Smart says Georgia fans wanted Clemson

Smart says Georgia fans wanted Clemson

Football

Smart says Georgia fans wanted Clemson

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In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, no rivalry in college football was better or more competitive than the Clemson-Georgia series.

With national championship implications on the line in most years, the Bulldogs and Tigers battled to a 5-5-1 series record. Nine of those 11 games were decided by a touchdown or less. From 1983-’87, four of the five games came down to a field goal to either win or tie the game.

There was no better rivalry in college football. This is why active boosters at both schools have been clamoring for Clemson and Georgia to renew their storied rivalry on the gridiron.

“It is a rivalry game,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said Wednesday on the Paul Finebaum Show. “You go poll your fan base, which is really the most important thing when you look at your alumni base and you look at your financial supporters, you are saying, ‘What do you guys want?’

“To a tee, they want to see these kinds of games.”

Clemson and Georgia have not met in football since 2014. The Bulldogs opened the season that year by beating the Tigers, 45-21, in Athens. The previous year, Clemson won a thriller, 38-35, at Death Valley.

This year, the Tigers and Bulldogs will kickoff the 2021 season in the Duke’s Mayo Classic at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Both teams are expected to be in the preseason top 5, making it one of the more anticipated games to open a season in recent history.

It might just be the biggest game ever between Clemson and Georgia in terms of national rankings. The Tigers and Bulldogs did open the 1982 season on Labor Day Night in Athens. Clemson was the defending national champions that year and Georgia won the national title in 1980.

“The one benefit we found last year was playing the conference games only, that was so important to the fans. They loved those games,” Smart said. “To go out and get a Clemson, which most of our financial supporters and our alumni base, that is a game they grew up watching. They want that game. They want that game year in and year out.

“That is probably the same way for Clemson. I think Dabo (Swinney) would tell you the same thing. It is a great opportunity to go out and play a really good program and open your season that way.”

The two 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. Since then, Clemson and Georgia met in 1990 and 1991. Played a home-and-away in 1994 and 1995. They played in 2002 and 2003 and then in 2013 and 2014.

Swinney said they only accepted to play this non-conference game against Georgia on a neutral site because it was Georgia.

“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 open the season on Sept. 4.

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