Georgia coach Mark Richt and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, whose teams open the new season against each other on Aug. 31 in Death Valley, could have been reading from the same script about their demanding early-season schedule.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre going to have be in midseason form right out of the gate,‚Äù Swinney said last Thursday on Atlanta sports radio station 92.9 The Game. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not like we get preseason warm-up games. We‚Äôre coming out of the gates playing one of the best teams in the country.‚Äù
Richt was asked earlier that day about his team‚Äôs ‚Äúbrutal first month.‚Äù
Georgia follows Clemson by playing at home against South Carolina on Sept. 7 and against LSU on Sept. 28.
‚ÄúI told the team we‚Äôre in a race, and that is to try to be at midseason form by Game One,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúThat race started back in January.‚Äù
Clemson, South Carolina and LSU combined to go 32-7 last season. All could be top 15 ‚Äî if not top 10 teams ‚Äî at the start of the season. Clemson was picked Monday by the media who cover the Atlantic Coast Conference to win the league.
‚ÄúYou‚Äôve got the toughest September in the country, I think,‚Äù ESPN‚Äôs Chris Fowler told Richt Monday morning on SportsCenter.
‚ÄúYeah, we probably do,‚Äù said Richt, who was among SEC coaches doing a series of interviews at the sports network‚Äôs campus in Bristol, Conn.
Later, radio host Colin Cowherd said to Richt: ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt know why you don‚Äôt schedule a Yale. Why in the world would you open up at Clemson?‚Äù
‚Äú… I don‚Äôt know. I guess we got nostalgic there for a second and decided to do it,‚Äù Richt said.
‚ÄúYou could make Texas Abilene a rival,‚Äù Cowherd cracked. ‚ÄúI applaud you for that, but Indiana is available, too.‚Äù
Cowherd broke down the schedule, even mentioning a game against ‚Äúcupcake‚Äù North Texas after an open date and before LSU.
‚ÄúThe guys are very excited about the start to the season,‚Äù quarterback Aaron Murray said last week. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs definitely pushed us to work even harder in the weight room, conditioning and film room preparation as well already.‚Äù
Murray said he‚Äôs watched every Clemson game ‚Äúa couple of times,‚Äù already, to offer offensive coordinator Mike Bobo input in the game plan. Murray‚Äôs homework included watching the bowl game between Clemson and LSU to scout both opponents.
‚ÄúFootball‚Äôs a game of momentum and if you want to do well, you‚Äôve got to have to kind of get the ball rolling,‚Äù tight end Arthur Lynch said. ‚ÄúYou don‚Äôt want to start off 0-2 and dig yourself out of a ditch because we‚Äôve done that two years ago.‚Äù
Georgia suffered a season-opening 35-21 loss to Boise State with a 45-42 loss against South Carolina, but reeled off 10 straight wins to reach the SEC championship game.
Richt said this year Georgia‚Äôs preseason camp could be more tailored on preparing for the early schedule.
‚ÄúWe may start our work on Clemson and South Carolina a little bit sooner than maybe we have some opponents in the past,‚Äù said Richt, whose team begins preseason practices on Aug. 1.
While South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said last week that Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd was ‚Äúscared‚Äù to go up against him (he also mentioned Murray), Bulldogs defensive end Garrison Smith spoke of Boyd with deference.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs hard to stop a guy like Tajh Boyd,‚Äù Smith said. ‚ÄúLook at him. He‚Äôs talented. He‚Äôs one of the best quarterbacks in the country. It‚Äôs just going to take all we‚Äôve got to try and contain him.‚Äù
Said Murray: ‚ÄúI know our whole team is excited to get cranking and see where we are as a team.‚Äù
Note: Georgia wide receiver signee Rico Johnson is an academic casualty. He tweeted that the NCAA Clearinghouse didn‚Äôt accept a couple online courses on his transcript. Johnson, from Swainsboro, told DawgPost.com that prep school or junior college are possibilities. Georgia is deep at receiver, so Johnson was unlikely to crack the rotation this season. The other player from the 33-player signing class who is known not to have qualified academically is offensive lineman DeVondre Seymour from North Gwinnett, who was considered a longshot when he was signed. He‚Äôs reportedly going to Hinds (Miss.) Community College.
Unfortunately NCAA didn't take my two online classes but I'm still rockin wit DawgNation to the death of me see yall at the top!
— Rico Johnson#7 (@Ric_DhaKidd) July 22, 2013
Minor set back for a major come back..
— Rico Johnson#7 (@Ric_DhaKidd) July 22, 2013
So you take one class but not take the other that's kray!
— Rico Johnson#7 (@Ric_DhaKidd) July 23, 2013