Georgia football meets Clemson in two months. Let’s take a look at their defenses.
They used to say “defense wins championships,” but that seems to have lost its luster. Teams are now scoring 35-40 points a game on their way to hoisting the championship trophy. Some even think that these offenses are getting to the point of no one stopping them. However, don’t buy the hype. There will always be a place for great defense on a college football team, and Georgia football has one of the better stop units.
Last season both Georgia football and Clemson had very good defenses. When you compare the two units’ ability to stop the other team from scoring they come out quite equal. Georgia allowed 20 points per game while the Tigers allowed 20.2 points per game according to cfbstats.com. They both gave up about the same amount of yards per game as well. Georgia gave up 321 yards while Clemson gave up 326.8 yards.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription needed), Georgia football was given an overall defensive grade of 92.0, a rushing defense grade of 91.0, a pass-rushing grade of 87.2, and a coverage grade of 86.2. On the flip side, Clemson received a grade of 88.6, a rushing defense grade of 90.1, a pass-rushing grade of 78.6, and a coverage grade of 78.4. You can already see the separation in the two units, but let’s discuss tackling now, the heart of any defense.
Georgia was tied for the best tackling defense last season with a 93.4 tackling grade. They had an 83.2 tackle rating against Alabama and an 81.3 tackle rating against Florida (with 9 defenders out with injury). Clemson’s defense, on the other hand, had the 41st overall tackling grade on defense with a 71.5 tackling grade last season. In Clemson’s two games against Notre Dame, they received tackling grades of 76.6 and 75.2.
Football Outsiders gave Georgia football a 1.80 defensive rating for the 2020 season. They gave Clemson a 1.65. However, they gave Clemson a defensive efficiency rating of 1.02 while Georgia got a 0.66. What this means is Georgia’s defense was better overall, but Clemson’s defense was better on a play-to-play basis. This makes a lot of sense considering how closely these two units rank in most categories.
Also, let’s not forget all of these grades were from last season. Georgia did lose two linebackers and five of its defensive backs to the NFL. Even so, Georgia football will start five or its starting front seven from last season and their starting safeties both have experience after Chris Smith had to replace Richard LeCounte for most of the season last year. Speaking of experience, Georgia’s defense will start an upperclassman in every position but one in its starting 22.
A major reason for this is because Kirby Smart has added two of the very best defensive backs in the FBS through transfer. Tykee Smith, who transferred from West Virginia, and Derion Kendrick who transferred from Clemson. Smith was the best coverage safety in the FBS last season and Kendrick brings great skill to Georgia and he can also provide an inside look into Clemson’s defense.
This game may just come down to which defensive unit can get stops at the most meaningful times. Which unfortunately plays right into Clemson’s hands. Last year Georgia football forced just 13 turnovers to Clemson’s 23. To beat the Tigers in Charlotte Georgia will have to figure out a way to force turnovers. Not only will this prevent Clemson from scoring, but it also gives extra possessions to JT Daniels and Georgia’s high-powered offense.
This is going to be one heck of a matchup from beginning to end. The renewal of this rivalry can’t get here soon enough. When these two titans clash it could truly be something special. It all kicks off on September 4th at 7:30 on ABC. Make sure to tune in. You aren’t going to want to miss this one.