No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 5 Georgia
Line: Clemson -3
Where: Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
When: Saturday, 9/4 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Thursday’s college football slate gave fans and bettors a taste of what is to come this weekend.
The game everyone is looking forward to takes place on Saturday night in Charlotte at Bank of America Stadium, where No. 3 Clemson will face No. 5 Georgia in the Duke’s Mayo Classic. This is going to be the first meeting between these teams since 2014.
Oddsmakers opened Clemson as a 3.5-point favorite earlier this summer, eventually getting as high as -4.5. There has been action on Georgia since then, pushing the line down to -3. Saturday night’s total came out at 52.5 and has since been shifted to 50.5.
The Tigers are coming off a 10-2 season that ended in a 49-28 loss to Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinals. Dabo Swinney’s group is the only team in the country to make the playoff each of the last six seasons.
Swinney is facing a new challenge this year, as he is replacing quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne. Second-year freshman D.J. Uiagalelei is taking over for Lawrence as the signal caller.
He made two starts last season when Lawrence was sidelined with COVID-19 and is considered one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country. Uiagalelei completed 78 of 117 attempts for 914 yards and five touchdowns without an interception. He also had four rushing TDs.
Offshore sportsbook BetOnline has him priced at 12/1 to win the Heisman Trophy. Uiagalelei is facing a Georgia secondary that features three new starters.
The Bulldogs have one of the best front sevens in the nation, though, leading college football in rushing defense last season. Former Clemson cornerback Derion Kendrick is one of the new faces in the secondary.
Georgia is listed at +650 to win the College Football Playoff, giving them the fourth-shortest odds. Fourth-year sophomore quarterback JT Daniels is priced at 10/1 to win the Heisman Trophy.
Daniels started the final four games of the 2020 season, posting 10 touchdown passes compared to just two interceptions. He is going up against a Clemson defense that returns nine of its 11 starters.
The good news for Daniels is that he has a loaded backfield behind him. Junior Zamir White led the Bulldogs with 779 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
Daniels completed 67.2 percent of his passes during a stretch where Georgia went 4-0 straight-up and 2-2 against-the-spread. He led the team to a 24-21 win over Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl.
Clemson’s offensive line struggled during the 2020 campaign and is going to need to step it up against Georgia’s defensive front. The Tigers have won their last 20 games in the month of September, although this is going to be a different type of test.
Georgia has won four of the last five head-to-head meetings between these teams and is 14-0 in its last 14 September contests. The Bulldogs have covered in six of their last seven games against an ACC opponent. Clemson is 5-1 in its last six games against an SEC school and has gone ‘over’ the total in five of its last seven season openers.
UGA will be without key players like WR George Pickens, WR Dominick Blaylock, TE Arik Gilbert, DB Tykee Smith and TE Darnell Washington.
The pick: Georgia +3
Swinney deserves respect from the betting market based on what he has done over the last six seasons. However, I feel much better about Georgia at the beginning of the 2021 season. Clemson is replacing its top two players on offense and now it has to face one of the best defenses in the country. The Tigers are going to be fine by December, but the Bulldogs should have the edge in Week 1. Kirby Smart can control the tempo of this game with White in the backfield—I expect Georgia to win the battle of the trenches. This line should be closer to a pick ’em, so I will take the three points with the Bulldogs.