Georgia’s New Year’s Six Bowl wins over Top 10-ranked teams the past two seasons were big, but unlike those contests, the Clemson game had more than seven months of build-up and some rivalry tradition adding fuel to the fire.
“You’re elite, or you’re not, and that’s what we’ve been saying all camp,” Smart said on the ABC telecast immediately after the game. “I’m so proud of our university, to come to their back yard where they play their ACC Championship Game and get this win.”
The win meant more for the perception of Georgia football than the actual title hopes, as the Bulldogs still likely need to win the SEC Championship Game to make the four-team College Football Playoff.
Georgia featured seven first-time starters against Clemson, and with Tate Ratledge’s season-ending foot injury announced on Sunday, there might soon be an eighth first-time starter appearing on the offensive line.
Here’s the stock report coming off a 10-3 win that saw Clemson coach Dabo Swinney held to the fewest points of his 174-game coaching tenure, and the Tigers’ streak of 141 games of scoring in the first half snapped:
Brock Bowers: The freshman H-Back/Tight End from California was the most effective pass catcher on the night for the Bulldogs, setting team highs for catches (6), receiving yards (43) and targets (8). Clemson’s veteran defense looked prepared for everything else but Bowers.
Jake Camarda: It’s not often a punter gets a shout out from the opposing coach, but Dabo Sweeney said Camarda should have been the game MVP and said his performance was humongous. Camarda dropped four punts inside the Clemson 20 and put two of this three kickoffs into the end zone.
Sedrick Van Pran: The first-time starter was so solid he wasn’t noticed, and that’s when you know a center is having a good game. Van Pran was up against a great defensive line but there were no snap issues.
Nakobe Dean: It wasn’t a perfect game for Dean, but his two sacks, communication and leadership on the football field was truly impressive. Georgia looked tight from an assignment and alignment standpoint, and Dean is responsible for directing a lot of that traffic.
JT Daniels: Daniels stared into the face of an elite defense returning all of its starters and avoided pitfalls for most all of the night, getting sacked just once and throwing one interception. Contrast that to Clemson QB D.J. Uiagalelei, who was sacked seven times and threw an interception returned for a touchdown. Daniels was also sharp in the check game, changing to successful run plays.
Lewis Cine: Cine was in on a team-high nine tackles, effectively patrolling the secondary to the tune of 2 pass break-ups, as well. Having a safety like Cine that can come up and blow up run plays is invaluable.
Zamir White: White overcame an early fumble to show his most impressive running moves yet, displaying a bullish running style equipped with firm cuts and also providing seamless pass protection. White’s return to his home state had a triumphant ending, with him running over Clemson players to secure the win in the final minutes.