Georgia football-Clemson-ESPN-preseason ranking
Georgia QB JT Daniels and Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei are set to meet Sept. 4 in Charlotte, N.C.
JT Daniels photo Tony Walsh/UGA Sports, DJ Uiagalelei AP Photo

ESPN power rankings give Clemson slight edge over Georgia football

We’re officially one month from the start of the Georgia football season, as the Bulldogs open the 2021 campaign against the Clemson Tigers on Sept. 4 in Charlotte.

The game will likely be one of the most anticipated of the season, with ESPN’s Preseason Power Rankings sliding both Georgia and Clemson into the top four. Clemson came in at No. 3, one spot ahead of the Georgia Bulldogs at no.4.

“The Bulldogs are one of the favorites to make the College Football Playoff and win a national championship,” ESPN’s Harry Lyles Jr. wrote. “Georgia’s offense looked like it was finally reaching its potential toward the end of 2020 with JT Daniels at quarterback, and will be returning eight starters in 2021.”

Despite the hype though, Georgia’s leaders aren’t putting too much pressure on the opening game. Championships aren’t won in September, they’re won in December and January after all.

“We treat every game the same,” Davis said at SEC media days. “The same level of preparation we have for Clemson is the same level of preparation we’ll have for Georgia Tech and UAB. It doesn’t matter really who we’re playing, it just matters what we do.

“And at the end of the day, we want to make sure we do enough to win.”

Related: Georgia’s Jordan Davis gets ‘riled up’ thinking about opening game with Clemson

Davis will figuratively and literally be a big reason for Georgia’s success on the defensive side of the ball in the 2021 season. The 6-foot-6 defensive tackle will control the middle of the field, making things very difficult for opposing defenses.

The senior defensive tackle, from Charlotte, was voted Preseason First Team All-SEC at SEC media days last month. He’s one of the nation’s top run defenders, as he anchors a Georgia front that has led the country in rush defense in each of the last two seasons. Davis will look to become more involved in the pass rush in 2021, with Georgia looking to get greater sack production from its defensive line this season.

On the offensive side of the ball, Daniels shared a similar sentiment to that of Davis while further downplaying the preseason hype surrounding the matchup.

“The preseason rankings are what they are,” Daniels said. “It’s cool when they say you’re good. It’s cool when they say you suck. It really doesn’t matter either way. You go out and play football.”

Related: ESPN makes case for why JT Daniels can outperform limited sample size

The Georgia quarterback shined in four starts for the Bulldogs last season, throwing for 10 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Georgia went 4-0 in those starts, including a 24-21 win over Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl.

Daniels will have to further elevate the Georgia offense if the Bulldogs are to ascend to true championship contender status. That will be tougher without George Pickens, as the star wide receiver suffered a torn ACL in spring practice. Still, Georgia has a number of potential standouts on the offensive side of the ball.

When Georgia and Clemson take the field, Daniels will matchup against an old friend, as the Tigers will start DJ Uiagalelei. The two quarterbacks played against each other in high school and are two of the top Heisman Trophy hopefuls entering the 2021 season.

For all the hype entering this matchup though, Daniels still stressed the importance of taking one game at a time. Even if that first game is one as big as one against a perennial playoff team in Clemson.

“It’s a huge game,” Daniels said. “But I think the biggest thing for us as a team, as much as we get hyped for it, because it’s Georgia-Clemson, it’s a Week 1 game.

“You can win Week 1, you can beat Clemson by 100 and have a terrible season, you could lose to Clemson by 100 and have a great rest of the season.”

JT Daniels unbothered by preseason rankings, Clemson hype

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