The first of several goals that the Clemson football team aims to accomplish each season is simple: Win the opener.
The top-ranked Tigers are looking to do just that Thursday when they kick off their 2019 season with a matchup against Georgia Tech at Death Valley.
It will be the first live football game broadcast on the new ACC Network. ESPN and ACCN will air a special edition of College GameDay from the Memorial Stadium concourse from 6-8 p.m., with a simulcast on both ESPN and ACC Network from 6-7 p.m. followed by the final hour being aired exclusively on ACCN.
The season opener will also be a celebration for the defending champs, as Clemson will honor its 2018 national title game victory by unveiling championship signage on the south side of Memorial Stadium prior to the game.
Clemson enters the 2019 season ranked No. 1 in both the AP preseason poll and the USA Today preseason coaches poll. The journey toward what the Tigers hope will be their third national championship in four seasons begins Thursday.
Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson, S.C.
Records: Clemson 0-0, 0-0 ACC; Georgia Tech 0-0, 0-0 ACC
When: Thursday, Aug. 29, 8 p.m.
TV: ACC Network (Dave O’Brien, Tim Hasselbeck, Katie George, Maria Taylor)
Radio: 105.5 in the Upstate, Clemson Tigers Network (Don Munson, Tim Bourret, Reggie Merriweather); Sirius XM Radio Ch. 84; Westwood One (Ryan Radtke, Derek Rackley)
Latest line: Clemson (minus-36.5)
Series history (overall): Clemson trails series, 31-51-2
Streak: Clemson has won four straight
Last meeting: Sept. 22, 2018 (Clemson 49, Georgia Tech 21)
Thursday’s game will mark the earliest in the calendar year that Clemson has opened a season in its 124-year history. Previously, Clemson’s earliest openers had been held on Aug. 30 in 2003, 2008 and 2014. In addition, the Tigers are opening a season on a Thursday for the first time in school history. The last time Clemson hosted a Thursday game was Nov. 14, 2013, a 55-31 win against Georgia Tech.
With Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence and Austin Bryant now in the NFL, Clemson will run out a new-look defensive line against the Yellow Jackets. The Tigers have a lot of talented players to help fill the void left by the Power Rangers, but they are young and largely inexperienced up front, and Swinney said this week that they are still “changing a lot of diapers” on the D-line. Xavier Thomas, Justin Foster, Logan Rudolph, K.J. Henry and Justin Mascoll are all expected to be a part of the rotation at D-end, while Swinney said that Nyles Pinckney, Jordan Williams and true freshman Tyler Davis have created some separation at D-tackle heading into the season.
Meanwhile, Georgia Tech will debut an entirely different offense than the triple-option it ran under Paul Johnson for the last 11 seasons. Under first-year head coach Geoff Collins, the Yellow Jackets will feature a spread-based, pro-style attack using personnel that Johnson recruited for the triple-option. It will be interesting to see who Tech turns to at quarterback as the Yellow Jackets did not name a starter going into the game. Redshirt freshman James Graham, redshirt sophomore Lucas Johnson and redshirt sophomore Tobias Oliver are their options. Nobody, including Clemson’s defense, really knows what to expect from Tech offensively on Thursday.
Georgia Tech players to watch
Tyler Davis, TE: Davis transferred from UConn to Georgia Tech to fill the tight end position that did not exist in Johnson’s triple-option offense. In three seasons at UConn, Davis recorded 47 receptions for 500 yards with seven touchdown catches.
David Curry, LB: Last season, Curry tallied 47 total tackles in 13 games including 12 starts. The redshirt junior is one of the veteran leaders on defense for the Jackets. He was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA in July 2019 due to medical hardships.
Jordan Mason, RB: Mason led all Georgia Tech running backs with 659 rushing yards and seven touchdowns a season ago, and the redshirt sophomore is again expected to handle a big role out of the backfield for the Ramblin’ Wreck.
We are pleased to announce a new partnership with Fanatics. This is great news for Tiger fans as they have the officially licensed Clemson gear.
The Clemson Insider will get a portion of all sales so get ready for another championship season by ordering your Clemson gear today and help support TCI.