Capper Predicts Clemson vs. Georgia to Go 'Over' the Total

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 1:24 PM GMT

One of the most intriguing games of the first weekend of college football season is Saturday's ACC vs. SEC showdown between No. 16 Clemson and No. 12 Georgia in Athens. The Bulldogs opened as 7.5-point favorites on NCAA football odds.

Look Familiar?
If this matchup rings a bell that's because the schools opened last season against one another in Death Valley and it was an exciting game with No. 8 Clemson beating No. 5 Georgia 38-35. Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd was a one-man wrecking crew as he threw for 270 yards and three scores while rushing 13 times for 42 yards and two scores. Sammy Watkins caught six balls for 127 yards and a 72-yard touchdown, and Roderick McDowell rushed 22 times for 132 yards. Those three are all gone now. For Georgia, Aaron Murray was 20 of 29 for 323 yards but didn't throw a TD pass. The SEC's all-time leader rusher is now with the Kansas City Chiefs. Todd Gurley rushed 12 times for 154 yards and two scores. He's back and perhaps the nation's top running back. Gurley is 14/1 at sportsbooks to win the 2014 Heisman Trophy.

 

Key Guys Will Be Missing
There are two key injuries and two suspensions of note for this matchup. Clemson's leading returning rusher Zac Brooks (246 yards) was lost for the season last week because of a foot injury. His loss now means that the Tigers are without their leading passer (Boyd), their two leading receivers (Watkins, the No. 4 overall pick by Buffalo, and Martavis Bryant) and their three leading rushers (McDowell, Boyd and Brooks) from last season's team. That's an awful lot of talent to replace, but Clemson has one of the nation's top offensive coordinators in Chad Morris, who will be a head coach sooner rather than later.

The Tigers will also be without two starters, defensive end Corey Crawford and offensive lineman David Beasley, for this game due to suspension. Last season, Crawford had 10.5 tackles for loss and four sacks in 12 starts. His sack total tied William Perry (1981) and Ricky Sapp (2006) for the most by a Clemson true freshman.  Also suspended are right tackle Shaq Anthony, who started three games in 2013, and cornerback Garry Peters, an occasional starter. Peters had four tackles and a team-high two pass breakups in 49 snaps against Georgia last season.  

For the Dawgs, they will be without receiver Malcolm Mitchell, a projected starter. He underwent a cartilage repair in his right knee on Aug. 30. Mitchell missed all of last season an ACL reconstruction.

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New Faces Under Center
Senior Cole Stoudt gets the start as quarterback for Clemson, but he's likely only keeping the seat warm for top freshman recruit Deshaun Watson. Stoudt backed up Boyd each of the past three years. Stoudt put up some gaudy numbers in his limited time in 2013, going 47 of 59 for 415 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. He is  86 of 119 passing for 742 yards and eight touchdowns against one interception in 287 snaps over 22 games in his career.

Replacing Murray for Georgia is senior Hutson Mason. Murray went down with a serious knee injury late last season so Mason got two starts. In a 41-34 double-overtime win over Georgia Tech, Mason completed 22 of 36 passes for 299 yards with two TDs and a pick in leading Georgia back from a 20-0 deficit. Then in the Gator Bowl loss to Nebraska, Mason was 21 of 39 for 320 yards, a TD and an interception. He will be facing what should be one of the nation's best defensive lines even without Crawford. All-American end Vic Beasley is being talked about as a possible No. 1 overall pick in next year's draft. Beasley had 44 tackles, 23 tackles for loss (third nationally), 13 sacks (also third nationally), 12 quarterback pressures, six pass breakups, four forced fumbles and one recovered fumble in 2013. Two of those sacks came against Georgia.

NCAA Football Free Picks: Clemson has won its last four games against SEC teams that aren't South Carolina. That streak ends. However, the Tigers will cover by a half-point. Go 'over' the total of 55 at 5Dimes.

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