Georgia might be the most natural rival Clemson has.
Sorry if that hurts South Carolina fans, but it is true. Seventy-three miles separate Clemson’s and Georgia’s campuses.
Clemson plays Georgia at least once every year in every sport except football.
“I wish they played every year. I’d like to see it be the first game,” former Clemson great Homer Jordan said.
When Jordan was quarterbacking the Tigers in the early 1980s, Clemson played Georgia every year. In fact, the two played every season but two from 1962-’87. When the SEC added an extra conference game in 1988, Clemson fell off the Bulldogs’ schedule as a yearly opponent.
Since 1990, the two longtime rivals have met just eight times. The last meeting happened in 2014.
The two teams will renew their rivalry this year in the season opener when Clemson plays the Bulldogs in the Duke’s Mayo Classic in Charlotte. Odds are, both teams will be preseason top five teams and the game could have College Football Playoff implications, as well.
“It gets the juices going and people are excited about it,” Jordan said. “Not down into the season when you may be 0-5. The game does not mean as much then. But that kickoff game kind of sets the tone for the whole year.”
Jordan knows all too well how much the Georgia game sets the tone for Clemson. When he quarterbacked the Tigers from 1980-’82, the Tigers and Bulldogs, like now, were national powers.
Georgia won the 1980 game, 20-16, on its way to winning its last national championship, while Jordan and the Tigers won the 1981 game, 13-3, on their way to the 1981 National Championship.
“That Georgia game set the tone for us. We started believing we could win,” Jordan said. “Our confidence was better, and we started rolling pretty good.”
Clemson snapped the Bulldogs’ 15-game winning streak and then rolled to a 12-0 season, including a 22-15 victory over Nebraska in the 1982 Orange Bowl to clinch the program’s first national championship.
The Tigers have since won two more national championships. In each case, including with Jordan, Clemson won the title with a Georgia man barking out the signals. Deshaun Watson (2016 National Title) is from Gainesville, Ga., Trevor Lawrence (2018) is from Cartersville, Ga., and Jordan is from Athens, the Bulldogs’ hometown.
“I let them know that we got three national championships with three Georgia guys. I tell them, ‘That is your fault. You need to recruit them harder,’” Jordan said with a big grin.
Jordan still calls Athens home, and he has had a good time poking fun of all of his Georgia Bulldog friends.
“Clemson needs to win because I have been running my mouth a whole lot. I may have to move,” he said while laughing. “It is all about Georgia down there. I have been poking at them a little bit. We let them know we are playing the YMCA in the first game.”
But it is going to be a good YMCA team and it will be good to see this natural rivalry renewed.
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