ATHENS, Ga. -- Never mind that No. 5 Georgia must play its first game in nine months against No. 8 Clemson -- marking the first time in program history that the Bulldogs and their opening opponent have both been ranked in the top 10.
The Bulldogs must face that caliber of opponent at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium, home of one of the noisiest and most electric atmospheres in college football, before a national primetime TV audience.
After the Tigers rub Howard’s Rock and run down the hill into Death Valley -- which ABC announcer Brent Musburger dubbed “the most exciting 25 seconds in college football” -- the Bulldogs will have to contend with a fired-up, historic rival that is playing its biggest home game in years.
Blocking out all that is occurring on the periphery is an essential element in performing adequately on the field, Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said.
“[You] focus on your job and not get caught up in the surroundings and the hype of [being] on the road or the big game or big environment. It’s tough,” Bobo said. “The beginning of the season is always exciting no matter who you play, and then you add an opponent that has the same talent you do and is capable of beating you any Saturday. You have to do the little things and execute -- and that’s what it comes down to is executing, no matter how excited and how fired up you are.”
Making matters more difficult is that these are completely different teams from the ones that last took the field to complete the 2012 season -- Georgia against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl and Clemson against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Sure, watching film of those games is valuable in learning about personnel and tendencies, but the teams’ respective coaching staffs have had an entire offseason to tinker and adjust to new personnel.
“We know what talent they have and what they have coming back. But how are they going to use that talent?” Georgia tight end Arthur Lynch said. “Everyone switches things up.”
That’s where the Bulldogs hope their experience in key spots -- particularly with fifth-year quarterback Aaron Murray -- will come in handy. By now, the eldest Bulldogs have been in nearly every situation imaginable, which should help them adapt even to their potentially intimidating surroundings on Saturday night.
“On defense, you play with a little more emotion and play fast and play hard. On offense, you’ve got to be able to execute and handle those situations and sometimes experience is the only thing that can help you do that,” said Bobo, whose team is 10-2 in season openers since he joined the staff. “In years past, I think we’ve had some experience. I think we’ve had some good quarterback play that’s helped calm the situation, and this year we’ve got that and we’ve got an experienced quarterback, too, that I expect to play well.”