Clemson returns home on Sept. 15 for its third straight non-conference game to open the season and its first meeting with Georgia Southern.
The Eagles lost their only two games against Power Five competition in 2017 — Auburn and Indiana — by an average of 34.5 points. This game will also be the Tigers’ third of 12 straight Saturday games this season, the first time that has happened since 2015 and just the second time in the last seven years.
Last meeting: This is the first meeting between the schools.
Last season: Georgia Southern went 2-10 overall and 2-6 in the Sun Belt Conference.
Coaching staff: Chad Lunsford took over the Georgia Southern program on an interim basis and, while he went 2-4 in six games, he did notch the Eagles’ only two wins of the season and did enough to be promoted to head coach. Offensive coordinator Bob DeBeese comes to Statesboro after a record-setting six-year run as the offensive coordinator at New Mexico, where his rushing offense posted five consecutive top-10 national rankings in yards per game. Defensive boss Scot Sloan spent eight seasons as Appalachian State’s secondary coach and was promoted to co-defensive coordinator in the spring of 2017 before joining Lunsford’s staff.
Returning players: Sophomore Shai Werts started all 11 games he was healthy for at quarterback last season. He was pushed all spring by senior LaBaron Anthony but held onto the No. 1 spot entering the fall. On defense, the secondary is the strength of the Eagles’ unit with Monquavion Brinson and Kindle Vildor holding down the corner spots and Joshua Moon serving as the defense’s heartbeat at safety.
Additions: The Eagles signed a total of 23 players in 2018 class, including 11 who had a three-star ranking from 247 Sports. Georgia Southern added 14 players on defense, four defensive linemen, cornerbacks and safeties apiece, and two linebackers, and nine on offense — a quarterback, running back, three offensive linemen and four receivers.
Subtractions: Third-leading rusher L.A. Ramsby was lost to graduation, as was second-leading tackler Chris DeLaRosa. Leading returner Myles Campbell will also be missed for the Eagles.
Key matchup: DeBeese’s rushing attack at New Mexico led the nation in yards per carry (6.61) and yards per game (350) in 2016. With the Eagles’ top two rushers, Werts and running back Wesley Fields, returning, you can bet they will try to keep this game close by pounding the rock and keeping Clemson’s offense off the field. Doing that is easier said than done, however, as the Tigers boast arguable the top defensive line in the country that is backed up by a deep and talented linebacking corps led by veterans Kendall Joseph and Tre Lamar. Clemson allowed the fewest touchdowns in the nation on the ground last season (5) and should be even better this year.