Dabo Swinney says if Clemson did not have an opportunity to play Georgia in the season-opener in 2021, then it’s likely things might have stayed the way there were.
Both schools, along with the Charlotte Sports Foundation, announced on Feb. 18, they will kick off the 2021 football season on September 4 against each other at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The Tigers dropped Wyoming, along with a $1 million buyout, to make room for the Bulldogs.
“It is exciting. It just worked out,” Swinney said. “We may not have done it with just another random team, but the fact we have a chance to play Georgia is something that both fan bases will be really excited about.”
Clemson and Georgia most recently split a home-and-home series in 2013 and 2014, with each school defending its home turf in a pair of Top 20 matchups. The programs met 24 times in a span of 26 years from 1962-87, playing one another every year with the exception of the 1966 and 1972 seasons.
In back-to-back years in 1980 and 1981, the winner of the Clemson-Georgia contest went on to win the national championship. Georgia earned a 20-16 victory against Clemson and a national title in 1980, followed by Clemson defeating Georgia, 13-3, en route to a national title in 1981.
The Clemson-Georgia rivalry was one of the nation’s best from 1977-’87 as the two teams each won five games, lost five and tied once in the 11 meetings.
“Obviously, it is a tough game. It is a hard opener. It is hard to win those games, but it will be an exciting way to start it all off,” Swinney said.
Clemson had been approached many times in the past about opening a season against a big-time opponent at a neutral site, but in those cases the Tigers would have lost a home game in the process. The Clemson head coach said he does not like the idea of giving up a home game for a game at a neutral venue.
“We have had many, many years where we could have done an opener or whatever and probably make more money from an athletic department standpoint, to be honest with you,” he said. “But to lose a game and only have six (home) games. I really fought that my whole career and will continue to do that, but this was a situation where, you know, you set these things up in advance and then all of a sudden 2021 was an oddball year for us. We really needed another game. So, it worked out, especially being able to go to Charlotte.”
By playing Georgia in 2021, Clemson will be able to keep its formula of playing two Power 5 non-conference opponents, including rival South Carolina, every year. Right now, the Tigers’ are scheduled to play two Power 5 non-conference opponents every year through 2037. The 2021 season will mark the only year in which Clemson plays just six home games.
The Tigers have played at least seven home games every year since 2006.
“That has kind of been the formula we have had for a long time, but with Notre Dame and all of this stuff, it just kind of made  a weird year,” Swinney said. “Dan and I talked about it back in the summer. It has been something we have been working on. I hate the fact we lose a home game because it is important to our community here, but this is pretty much what we are going to do this year and then we will get back on track on how we do things moving forward, but we needed another game.”
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