John Bazemore/Associated Press
The 2021 college football season has arrived. And during the opening weekend of games, fans may be getting a preview of a College Football Playoff matchup considering a pair of top-five teams from different conferences will be facing off in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Saturday night.
No. 3 Clemson and No. 5 Georgia will be going head-to-head in the most anticipated matchup of Week 1. The Tigers are a perennial national championship contender, while the Bulldogs have also been among the top programs in the country in recent years.
With such a big game on tap in the Duke’s Mayo Classic, it makes sense that ESPN’s College GameDay will be outside Bank of America Stadium earlier in the day. The popular kickoff show will start at 9 a.m. ET, setting the stage for the first Saturday of the season.
While Clemson-Georgia is the marquee matchup of the gameweek, many other top teams will also be in action. Four other games Saturday feature a pair of ranked teams. So get ready for a Labor Day weekend filled with thrilling action.
Here’s a look at the Top 25 schedule for the weekend, predictions for the games and more on the Clemson-Georgia matchup.
Week 1 Top 25 Schedule, Predictions
Friday, Sept. 3
No. 10 North Carolina at Virginia Tech, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN
Saturday, Sept. 4
No. 2 Oklahoma at Tulane, noon ET, ABC
No. 19 Penn State at No. 12 Wisconsin, noon ET, Fox
Fresno State at No. 11 Oregon, 2 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 14 Miami, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Miami (Ohio) at No. 8 Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
No. 17 Indiana at No. 18 Iowa, 3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
Northern Iowa at No. 7 Iowa State, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
No. 23 Louisiana at No. 21 Texas, 4:30 p.m. ET, Fox
San Jose State at No. 15 USC, 5 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 3 Clemson, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Florida Atlantic at No. 13 Florida, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Kent State at No. 6 Texas A&M, 8 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Montana at No. 20 Washington, 8 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
No. 16 LSU at UCLA, 8:30 p.m. ET, Fox
Sunday, Sept. 5
No. 9 Notre Dame at Florida State, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Picks in bold.
Longtime college football fans may remember that Clemson vs. Georgia used to be an annual occurrence. Considering the schools’ geographic proximity, it makes sense that the Tigers and Bulldogs built a rivalry series through regular meetings.
From 1962 to 1987, Clemson and Georgia met in all but two years. Now, the two schools rarely face off. In the past 17 years, the Tigers and Bulldogs have played twice, which was a home-and-home series in 2013 and 2014. Clemson hosted and won 38-35 on Aug. 31, 2013, and Georgia got revenge the following year, winning 45-21 on Aug. 30, 2014.
It’s clear that the Tigers and Bulldogs are ready to get things started.
“I’m ready to play a game. Our kids are ready to play a game. We need to play a game,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart recently said, per Steve Reed of the Associated Press. “We need to play a game to get better. I don’t know that we are going to get better continuing to practice against each other, the walkthroughs, to teach. There’s no more time for that.”
But this isn’t just a standard non-conference game. This is a chance for the Bulldogs to make a statement.
Although Clemson lost some of the key players who led it to a sixth consecutive CFP appearance last season—most notably quarterback Trevor Lawrence—it’s reloaded and ready to go. Sophomore DJ Uiagalelei is taking over as the signal-caller after getting a bit of experience last year when Lawrence missed some time after testing positive for COVID-19.
Uiagalelei impressed in his two 2020 starts, passing for 781 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions while also scoring two rushing touchdowns in the pair of games. He should have a big 2021, especially with a talented offense around him that includes senior running back Lyn-J Dixon and redshirt junior wide receiver Justyn Ross.
Georgia’s defense may be strong enough to limit Clemson. If not, its offense could be capable of keeping up with the Tigers. The Bulldogs return some key players, such as redshirt junior quarterback JT Daniels. But they are also a bit banged up, with junior wide receiver George Pickens the most notable of the injured players.
This should be a competitive matchup with the potential for plenty of momentum swings.
“It’s exciting because there’s an edge that comes with opening up with a game like this,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney told UGASports.com in August. “… You step in Day 1, this is a heavyweight top-five matchup, maybe a top-three matchup right out of the gate.”
Not only will the winner be 1-0, but it will also already have a huge win on its CFP resume.