CLEMSON -- The Clemson Tigers do not fear ranked teams from the Southeastern Conference. Why should they?
Saturday's win over the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs was Clemson's second consecutive win over a top-10 ranked SEC team, although there were almost nine months in between wins.
Clemson beat LSU on New Year's Eve last year in the Chick fil-A Bowl, 25-24. LSU was ranked No. 8 at the time.
Fast forward to opening night of the 2013 season.
Clemson handled Georgia in front of a capacity crowd of 83,830 Saturday, winning 38-35 on the back of quarterback Tajh Boyd's five touchdowns, three through the air and two on the ground.
The game featured four ties and two lead changes and a ton of offense. Georgia tallied 545 yards of total offense while Clemson ended with 467. The teams combined to run 146 plays.
While the scoreboard operator as well as both team’s statisticians got a workout Saturday, there were other numbers that helped tell the story:
Step 1 of 3
While the eighth-ranked Tigers have 12 opponents on the 2013 schedule, three games have been circled as almost necessary if Clemson wants a shot at playing for a national title.
Saturday’s win over Georgia was step No. 1.
On Oct. 9 the Tigers will welcome Florida State into Death Valley. The Seminoles are currently ranked 11th in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll and 12th in the USA Today/Coaches Poll.
Clemson will finish its regular season on Nov. 30 in Columbia, S.C. against the South Carolina Gamecocks. South Carolina is currently ranked sixth in the AP and seventh in the USA Today poll.
Any hiccups, or upset losses, against the other nine teams on the schedule and these three steps are irrelevant. But if the Tigers handle their business against the rest of the schedule, and beat Florida State and South Carolina like they beat Georgia Saturday, and Clemson might be invited to Pasadena to play in the Rose Bowl for the BCS National Championship.
1-3 vs. Ranked Teams
Georgia is now 10-3 in season openers under head coach Mark Richt, a trend that dates back to the 2001 season. However, against ranked opponents the Bulldogs are just 1-3.
The Bulldogs beat the No. 18 Boise State Broncos in 2005 and have lost to the No. 9 Oklahoma State Cowboys in 2009, fifth-ranked Boise State in 2011 and No. 8 Clemson Saturday.
Maybe it’s time to schedule a softer game to open the season.
The two skill players on the field not named Boyd or Murray had a huge impact on Saturday’s game. Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins caught six passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. Georgia running back Todd Gurley ran the ball 12 times for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
As impressive is both had big plays within 20 seconds of one another.
On the very next play after Clemson opened the scoring and took a 7-0 lead, Gurley carried the ball 75 yards to tie the game in the first quarter. Watkins wasn’t about to be outshines.
On Clemson’s next play, 19 seconds after Gurley’s, Watkins caught a pass from Boyd and took the ball 77 yards for a go-ahead score.