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Top-10 clash when Georgia heads to Death Valley

College football dives headfirst into the 2013 season tonight when No. 5 Georgia and No. 8 Clemson square off in a showdown featuring BCS dreams and elite quarterbacks.

Aaron Murray came five yards shy of leading the Bulldogs to the BCS Championship Game as a junior last season before time ran out against eventual national champion Alabama. Tajh Boyd enjoyed a record-setting junior campaign for Clemson and joins Murray as a preseason candidate to take home the Heisman Trophy.

Murray, whose 95 touchdown passes are more than any active FBS player, was named the preseason SEC player of the year despite the presence of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the reigning Heisman winner. Boyd, meanwhile, threw for 3,896 yards and 36 touchdowns in 2012 en route to winning ACC player of the year honors. In addition to the top-tier quarterbacks, the Bulldogs and Tigers possess electrifying complementary players such as Georgia running back Todd Gurley and Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins.

About Clemson

(2012: 11-2)

The Tigers are coming off their best season since winning the 1981 national championship with a 12-0 record.

Only five teams averaged more than Clemson’s 41 points per game in 2012, but it won’t be easy to replace running back Andre Ellington (1,081 yards, eight touchdowns) and wideout DeAndre Hopkins (1,405 yards, 18 touchdowns). Also, the Tigers must find a way to shore up their pass defense, which ranked 71st nationally last season and will face an immediate test against Murray and the Bulldogs.

About Georgia

(2012: 12-2)

The Bulldogs begin their season in daunting fashion, facing No. 8 Clemson, No. 7 South Carolina and No. 13 LSU in three of their first four games. The tough schedule will pose an early challenge for Georgia’s top running backs, Gurley and Keith Marshall, who combined for 2,144 yards and 25 touchdowns as true freshmen last year. Defensively, Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt must find a way to replace seven starters, including first-round picks Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogeltree.

Extra points

  1. The Bulldogs and Tigers have not played since a 30-0 victory by Georgia in 2003.

  2. Murray has 41 career starts, more than any active FBS player.

  3. Before taking a snap as a senior, Boyd holds 51 school records.

Prediction

Georgia 37, Clemson 28