Georgia Bulldogs: Clemson Tigers
The 6-foot-2, 204-pound 2015 Under Armour All-America Game selection has brought coaches from several big-time programs in the region to small town Montezuma in the last couple weeks, including Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze.
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LB Williams: Law and order equals '98 percent'
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SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- The Carolinas consistently have proved to be one of the top areas in the nation to find gridiron talent. These two states in recent years have produced players like current Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green, South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall player in the 2011 class, and Georgia RB Todd Gurley. For the 2014 class, 22 players from these two states are represented in the ESPN 300, and several of them are taking part in the annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas here this week.
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Clemson, however, has been known to go out-of-state and land top receiver prospects such as Sammy Watkins. The Tigers might have lost out on Malone, but it’s not like they were left empty-handed.
Clemson already has commitments from ESPN 300 wide receivers Artavis Scott (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) and Demarre Kitt (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek), as well as Kyrin Priester (Snellville, Ga/Fork Union Military Academy).
The Tigers are also targeting another ESPN 300 prospect Trevion Thompson (Durham, N.C./Hillside) and they are considered, by many, to be the favorite for the talented pass-catcher.
In addition to Clemson, Malone was also heavily considering Georgia and Florida State before narrowing down his choices to Clemson and Tennessee late in the process.
For Georgia, the Bulldogs already have commitments from Shakenneth Williams (Macon, Ga./Rutland) and Gilbert Johnson (Homestead, Fla./Homestead) and they are limited on scholarships. Unless something changes on its recruiting board, Georgia might not take another receiver in this class.
Florida State, meanwhile, is still in heavy contention for ESPN 300 wide receiver Travis Rudolph (West Palm Beach, Fla./Cardinal Newman) and Florida commit Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead). If FSU continues to have success on the field and happens to win the national championship, the Seminoles will likely see new names appear on their board.
Will Rocky Top be home sweet home?
Four-star receiver Josh Malone, the nation’s No. 48 player out of Gallatin (Tenn.) Station Camp, has already signed financial aid agreements with Tennessee, Georgia, Clemson and Florida State, but he will announce his decision at noon ET Wednesday on NBC Sports Network. The RecruitingNation Hot Board has Malone projected to select Tennessee. The Volunteers were smart and were the first to use the signing of the financial aid paperwork as a tool in the recruiting process. Because he was technically “signed” UT coaches were able to have regular contact with him. Shortly after, the three other schools followed suit.
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CL: Andrea, you know I love you, but the ACC sweeping the SEC? In football? There's a better chance of soccer supplanting football as the sport of choice in the SEC. Let me start, though, by saying Florida State is legit, perhaps the most talented roster I've seen from top to bottom this season in college football. So you'll get no argument from me about the Seminoles. But since you asked about Clemson and South Carolina, that's a tough one to call. The Gamecocks have been tough to figure this season. Here they are with nine wins and a chance to win 10 in the regular season for a third straight year, and it's true they have some quality wins. But they've also sort of played just well enough to win at times. That's not going to cut it against Clemson. The Gamecocks should be healthy, including Clowney and Mike Davis. Backup running back Brandon Wilds also looks like he's ready to go, which will give even more punch to South Carolina's running game. At the end of the day, I'm not sure Clemson will be able to block South Carolina's front or stop the Gamecocks' running game. And there's just something about the Head Ball Coach in these kind of rivalry games. Gotta see it to believe it before I pick Clemson again in this game. I've learned my lesson after picking the Tigers the last few years.
CL: More than anything, there's a profound sadness around that Georgia program that Murray won't be able to finish his senior season. He has meant so much to the Bulldogs both on and off the field and has been a rock this season through all the adversity. It just doesn't seem fair. You're right, though. Murray is one of those players you can't just all of a sudden replace. But the good news for Georgia is that Todd Gurley appears to be healthier, and I think the whole team will be eager to go out and get this done for Murray. A bigger question for me is how Georgia will fare defensively against Georgia Tech's option offense, although the Bulldogs have been better against the run than the pass this season. They're third in the SEC in rushing defense.
AA: Another great point. As for the actual picks in the game, our colleague, Heather Dinich, predicted an ACC sweep. I did not go that far, but I did pick two close games in the Clemson-South Carolina and Georgia-Georgia Tech games. So did you. If the games are indeed as close as anticipated, well, anything can happen.
Georgia is down. Florida is out. And South Carolina is beatable.
Every season, pressure is on the ACC -- and every other BCS conference -- to close the gap with the SEC. The difference between the ACC and the rest of the college football world, though, is that the SEC’s shadow overlaps with ACC country like no other, and nobody lines up against the nation’s best conference more than the ACC. The comparisons are inevitable not only because of the close proximity and the shared recruiting turf, but also because of the built-in rivalries that highlight every November.
The difference this year is that not only can the ACC win these games, but it should be expected to.
Georgia, which dropped out of the rankings in Week 9, has lost starting quarterback Aaron Murray for the rest of the season with a torn ACL -- a devastating blow to a team already riddled with injuries. The senior injured his left knee in Saturday’s 59-17 win against Kentucky. For the first time since 2009, the Bulldogs will line up with a different quarterback under center. Hutson Mason, who redshirted last year, will face a much-improved Georgia Tech defense. The Jackets have won four of their past five games, the lone loss coming to Clemson. The bigger issue in Atlanta, though, has been the lopsided results in the series. Last season's 42-10 drubbing in Athens was the 11th time in 12 years that Georgia had won. The exception was in 2008, Paul Johnson’s first season, when Georgia Tech pulled off a stunning 45-42 upset of No. 11-ranked Georgia.
This season, it wouldn’t be so stunning. And it wouldn’t exactly be an upset. In fact, of the ranked teams playing this week, the ACC has the upper hand.
For both No. 6 Clemson and No. 2 Florida State, BCS bowls are at stake, though many would agree that Clemson could actually afford to lose to South Carolina and still be a top pick for the Discover Orange Bowl. Those within the program, though, would obviously prefer not to lose to the Gamecocks for a fifth straight time. That losing streak, coupled with the fact that it is senior quarterback Tajh Boyd’s final shot at beating his rival, are distinct motivating factors. For the Seminoles, a win against the Gators would get them one step closer to playing for the national title.
Florida, though, is a mere formality.
The Gators were just embarrassed royally at home in a 26-20 loss to Georgia Southern, Florida’s first loss to an FCS program. It was the worst loss in school history, and a new low for coach Will Muschamp, whose job security is hanging by a thread. Florida, which is in the midst of its first losing season since 1979, will face a Florida State team that has outscored its past three opponents 198-20.
The tables have turned for those rivals.
They could turn for the entire ACC this weekend, too.
“I just want to say thank you to everybody who came out today,” McMillan said. “Thank you to my mom, my parents, my coaching staff, the staff at this school, every one of my classmates, everyone at Liberty County high school for supporting me; and I would also like to thank God.”
Liberty County coach Kirk Warner says his star linebacker is a great player and a great person.
“I just can’t say enough about what it’s meant to me to coach this young man. Whoever gets him on that dotted line is going to not only get a great football player, but a great person.”
On Jan. 2, McMillan says he will be living out a dream he has had since junior high.
“Ever since I was a freshman, even in middle school, I’ve dreamed about playing in the Under Armour All-America Game. I was offered by both [major all-star games], but it was hands down that I was going to take the Under Armour All-America Game. I am looking forward to competing against some of the best guys in the nation that I've been going to camps with over the last three or four years, and being coached by some of the best coaches in America. It's a great honor to be invited to the Under Armour All-America Game. Some of the best football players in the nation played in the Under Armour All-America Game, and it's just a blessing and an honor to be able to play in it, too."
The 6-foot-2, 242-pound McMillan is the No. 12 prospect in the ESPN 300 and the No. 1 inside linebacker in the class. He is considering Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Florida.
With a mid-December decision a strong possibility, the Under Armour All-American sat down to talk about his recruitment from start to finish.
20. Is there a coach or school you aren’t considering that really impressed you during the process?
You know, Auburn. Coach [Gus] Malzahn and Coach Ellis Johnson, Auburn has a great staff. I visited them one time with some of my teammates, but it wasn’t the school for me. They are an awesome staff. When my teammates went with me for the visit, they showed my teammates as much love as me, and I liked that.
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2. Yes, the ACC Atlantic showdown between No. 3 Clemson and No. 6 Florida State is a week away. But given the upgrade of play in the league, I wondered when the last time two ACC top-10 teams played one another. You have to go all the way back to ... last season, when the Seminoles beat the Tigers, 49-37. Prior to that, however, the last ACC top-10 game was six years ago, that great Thursday night game when No. 2 Boston College and Matt Ryan came back to beat No. 8 Virginia Tech, 14-10.
3. BC is showing signs of a renaissance under new head coach Steve Addazio. The Eagles, 3-2, already have surpassed last season's win total (2-10) as they prepare to play at No. 3 Clemson on Saturday. The Eagles are more physical at the line of scrimmage, and they are taking better care of the ball. Last season, they lost 11 fumbles in 12 games. This season, they are tied for the FBS lead with one lost fumble. Overall, BC is plus-four in turnovers after being minus-five last season.
@LisaHorne: If UGA loses again this week, will it affect their recruiting?
Derek Tyson: If history is any indication, then no, it should not make much of a difference in recruiting. Remember, Georgia started off 0-2 in the 2011 yet finished with the No. 5-ranked recruiting class including stud running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Head coach Mark Richt has recruited at a very high level and has Georgia in a place to compete for conference and national championships just about every year. His job is not in jeopardy and recruits believe in what he and his staff are trying to accomplish. Starting the season off with two top-10 opponents is no easy task for any team, and I would be shocked if Georgia isn't in the hunt for the SEC East title come November. Georgia will be just fine in recruiting.
@Time2Strive: No LSU in Gerald Willis III & Speedy Noil top 3. Is UF the team to beat?
DT: I'll admit, I was just as shocked as everyone else to see LSU not in the top three for New Orleans Edna Karr teammates Speedy Noil and Gerald Willis III. Though I wouldn't completely count out the Tigers, it looks as if Florida, Texas A&M and USC are the teams to beat. Florida will have the first crack to impress the two Under Armour All-Americans, as they are both set to officially visit the Gators when UF hosts Tennessee on Sept. 21. At this point, I believe this will be a Florida-Texas A&M battle. Rarely do "package deals" work out, but in this case, the two seem set on playing together in college.
@kylelambsports: How much do Alabama's chances increase for Leonard Fournette and Hootie Jones with the commitment from Cameron Robinson?
Gerry Hamilton: I’m not sure Robinson picking Alabama helps with Leonard Fournette (New Orleans, La./St. Augustine). Their decisions will be separate, and Fournette has a long way to go in the process with his recruitment having even more importance now for LSU after Robinson picked the Crimson Tide. When looking at Laurence Jones (Monroe, La./Neville High), he’s on I-20, where Alabama has made its run in the Pelican State in this class. Obviously, Jones knows Robinson and Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita High), but he’s not as close as Robinson and Sims. It certainly doesn’t hurt Alabama’s chances with Jones, but I don’t believe it will sway his decision one way or another. Both players will very likely come down to LSU and Alabama, as has been expected.
@AshevilleLaw: What effect does Clemson's win have on recruits balancing CU-GA decision?
GH: I believe the Clemson win and showcasing of an electric atmosphere will resonate more with the 2015 class than 2014. When looking at the 2015 class, and especially in the Atlanta area, the Clemson staff being able to walk into high schools having beaten LSU and Georgia is suddenly a different and stronger message than a year ago. It will also be even easier to get top prospects to make unofficial visits -- not that the Tigers have struggled in that area. That’s not to take away from the positive reviews by David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence School) and Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County High), but the win will almost certainly have a lasting impact on 2015 if the Tigers go on to have a BCS bowl game-type of season. Beating SEC powers changes the message of the staff on the trail, and that is very key when battling SEC programs in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida for top prospects.
“I can’t wait to see him,” whispered Tyler Englehart, an awestruck freshman, to nobody in particular.
“Tajh is our Superman,” running back Roderick McDowell said.
“Tajh is the best football player on this team, in this conference, in the nation,” added defensive end Corey Crawford.
Perhaps the most awestruck fans of Boyd are the ones who practice with him every day.
Clemson’s win over Georgia legitimized the Tigers as a national title contender, and further boosted Boyd’s résumé as a Heisman hopeful. He finished with 312 yards of total offense, a school record for a season opener, and now has 22 wins as a starter -- tied for fourth most in school history. For just the third time in his career, Boyd finished with multiple rushing touchdowns. He also helped deliver one of the biggest wins in school history on the biggest stage.
“His leadership and how he brought us together at the end of the game, we thrived off him,” wide receiver Sammy Watkins said. “With him getting first downs, and him getting the ball out of his hands on the edge, and us blocking, he made us good tonight.”
That’s exactly why Boyd came back, instead of leaving early for the NFL.
He came back to run down The Hill before what was the largest, most raucous home crowd he had ever seen.
He came back to experience the “surreal” moment of walking through a horde of fans in the team’s pregame “Tiger Walk.”
He came back to compete for a national title.
“He’s a baller,” offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “There’s no question about what Tajh Boyd means to this program, to this university and to college football. To go against the opponents he’s gone against the last two games and two control the games in a manner in which he did, it says a lot about him.”
Neither team’s defense played particularly well early in the game, and Clemson was outgained in total yardage, but Boyd made more clutch plays and was able to stay on his feet while Georgia’s Aaron Murray was sacked four times. This game was billed as featuring two of the best quarterbacks in the country. It did, but Murray had a fumble and an interception, both in the second quarter. His critics will likely continue to point to his 3-11 record against teams that have finished in the Associated Press Top 25.
Meanwhile, Boyd has now led Clemson to back-to-back wins against SEC teams.
“He played like a veteran quarterback is supposed to play,” Morris said. “We had a couple of drops tonight, and they very well could have led to some more scores. He never rattled, he never shoot, and his ability to run the football tonight made us successful.”
Boyd’s 4-yard touchdown run in the first quarter gave Clemson the early 7-0 lead, and his 77-yard pass later in the quarter to Watkins put the Tigers up 14-7. Boyd always seemed to find an answer in what was a thrilling, electric, back-and-forth game that lived up to every bit of the hype. In the third quarter, he found Zac Brooks for a 31-yard touchdown pass, and threw the game winner to Stanton Seckinger in the fourth quarter.
“I think it turned a lot of heads in the college football world,” Boyd said of the win. “It was a very monumental win for the university and program and conference in general. All that good stuff is great, but we have to keep working to keep and keep our eyes on the prize. This is only the opener. We have 11 games left. We have to continue to keep working.”
Clemson fans had to wait to see Boyd in the Tiger Walk, but he didn’t waste any time making his statement against Georgia.
CLEMSON, S.C. -- Although it’s easy to point to a botched field goal try as the difference in No. 5 Georgia’s 38-35 loss to No. 8 Clemson on Saturday, the Bulldogs know there was more to it than that.
“I thought we did some good things and we did some things to get you beat,” said Georgia coach Mark Richt, whose team has no time to lick its wounds with a game against No. 6 South Carolina on tap next Saturday. “We’ll find out how good we are next week.”
There were penalties from the Bulldogs on Saturday. One of the nation’s most-penalized teams over the last several years, Georgia had nine for 84 lost yards against Clemson -- including two costly infractions in the fourth quarter that short-circuited the Bulldogs’ comeback attempt.
There were two turnovers by quarterback Aaron Murray -- a fumble and an interception -- in the second quarter that took the wind out of the Georgia offense’s sails after accounting for 218 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter alone.
And there was a simple lack of execution at some crucial junctures that altered a game the Bulldogs certainly could have won.
“We did a lot of good things tonight, but there were a lot of things that we didn’t do so well -- some first-game mistakes and they ended up costing us there in the game,” said Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, whose team accumulated 545 yards of total offense, but surrendered four sacks and two turnovers. “But I just told the guys we ran out of time there at the end and it hurts, but we’ve got to look at the tape, we’ve got to correct and we’ve got to get better.”
The sequence that led to the botched field goal was particularly costly. Georgia earned first-and-goal at the Clemson 5 after a 35-yard completion to Chris Conley late in the third quarter. The Bulldogs then ran three straight running plays -- a 2-yard run by Keith Marshall, a 1-yard run by Todd Gurley and a third-down dive for no gain by Quayvon Hicks -- before settling for a 20-yard field goal try by Patrick Beless that would have tied the score at 31-all.
One problem: On his first field goal snap of the season, new snapper Nathan Theus shot the ball high to holder Adam Erickson, who was unable to corral the snap and was forced to fall on it for a 6-yard loss.
That was an enormous letdown after Georgia had battled its way back into the game and failed to gain the equalizer.
“Momentum is a big thing and that was huge momentum for us, a big boost for our guys,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “That turned out to be one of the deciding plays of the game, obviously.”
As were the plays that immediately preceded it, since they could have given Georgia its first lead since Hicks’ 1-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.
“We had to get points in the red zone coming in and we wanted touchdowns and we weren’t able to do it right there,” Bobo said. “We ran the ball down there and I wanted to keep running it and I’ve got to look at the tape. We just didn’t execute what we had called and unfortunately we didn’t get the three points. That happens. We still had a chance to win after that, so we had our opportunities and just penalties killed us there on the next couple of drives.”
Even after the field goal mistake, Georgia’s defense forced a Clemson three-and-out, with a punt giving Georgia possession at its 43 early in the fourth quarter. The Bulldgos were quickly flagged for a devastating 15-yard penalty for chop blocking, however, and ended up punting.
Clemson scored on the next drive to go up 38-28 midway through the quarter, making a holding penalty that nullified a 14-yard Gurley run on the Dawgs’ ensuing drive even more costly, as another Georgia punt there nearly put the game out of reach.
The Bulldogs drove for a quick touchdown late in the fourth quarter, but when they failed to recover an onside kick and had already used all of their timeouts, Clemson was able to run out the clock and walk away victorious.
“We killed ourselves with penalties tonight,” Murray said. “It’s tough to convert third-and-long. Penalties are a big reason why we lost tonight.”
With the loss, Georgia finds itself in a fairly familiar position, which might have been why there seemed to be little panic within the Bulldog contingent during postgame interviews.
The Bulldogs dropped their first two games of 2011, including their SEC opener against South Carolina, and finished the regular season with a 10-game winning streak. They took a 35-7 pounding last season at South Carolina and once again won out.
Both times they earned a spot in the SEC championship game by claiming the Eastern Division title. And next Saturday will still play a major role in whether they can return to Atlanta for a third straight season, regardless of what happened against Clemson.
“I don’t see anybody in there ready to jump off a bridge or anything,” Richt said. “I think they all know that happens in football if you play a really good football team and you get beat. And if you do, then you move on and you continue to play well and you get better and you make corrections. We’re still learning a lot about this team.”
It was over when: Facing third-and-goal from Georgia’s 9-yard line, Stanton Seckinger caught a touchdown pass to put Clemson up 38-28 with 7:40 to play. The Tigers drove 87 yards in 12 plays -- none bigger than a highlight-reel 36-yard run by Roderick McDowell to Georgia’s 6 -- on the game-clinching drive.
Game ball goes to: Clemson’s defensive front. Although Georgia gained 545 yards, Clemson’s front made huge plays after the Bulldogs built early momentum. In particular, Stephone Anthony forced an Aaron Murray fumble at Georgia’s 20, leading to a touchdown, and Corey Crawford halted Georgia’s next drive with an interception at Clemson’s 17.
Stat of the game: 1,012. Clemson-Georgia was billed as a meeting of explosive offenses and they didn’t disappoint. They combined for 73 points and 1,012 yards (467 by Clemson and 545 by Georgia).
Best call: Georgia was in jeopardy of letting Clemson run away with the game in the third quarter when the Bulldogs faked a punt on fourth-and-1 from their own 34. Collin Barber's 5-yard run kept the drive alive and Todd Gurley later tied it at 28 with a tackle-breaking 12-yard touchdown run.
What it means for Clemson: Clemson keeps its BCS championship hopes alive with a résumé-building win against one of the nation’s top programs of 2012.
What it means for Georgia: The Bulldogs don’t have long to regroup. Georgia will host South Carolina -- which hammed the Bulldogs 35-7 last year -- next Saturday.
Recruit Comparison: Murray to Allen
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
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Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
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Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35