Aug 31, 2013; Clemson, SC, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley (3) carries the ball during the fourth quarter against the Clemson Tigers at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Tigers won 38-35. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson at Georgia ranked as No. 3 non-conference game of 2014

The Clemson Tigers coming to visit the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens has been ranked as the No. 3 non-conference college football game of the 2014 season, according to college football insider, Stewart Mandel.

This should really come as no surprise to anyone who has observed the renewal of this once classic football rivalry, as the anticipation leading up to last year’s slug-fest in Clemson was off the charts. And the game itself left few disappointed (well, other than Georgia fans) as it was one of the more exciting games of the season.

Here’s what Mandel had to say about this year’s Clemson at Georgia matchup:

3. Clemson at Georgia (Aug. 30, 5:30 p.m., ESPN): This one won’t have quite as much buzz as last year’s showdown, given the departures of Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins to the NFL. Still, Clemson’s offense shouldn’t fall far as long as Chad Morris remains the coordinator. New Tigers quarterback Cole Stoudt has been in the system four years and will look to exploit a Georgia secondary that lost three projected starters (Tray Matthews, Josh Harvey-Clemons and Shaq Wiggins) during the offseason. And it’s always fun to watch Bulldogs star Todd Gurley, who is arguably the nation’s top returning running back. Joining him in the backfield could be Keith Marshall coming off ACL surgery and/or five-star incoming freshman Sony Michel.

While Chad Morris is a fine offensive coordinator, and has brought a lot to Clemson’s offense, he’s also had a lot to work with. Will there be a fall-off without Boyd and Watkins? Of course there will. Those were two very special athletes who took Clemson’s offense on their shoulders more than once.

As for exploiting the Georgia secondary, as I’ve stated before, I don’t see that there will be a huge difference without the presence of Matthews, Harvey-Clemons and Wiggins. The Bulldogs have the talent pool to replace those players (who did their share of getting exploited last season anyway).

What can, and should be, exploited is Clemson’s run defense. And that’s where the Bulldogs should be able to put this one away and keep the Tigers out of reach.

So what did Mandel rate above this year’s Bulldogs-Tigers clash?

At number two – Notre Dame at Florida State on Oct. 18. Can’t see that this one is really going to be that great. But it is two traditional national powers, one of them being the defending national champs. Possible playoff implications for this game if nothing else.

And at number one – Michigan State at Oregon on Sept. 6.  Yawn. Yes, it’s one of the best offenses in the country against one of the best defenses. But it’s an early non-conference game between two schools who rarely meet (only four times in their histories) so the excitement and buzz really shouldn’t be that high.

The Clemson at Georgia game has much more venom than the other two. The two teams are in conferences that really don’t like each other, there is a long history between the two schools, and to top it off, Georgia wants payback for last year’s close defeat.

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