As talking season in college football kicked into high gear this week with ACC and SEC Media Days, ESPN college football analysts Joey Galloway and Greg McElroy took some time during the network’s College Football Live show Tuesday to discuss one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the 2021 campaign.
Galloway and McElroy gave their initial thoughts on the Clemson-Georgia showdown on Sept. 4 in Charlotte, where the Tigers and Bulldogs will open their respective seasons in the Duke’s Mayo Classic at Bank of America Stadium.
While the game figures to carry College Football Playoff implications, Galloway believes it’s not a “do-or-die situation” for either team.
“I love that matchup,” Galloway said. “I love it for college football fans. I think it’s great for both teams, and it’s not a do-or-die situation for those two teams to take that game. I think both teams should be credited no matter who wins the game.
“It’s tough. Now, we talk about retooling. Clemson will be retooling. They lost a lot of weapons, but they always do. They’ll be good once again. And we get to see right out of the box what these teams look like. If you’re Georgia, that’s not a do-or-die situation. If you look at the rest of their schedule, there is no Alabama, there is no LSU. They should be favored in the rest of their games. So, even if they lost to Clemson and they win the rest of their games, they’ll be absolutely fine. But I can’t wait to see that matchup.”
McElroy experienced a similar big-time season opener in his first career start at Alabama in 2009, when the Tide took on Virginia Tech in a top-10 affair in Atlanta that Bama won 34-24.
Remembering what it took to prepare for that contest, McElroy knows the Clemson-UGA game will have the same type of effect, in that it will make the two teams practice with a sense of urgency in fall camp and force both sides to be ready from the get-go as soon as the ball is kicked off in Charlotte.
“Obviously playing against a team like Clemson is extremely difficult,” McElroy said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or what kind of talent you have, what kind of expectations you’re going into the season with. But one thing it does – at least, I’ve experienced this as a player – when we were playing in my first start as a college player, we played against Virginia Tech. They were the No. 7 team in the country, we were the No. 5 team in the country. And you know what it forced us to do – it forced us, at least in the summer and even to a certain extent in fall camp, the level of urgency was at an all-time high. Sometimes when you’re coming out of the gates and you’re playing against a team that you’re going to beat and you’re probably favored by four or five touchdowns against, your fall camp’s not going to have the same sense of hey, we better be ready to roll Week 1.”
McElroy added that he thinks the Clemson-UGA game will be beneficial for both teams, regardless of who leaves Charlotte with the victory.
“When you have a team and an opponent like Clemson on the schedule, the way that can affect your mindset as a player, could have a lot of benefits for both Georgia and Clemson, knowing that the preparation is going to be ramped up to another level,” McElroy said. “And on top of it all, even if you lose that game, at least you played against a team that could exploit you. Now, after Week 1, whether you win or lose, you know exactly what you need to work on in the next 11 games in order to better position yourself for a playoff run late. So, I think having a great Week 1 opponent is a real wonderful thing for these teams. And of course, for college football fans, it’s a match made in heaven.”