By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
When Danny Ford played for Bear Bryant at Alabama, the legendary coach always told his players to expect the unexpected.
That’s the approach Ford is taking when looking at Saturday’s matchup when No. 5 Georgia visits eighth-ranked Clemson in Death Valley.
“Everybody expects the defenses are the weaknesses in this game,” the former Clemson head coach said. “The strengths of both teams are the offenses. That means it will probably be a low scoring game if you expect the unexpected.”
Ford, who will be inducted into the Clemson Ring of Honor prior to Saturday’s kickoff, will be making his debut as a college football analysis for Coachescabana.com. Ford will be breaking down every Clemson game live from The Wild Wing Café in Anderson, S.C. The live vidocasts will have Ford discussing live Clemson games through his official twitter account @CoachDannyFord.
“If you had to guess, which is what everybody does, the kicking game will play a big role,” Ford said. “Coach Bryant used to say you can help in more ways to win a football game than you can on both offense and defense. Clemson should have the advantage there because Georgia has the problem with its kicker and they should have a new kid coming in.”
When he looks at this game, Ford was honest when accessed both defenses. He knows Clemson will play a lot of new people in the secondary – a unit that gave up 23 touchdown passes a year ago. But, he also knows Georgia has three new starts in the defensive backfield. Plus it is has to replace starters at linebacker and up front.
“It could be a wash or it could be a slight edge to Clemson,” Ford said. “I doubt it, though. I will say it is just a wash.”
Ford loves what Clemson has in quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins on offense. But he also likes Georgia’s running game, which is led Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Those two rushed for a combined 2,144 yards and 25 touchdowns as true freshmen. Then there is quarterback Aaron Murray who owns every passing record there is at Georgia.
“Georgia is a little bit better at running back and may have a little bit better offensive line, supposedly. Who knows? Ford said. “Clemson has a lot of people coming back on the offensive line, too and has quality receivers.
“So that is probably a wash.”
In 1981, Ford remembers Buck Belue, who quarterbacked the Bulldogs to the 1980 national championship game, came into Death Valley and threw five interceptions, while Herschel Walker and the Georgia running game lost four fumbles.
The year before that, Clemson was dominating Georgia and held the Bulldogs to zero first downs, yet trailed 14-10 because of a long punt return and an interception return for a touchdown.
“We are at halftime looking over the stats and we are down four points. So how do you figure that,” Ford asked. “So you go back to who is going to turn the football over and which quarterback is going to play bad, and one of them will.
“I’m not necessarily saying bad, but one of them is going to play better than the other, and I hope that is the case than one of them giving it away.”
Back in the 1980s when Georgia and Clemson played games that were decided by an average of four points per contest, defenses dominated and some always made a play or two on special teams, whether it was blocked punt, a long punt return, a last second field goal or a ball downed at the one inch line.
“I don’t know if it is going to take 45 points to win or 21 to win or 17 to win,” Ford said. “I don’t believe it is going to be a 3-0 game. Unless you have the unexpected, but I still don’t believe that. I don’t believe it is going to be a blowout on either side.
“So, really and truly, I will say that this is going to be an old fashioned Georgia-Clemson kind of game. It will be an old timey, hard hitting, rockin’, sockin’ kind of game where the home field crowd could have a lot to do with it. National television should have a lot to do with it. Mistakes have a lot to do with it, but it ought to be close.”