So, how much weight should we put on Clemson’s showing in the Chick-fil-A Bowl? I’m skeptical of assigning too much to a good bowl showing – Louisville, I’m looking at you – but there’s no denying that the Tigers have taken a great deal of momentum from their win over LSU into tomorrow’s game.
I watched the game and I took two substantive things from it. First, Chad Morris knows what he’s doing. Clemson only averaged 4.45 yards per play against LSU, its worst mark of the season, but Morris called 100 plays and that paid off, both in accumulating total yardage and, perhaps more importantly, in wearing down the LSU defense. You’d have to think that fatigue played a part in Clemson’s epic fourth quarter comeback. It’s something Grantham has to stay aware of, no doubt. (Although Georgia’s defense held up much better against the other team I saw wear down LSU’s defense last season, Florida.)
Second, I don’t know how you come away from that game without being impressed with Tajh Boyd’s toughness. Sacked five times and running the ball another 24 (Clemson had a total of 50 runs), he got pounded all night by a ferocious LSU defense and lived to tell the tale. He’s not going to wither against the Georgia D, no matter how well that front six or seven play.
That’s on one side. For Georgia, the biggest thing I keep coming back to is the huge advantage the Dawgs enjoy in the running game. The question is how Bobo deploys it. I’ve seen a lot of JUST RUN THE DAMNED BALL talk this week and understand where that’s coming from, but I don’t think it’s wise to ignore where Clemson’s defense is most weak. And that’s the secondary. This is a game made for Bobo’s favorite thing in the universe, balance. Use the running game to keep the defensive backs and linebackers honest so that Murray can pick them apart with ease. Georgia’s offensive balance and efficiency should be Clemson’s biggest nightmare.
I like the way Seth Emerson put it earlier this week. Georgia looks to convert 75% of its drives into scores; for Clemson, it’s more like 60%. The Tigers will look to make up the shortfall by running more plays. It’ll be up to Grantham to spoil their math, likely with the turnover game.
Clemson reminds me of a more talented Ole Miss team. If you remember last year’s meeting, the Rebel Black Bears made a game of it in the first half by being very aggressive with their defensive line play and linebackers. I expect to see a similar effort in the Clemson defensive game plan, hoping to plug the run game and disrupt Murray’s timing with frequent blitzing. How well that works is hard to say. I expect Georgia’s offensive line play has improved from the Ole Miss game. But Clemson has a lot more firepower on offense, more overall depth and more experience in the secondary than Mississippi did.
And don’t get me started on how nervous I am about special teams play.
Bottom line, I expect what most do, a relatively high scoring affair that should be pretty close. I’ll save my game prediction for tomorrow, but in the meantime, let me know what you think.