Last week, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said he would “absolutely” want to play Georgia again if the opportunity presented itself.
“Oh yeah! Absolutely,” he said last week in Greenwood when The Clemson Insider asked him would he ever want to rekindle the rivalry between the Tigers and Bulldogs. “It would be great for both fan bases.”
Well, it’s about to get great.
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said Wednesday to the Athens Banner-Herald that it is unlikely the two College Football Playoff participants from last year will play an annual game, but there are a few options open where they could play a home-and-home series and it could start as early as 2021.
“I do think down the road you will see Clemson and Georgia playing each other,” McGarity said to The Banner-Herald. “I’m not sure about the frequency of it, but I do think you’ll see us play each other in the not too distant future.”
Clemson has been trying to find a big-name home opponent for its 2021 season for a long time. The Tigers are having an issue with getting a team locked down because of its upcoming matchups with Notre Dame.
Clemson routinely likes to play one Power 5 opponent, along with South Carolina, an FCS state school and then a non-Power 5 opponent as part of its non-conference schedule each year.
The Tigers play South Carolina at home on even years and at South Carolina on odd years, which means if they play a home-and-home with a Power 5 opponent, Clemson wants to play that opponent at home on those years they play at South Carolina so it does not lose a seventh home game.
However, here is the problem and the one that Clemson and Georgia are most likely trying to work around. Because of Notre Dame’s agreement to play five ACC opponents a year, the Tigers and Irish are scheduled to play each other in 2020, 2022 and 2023. Because the 2022 game is at Notre Dame, the Tigers are having a hard time filling that final non-conference home game spot with a Power 5 opponent because they cannot return the favor until 2024.
The good news for Clemson and Georgia is the 2024 season is open for both schools. Clemson hosts South Carolina that year and has two other home games against App State and The Citadel. Georgia has just one opponent on its 2024 non-conference schedule right now and that is a home game against Georgia Tech.
So Clemson playing at Georgia in 2024 is a likely possibility. However, Georgia more than likely will not be able to return the favor and come to Clemson until 2027.
There is a possibility for Clemson and Georgia to meet in 2021. However, the question is does Georgia want to lose a seventh home game and come to Clemson. The Bulldogs already have home games scheduled against San Jose State and UAB with their annual matchup against Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
The two could agree to play a neutral site game in 2021, where they both can receive at least something for losing a home game. However, TCI learned Clemson really is not in favor of losing that seventh home game because of how much home football games mean to the city of Clemson’s economy and the surrounding small towns.
“It’s all predicated by availability, dates and your opponents,” McGarity said. “It’s not as easy as people think it is. There’s a lot that goes on it. Our staff devotes a tremendous amount of time in scheduling.”
Clemson and Georgia are as natural as two rivals can be at least from a distance standpoint. The two schools are separated by 72 miles.
“I’ve said (we should play Georgia) for a long time,” Swinney said. “We’re going to play somebody like that every year. We’re going to Texas A&M this year, and then they come to us. We’ve played Auburn a bunch of times. So, I think that would be great.
“I’m sure they’re going to play somebody big every year. I don’t know who they play this year, but I’m sure they have somebody out of their conference. To me, it would be great for the fan bases.”
When Clemson and Georgia first started their colorful rivalry, they met every year from 1897-1921. However, for whatever the reason, they played against each another just nine times from 1922-’61.
But, that all changed in 1962 as the two southern programs rekindled their rivalry. Over the next 28 years, it became one of the best rivalries in the south as they met every year from 1962-’87 with the exception of 1966 and 1972.
The best years of the rivalry came in the late 1970s and ran through the ’80s. Both programs won national championships (Georgia in 1980 and Clemson in ’81) and were considered two of the best in the country.
From 1977-’87, the matchup became known as the “Eleven Year War” as nine of the 11 games were decided by seven points or less with Clemson winning five, Georgia winning five and one tie.
However, because of scheduling conflicts in Georgia’s schedule the series was dropped as an annual battle. The two played a home-and-home series in 1990 and 1991, 1994 and 1995, 2002 and 2003 and most recently in 2013 and 2014.
Swinney would like to see the game played more on an annual basis.
“You don’t really look forward to playing Georgia because there is a good chance you could lose, but anytime you step out of conference and you play Texas A&M, Auburn or whoever else we play, those are big challenges. But, that is how we built our program. I would have no problem with it.”