During a media conference call via Zoom on Wednesday, ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit previewed Saturday’s matchup between third-ranked Clemson and No. 5 Georgia at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte (7:30 p.m., ABC) and gave his keys to the game.
Herbstreit believes the game will come down to two things – which team is better prepared to be more physical in the trenches coming out of camp, and which quarterback, Clemson’s D.J. Uiagalelei or Georgia’s JT Daniels, doesn’t make a crucial mistake.
“I look at this as any time you get two powerhouses together like that without a game or two to warm up before meeting, who’s done a better job in August of hitting each other and going through camp in a very physical way is probably the team that will come out of here with a win,” Herbstreit said. “So, who wins at the line of scrimmage? And then which of these two quarterbacks – both are expected to have great years – it’s not so much who makes the play, I think it’s who avoids the disastrous play – the pick-six or trying to make something happen in Week 1, trying to live up to a certain expectation of your position and your name, and you force a ball and it gets intercepted and it costs you.
“So, to me, it’s the line of scrimmage and it’s the quarterback who avoids the disastrous play will probably be the team that wins it.”
Herbstreit added that a big challenge for both teams in the season opener will be acclimating to the speed of the game, considering that unlike the NFL, neither team has had a preseason game to get ready for Saturday and it’s two of college football’s top programs colliding right out of the gate.
“It’s not like you’re breaking in The Citadel or a team where you can gradually get ready for that second or third or fourth week,” Herbstreit said. “Here, you’ve got to hit midseason form. I mean, you’re jumping into the deep end of the pool, and you’ve got to be able to hope that your guys are understanding how fast this game will move. And if you’ve not done a good job of scrimmaging and getting that tempo and that speed in practice, then you’re going to be caught on national TV.
“Fortunately, Kirby Smart’s been around, he gets it. His time at Georgia, of course his time at Alabama as a coordinator, they played in heavyweight games early all the time, especially at Bama when he was there. And with Dabo, it’s no different. So, I think both these guys will do a good job of getting their teams ready, and then it just comes down to execution and going out and doing it.”
Herbstreit will call the game with Chris Fowler and reporter Holly Rowe in addition to being part of the College GameDay pregame show live from Charlotte, N.C. on Saturday morning (9 a.m. – noon, ESPN).
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