The Clemson Tigers hosted the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs on Aug. 31 with the No. 8 ranking in the country. Yet the Tigers were the underdog and the more easily dismissed top 10 team, since they are from the lowly regarded ACC and usually fail in their big statement moments. But the first sign that Clemson could be different this year came when the Tigers knocked off the Bulldogs by 38-35 anyway.
The night started out like an Arena Football game, as the Tigers and Bulldogs combined for four straight touchdowns after an opening three-and-out from Clemson. But after Georgia went up by 21-14, the offense slowed down as Clemson tied the game and then took the lead in the third quarter. However, the Bulldogs got their spark back after converting a fake punt and getting a tying touchdown in short order.
Clemson took the lead back on a field goal, yet Georgia soon marched down and seemed poised to take the lead. Yet not only did the Tigers keep the Bulldogs from the end zone, they kept the lead when a botched snap stopped a field goal try. After that, Clemson protected the lead from there and opened it up on Tajh Boyd’s third touchdown pass of the night -- following two rushing touchdowns as well.
The Tigers withstood one last Bulldogs touchdown and held on for their biggest victory in years. Of course, if Clemson doesn’t launch a perfect season and a BCS run from this, it will be just one more big tease in Death Valley. Yet at the moment, the Tigers finally look like a team that can take the next step and contend with the national elite -- or at least beat a major team from the SEC.
The Bulldogs were also looking to take the next leap forward into the nation’s elite. Yet if they can’t beat the No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks at home on Sept. 7, their season will be virtually over before it fully begins.
As for the Tigers, although they have 11 games left, the season now really comes down to showdowns with the Florida State Seminoles on Oct. 19 and the Gamecocks on Nov. 30.