Two playoff hopefuls in 2021 will meet up in week one when the Georgia Bulldogs square off with the Clemson Tigers at Bank of America Stadium. Georgia won their last four games of the year, including a win in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl over Cincinnatti to finish 8-2 and a 7th place finish in the AP Poll. Clemson made the playoff for sixth straight season but was upset in the semifinals by Ohio State, they finished 10-2 and third in the AP Poll after avenging their only regular season in the ACC Championship.
Clemson will have a new quarterback under center for the first time since Trevor Lawrence was selected first overall in the NFL Draft; the heir to the throne will be true sophomore DJ Uigaleli. Uiagaleli started two games last season when Trevor Lawrence tested positive for COVID, he threw for 439 yards in a loss to Notre Dame and finished the year with 914 yards, completing 66.7% of his passes. He’s a physical force at 250 pounds and has all the tools, but is clearly less experienced and likely talented than Lawrence.
Georgia was a classic Georgia team under Kirby Smart, at least thus far in his tenure. The defense was among the best in the country but the offense struggled, especially after injuries to transfers Jamie Newman and JT Daniels. Daniels eventually took over the starting role, and impressed, throwing for 1,241 yards and 10 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions in four starts. Daniels is a five-star recruit and figures to be a big step in the right direction for Georiga.
Georgia returns eight starters on the offensive end but just five on the defensive end, however, with how talented the defense has been in the six years under Kirby Smart. They finished last season twelfth in the nation in total offense and finished second in the SEC in total defense, they lost just one linebacker and a first-team All-American at safety but I expect the defense will reload.
Clemson will return nine starters on the defensive end and even with the turnover at quarterback and on offense, is the overwhelming favorite to repeat in the ACC. Brent Venables is one of the best defensive coordinators in the country, and has continued to turn down head coaching offers to stay put and lead the Clemson defense. The Tigers led the ACC in total defense allowing 326.8 yards per game and second in scoring defense allowing 20.2 points per game in 2020.