It is not often two top 5 teams kick off a college football season. But that will likely be the case on Sept. 4 when Clemson-Georgia renew one of the South’s best rivalries at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
If early preseason polls are any indicator, the Tigers will likely be No. 1 or No. 2 to start the season, while Georgia could be anywhere from No. 3 to No. 5 in the Associated Press and Coaches Polls, which will not be released until August.
“From a fan standpoint, it will be a great game to watch,” said former Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden in an exclusive interview with The Clemson Insider.
Bowden knows a thing or two about having to start a season against the Bulldogs. His 2002 and 2003 Clemson teams opened up against Georgia, including a heartbreaking 31-28 loss in Athens on ’02.
“From a coach’s perspective, one of the great things about opening up with Georgia is that you do not have to get your players’ attention,” Bowden said. “You don’t have to coax them into practice or two-a-days in August. There is not any of that.
“You get their attention right off the bat. It really helps you from a coaching perspective. From an old coaching hat, you put that on, that is really a plus for preparing your team.”
Clemson and Georgia last met in 2014, but a lot has changed since then. In those days Clemson and Georgia were top 15 caliber programs.
Since then, Clemson has won two national championships and played for it two other times, while becoming a perennial top 5 program. The Tigers have won six straight ACC Championships and has been to the College Football Playoff a record six straight years as well.
Georgia played for the national championship at the end of the 2017 season and is a perennial top 5 to top 10 program every year.
“From a fan standpoint, it is just a great game to watch,” Bowden said. “East of the Mississippi (River) and south of the Mason Dixon (Line), that little Southeast area, you know more about the history of the Georgia-Clemson game. Those fans are going to be really excited about it. That little pocket of the United States, called the Southeast, Clemson-Georgia matchup, Day One, it will be a great game.”
This year’s game will be the first of six meetings between the two rivals over the next 12 years.
In addition to the game in Charlotte, the two programs will face one another in the 2024 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta. The historic geographic rivals also announced two home-and-home series that will feature games in Clemson in 2029 and 2033 and games in Athens in 2030 and 2032.
The Tigers and Bulldogs have met 64 times on the football field. Georgia won the last meeting, 45-21, and leads the all-time series 42-18-4.
The teams most recently split a home-and-home series in 2013-’14, 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. From 1977-’87, the two split the series 5-5-1 and nine of the 11 games were decided by a touchdown or less.