Georgia’s season opener vs. Clemson was a topic addressed this week on DawgNation Daily. Former UGA great Terrence Edwards stopped by to say the presence of a respected opponent in the first game might motivate UGA players to work even harder this offseason.
“You know you’re working for the ‘big, bad bullies block,’” Edwards said. “Let’s go out and be as perfect as we can be. Let’s work as hard as we can and be the best leaders we can be.”
“We know what Clemson represents right now. It’s extra motivation. And in this offseason, that’s going to be the talk in the locker room. ‘We’ve got Clemson in the first game. Let’s be ready.'”
Edwards speaks from experience. In his senior year in 2002, the Bulldogs started their run toward an SEC championship and a 13-1 record with a win vs. Clemson in the season opener.
“It was a big game for everybody,” Edwards said. “We talked about it all offseason.”
However, Edwards says the stakes will be even higher for this year’s meeting between the two teams.
“Now with [Clemson] having a couple national championships under their belt, those guys know they’re going to be in a big game,” Edwards said. “It’s what all the offseason is going to be about. ‘Beat Clemson’ is probably going to be plastered all around the weight room.”
Edwards says a win vs. Clemson could also help vault UGA into the national championship conversation.
“Those guys know that if they go in and beat Clemson it’s a stepping stone to where they want to be,” Edwards said. “It’s not the ‘end all, be all,’ but if you beat a team like Clemson to start your season off, it can propel you to some greater things down the road.”
That has certainly been true for UGA and Clemson before.
Starting in 1967, the Bulldogs and Tigers played 20 straight seasons, but the rivalry was the most intense during the 1980s.
UGA’s national championship season in 1980 included a 20-16 win vs. Clemson. The following year, the Tigers returned the favor in their national championship season with a 13-3 win against the Bulldogs. In the years after that, the games between the two teams became synonymous with late-game drama — including a 60-yard field goal by Kevin Butler to win the 1984 contest.
The UGA-Clemson rivalry was enjoyed on both sides, but the modern scheduling model makes it difficult for the two programs to play as frequently as they once did.
When Edwards’ Bulldogs played Clemson in 2002, it was the first meeting between the two teams since 1995. This year’s matchup will be UGA’s first against Clemson since 2014.
Edwards would like to see shorter droughts between the matchups.