackle Jarrett recently told reporters, "As far as anybody overpowering us and just running down our throats, that’s not happening."
Georgia lost three starters along the offensive line and will be without former contributors Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews after both were dismissed from the program due to behavioral issues
In last year’s matchup of these longtime rivals, Clemson managed to snap a five-game losing streak against the Bulldogs by beating them 38-35 at home to cash in as 1.5-point home dogs.
The last time Georgia lost at home to Clemson was way back in 1986 so I’m not expecting the Tigers to pull off the road upset in this contest – and with three of the last four meeting being decided by three points or less, I believe Clemson will find a way to cover the spread.
Besides, the Bulldogs are just 1-4-1 ATS in their last six home games and 1-4 ATS in their last five games against non-conference opponents.