Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Building up towards the opener

Georgia opened camp yesterday. Clemson opens on Friday. Between now and August 31st, this game is only going to get bigger. And bigger. And bigger.

So here's some storylines that will be interesting to follow. Of course, about every position on the defensive side of the ball is up for grabs. We'll talk about those plenty in the coming weeks. Here I used broader strokes using what I think will be a more national scope.

Quarterback battle
Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd are two of the nation's best. They're considered legitimate pre-season Heisman candidates and their performance in the opener could have far reaching implications for them personally and their teams' chances at titles.

The good news (and bad news) for fans on both sides is that each signal caller is a senior with a wealth of experience to go on. Murray broke numerous school records last season while passing for 3,893 yards, and could overtake Peyton Manning's SEC career touchdown mark this season. Boyd matched Murray's air attack with 3,896 yards himself and also added 514 rushing yards. The Clemson quarterback's dual threat is something Georgia will have to have an answer for on defense. Which brings me to...

Defensive gameplan
In what is certainly shaping up to be a high scoring affair, Georgia's Todd Grantham and Clemson's Brent Venables have a busy month ahead of finding the right playmakers and making the necessary adjustments.

For the Tigers that will mean finding a way to control Georgia's rushing attack (which totaled 2,556 yards in 2012) without giving Aaron Murray too many options downfield. For the Dawgs it will mean  finding the players and the scheme that can control both Boyd's legs and his arm. No easy task for either defense. But whichever side prepares more thoroughly, will likely make the difference in the outcome.

The Point Spread
The game is clearly a hard one to handicap. Some have Georgia as about a 3.5 point favorite while others favor the home team, but narrowly. Do these lines move and how much will be an interesting subplot in seeing where the money on this game is most comfortable. People will be checking out the sports betting sites at for the latest stats and information. A key injury here or there could cause a major shift. Some press about a newcomer's impact could affect the line as well.

There will be a lot of action wagered in this one I'm sure. It's the biggest game of the opening weekend. The national media will all be on hand and the spotlight will be bright. Which brings me to...

Ticket Demand
As we wait impatiently for cutoff scores to be announced, the price for a ticket to this game continues to rise. The bigger the hype the bigger the price. If Clemson does indeed send UGA 8000 it will make things a little easier for those traveling and planning on getting a seat inside. But regardless, it will be a seller's market with big prime time dollars being spent. Good time to be a scalper in Pickens County.

So which team avoids the intense drama, speculation and spotlight that this game will grow into and goes into Memorial Stadium to tackle, catch and cover instead of to star gaze and melt under the humidity and pressure? There's no question that Richt has more wide-ranging experience with this sort of thing compared to Dabo. But a Georgia fan only has to remember back to Boise State in the Georgia Dome a couple years ago to wonder what Richt and his staff will do differently.

If anything at all. The coaches lead the way, but the team whose focus is the keenest will be the one whose individual leaders take control of the team. From here on out, each and every rep, each and every drill, each and every block is aimed at winning the opener and starting the season out the right way.