NCAAF Picks: Week 1 Preview, Clemson Tigers vs. Georgia Bulldogs

Jeff Grant

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 1:34 PM GMT

The Clemson Tigers lose a lot of talent on the offensive end, but their defense will keep things close against the Georgia Bulldogs in their season opener next month. Let’s take a closer look at the college football odds for this ACC/SEC matchup at Sanford Stadium in Athens, GA, with the opening kickoff scheduled for 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Some question marks
Clemson is 2-5 SU when starting a season away from home since 1970, while it must replace a 3,000-yard passer, 1,400-yard receiver and 1,000-yard rusher, but it does welcome back 12 starters.

The Tigers also have 19 senior scholarship players on their roster, which happens to be the highest such number since Dabo Swinney took over the program seven years ago.

College football handicappers will keep a close eye on the quarterback competition on campus, as senior Cole Stoudt is expected to earn the starting spot, but many believe that freshman Deshaun Watson will make a run at the position.


Revenge
Georgia is getting ready to avenge a 38-35 loss to Clemson as 1.5-point road favorites last season, as it won the statistical battle by a 545-467 margin, but that was with the Southeastern Conference’s all-time passing leader in tow.

The Bulldogs will begin life without four-year starter Aaron Murray, who was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2014 NFL draft—finishing his career with 13,166 passing yards and 121 touchdowns in Athens.

Senior signal-caller Hutson Mason will take over the reigns offensively, as the program attempts to improve its record to 17-1 SU in its last 18 home openers.


Getting after it defensively
The Tigers must be respected when looking over the college football odds page, considering they led the country with 122 tackles for loss a season ago, with 96.5 percent of that production returning.

There are 12 returning ACC players who had at least 10 tackles for loss in 2013, and five of those are suiting up at Clemson this year.  

All-American Vic Beasley is the main player to handicap in this matchup, considering he was tied for third in sacks per game along with tying for 10th in caused fumbles.


A leaky stop unit
Mark Richt is definitely on a bit of a hot seat entering his 14th year as the head coach at Georgia, considering the defense allowed an average of 29 points per game in 2013—the second-highest figure in school history in that all-important statistical category.

The Bulldogs welcome back eight starters on that side of the ball, including their top two tacklers in Ramik Wilson (133) and Amarlo Herrera (112).


Prediction
I’m going to recommend that readers back the Tigers as one of their Week 1 college football picks, as they’ve won six games against SEC opponents during the Swinney era, while the Bulldogs are a disappointing 5-8 ATS as home favorites since 2012.
Pick:  Clemson Tigers +9.5

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