One game does not a season make, not for the Georgia Bulldogs and not for their opponent this weekend, Jadeveon Clowney.
Both the Bulldogs and the South Carolina Gamecocks star defensive end will be under the microscope Saturday afternoon in a game televised at 3:30 p.m. CT on ESPN.
Coming into the season, Clowney was hailed as a Heisman Trophy hopeful, but after a lackluster season-opening performance against North Carolina last Thursday, public perception on the stock of the Gamecocks defensive lineman is bullish.
Clowney made zero impact plays against the Tar Heels, registering merely three tackles, none for a loss, zero sacks and accounted for zero turnovers. What really caught the attention of amateur scouts, however, were the plays that Clowney appeared to take off, gave minimal effort. He came out of the game on several occasions on a rotational basis.
Fans expected more from the player thought to become the NFL’s No. 1 overall draft choice next year. But Clowney deserves a pass.
He did make an impact on the game. Watching the contest, you couldn’t help but notice North Carolina deliberately directing plays away from Clowney’s side of the field. Had the Tar Heels not been so scared of running right at Clowney, he would have made more plays.
It was also a hot, humid night in Columbia last week. And after the game, Clowney complained of a stomach virus, which raised eyebrows when such an ailment was unbeknownst to coach Steve Spurrier.
Clowney isn’t going to have three sacks every game, nor is he going to make a highlight reel helmet-popping hit. For the time being, Clowney gets the benefit of the doubt.
An SEC East showdown on Saturday with Georgia is far more important anyway. And Clowney’s performance this weekend will lend more credence to whether he’s a legitimate Heisman contender or not.
Also in need of a prove-it, statement game are the Georgia Bulldogs as a whole, coming on the heels of a season-opening defeat to Clemson.
Despite the loss, as it stands, Georgia is not out of the SEC title hunt, even the national championship picture. All they have to do is take care of business within the conference, and all will be well, although nobody said it’s going to be easy.
There isn’t a team in the country with a more difficult early-season schedule than Georgia, but their season is still in front of them. Clemson could very well be a legitimate national contender, and a loss to the Tigers won’t sink Georgia’s résumé.
The Bulldogs will be on high alert on Saturday. A loss will have Bulldogs fans on suicide watch and will cause others to call for Mark Richt’s head prematurely.
Remember that as recently as 2011, Georgia started the season 0-2 and went on to win the SEC East. No one’s saying that will happen again, and the Bulldogs would certainly prefer to avoid the discussion entirely and just get a “W” against the Gamecocks.
Prediction: With home-field advantage, the Georgia offense will figure out a way to get by the South Carolina defense, although it might take until the fourth quarter to do so. Georgia wins, 30-24.
Where College GameDay Is At
The ESPN crew will be in Ann Arbor for the Michigan-Notre Dame game on Saturday evening at 7:00 p.m. on ABC, which will be the last match-up between the Midwestern schools in the Big House for a long time.
Due to Notre Dame’s scheduling obligations with the ACC conference and preference for non-conference tilts with universities like Michigan State, Purdue and USC, the Wolverines and Fighting Irish won’t be seeing each other for the foreseeable future after a 2014 game in South Bend.
The hype all week has come from comments by Irish coach Brian Kelly, who said during an interview that Michigan-Notre Dame was a regional rivalry, downplaying the national significance.
Certainly, Notre Dame’s rivalry with USC is more important than Michigan, and the history with Michigan State and Purdue might be longer standing, but to be sure, Michigan-Notre Dame isn’t lacking in national attention. After all, this is the game that set the record for the highest (confirmed) attendance at a college football game in history when 114,804 went to the match-up in 2011.
It’s not the longest-tenured rivalry, having only been played annually since 1978, but a streak of 35 years is nothing to scoff at. That timespan encompasses the entire lives of the players on the field and much of the viewing audience.
ESPN’s Ivan Maisel also did well to bring to light the historical impact, dating back to Michigan’s Fielding Yost’s animosity for the Catholic church back in the days of Knute Rockne.
Part of what makes Notre Dame-Michigan so unique is that it’s played early in the season. Whereas most rivalry games are played around Thanksgiving and the last few weeks of the schedule, it’s always nice to see a rivalry game in September.
This year Notre Dame will be looking to prove its appearance in the national championship game last season was not fluke, while Michigan continues its rise to prominence under Brady Hoke, who only fanned the flames of the rivalry when he said that Notre Dame was “chickening out” of scheduling the Wolverines.
Prediction: Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner will find a way to expose the Notre Dame defense. Wolverines win, 24-23.
The Wisconsin Connection
For a second consecutive week, the Wisconsin game won’t generate much interest nationally as the Badgers face off against smaller division foe Tennessee Tech.
What the Wisconsin game may draw attention to, however, is the success schools in Football Championship Subdivision had against schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision on opening weekend.
It’s difficult to forget the Appalachian State upset of Michigan back in 2007. That turn of events certainly wasn’t unprecedented at the time, but it was a rarity. And it seems as if small-school upsets have been occurring with increasing regularity since then.
Last weekend’s FCS upsets included North Dakota State driving past a Kansas State team that played in a BCS bowl game last year, and Eastern Washington upending a ranked Oregon State team. Other FBS teams to lose included UConn, Iowa State, South Florida, San Diego State and South Alabama.
It’s highly unlikely Wisconsin loses on Saturday given the way they dismantled UMass last week, but perhaps they at least were inspired to not overlook an inferior opponent, based upon the upsets that transpired a week ago.
The Wisconsin running game was its typical dominant self in getting three rushers to rumble for over 100 yards versus UMass (James White, Melvin Gordon, Corey Clement), while the defense pitched a shutout. Quarterback Joel Stave just needs to knock the rust off, and it appears he did in the second half last week after an off-target first half.
Prediction: In much the same fashion as last week, Wisconsin will bruise its opponent, although the shutout streak ends. Badgers win 45-7.
What Happened Before Saturday
The ACC is riding high after impressive wins by Clemson and Florida State in Week 1, and Boston College is trying to join the Atlantic Division’s elite, if only temporarily.
The Eagles, under new head coach Steve Addazio, dispatched Atlantic foe Wake Forest on Friday evening, 24-10.
Boston College won’t be able to hang with the likes of Clemson and Florida State over the long haul, but they showed they’re headed in the right direction after a 2-10 record a season ago, and last night’s win will go a long way toward getting back to bowl eligibility.
Following in the recent tradition of great B.C. linebackers such as Luke Kuechly and Mark Herzlich, the Eagles have a new one in Kevin Pierre-Louis, who accounted for 11 tackles against the Demon Deacons and was a reason their offense just couldn’t get going.
The star from Friday night, however, might have been running back Andre Williams, who put Boston College on his back, carrying for 35 times for 204 yards and a score.
Quarterback Chase Rettig also looked like an underrated prospect. He’s not flashy and he can’t run, but he has NFL size. Rettig may not even be draftable material, but he may deserve a contract offer at the next level.
Finally, check out Oklahoma State’s version of the veer option out of the pistol formation in a breakdown by John Harris of TheSidelineView.com.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book “It’s Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America,” and editor of Cheesehead TV’s “Pro Football Draft Preview.” To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.