Thursday February 11th, 2016 4:18PM

Column: Expect a flashback this weekend in Georgia-Clemson rivalry

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
Allow me to don my "old-timers" hat for a second (complete with moths and dust).

There aren't many Georgia or Clemson fans younger than my own 35 years that will remember the slugfests that the Bulldogs and Tigers used to routinely lay on each other.

There have been sporadic fistfights over the past two-and-a-half decades -- 1991 and 2002 spring to mind -- but nothing like the all-out brawls that used to engulf the shores of Lake Hartwell in the 1980s.

Between Georgia's national title team of 1980 and Clemson's own just one season later, the old foes once provided nemeses for each other equal to any SEC showdown. And the contests between the two bitter neighbors almost always provided fireworks -- in fact, during the decade of the 1980s, the Bulldogs edged the series 4-3-1, with the average margin of victory a minuscule 4.25 points.

Forget red and orange; the color of the rivalry was much more black and blue. And fans of both teams should expect a return to that type of battle this Labor Day weekend.

There may not be the type of defense on display that each team used to thrive on back then -- more on that later -- but we should expect each team to trade haymakers in what could be an epic kick-off to 2013.

This time around the game figures to be an offensive showcase, as Georgia brings Aaron Murray and Co. to bear against Clemson quarterback Tahj Boyd and the Tigers' no-huddle speed attack.

At least that's the conventional wisdom.

It makes perfect sense, and it seems likely that two defenses that were by no means shutdown units a year ago would struggle against two offenses with the ability to short-circuit scoreboards.

But perhaps there is no need for a shut down from either side.

As good as both offenses are -- and there are few better -- it will be the first game of the season for each, and offense is all about timing, rhythm and comfort. Certainly Murray will feel cozy with the weapons he has (Todd Gurley, Keith Marshal, Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett, Arthur Lynch, etc.) and a deep and veteran offensive line (a first in the senior's time in Athens), while Boyd knows he can hang one up deep for stellar receiver Sammy Watkins. Even with that in mind, however, fans should expect a few hiccups -- likely from both teams.

Few offenses roar out of the paddock like a finely-tuned race car, and even the best can experience a few technical difficulties in the early going. In other words you can expect a forced pass or a mis-read block or route. And that's where those two almost afterthought defenses will make the difference.

Many wonder whether Georgia's young unit -- of the 22 members of Georgia's two-deep on defense, 10 have never played a down of FBS football and eight are true freshmen -- can keep pace with Boyd's high-flyers.

The answer is probably not. But they may not need to. To win, Georgia may only need make a few big plays, force a key turnover and get Clemson's offensive veterans thinking instead of running plays by rote.

The same goes for the Tigers.

The most worrisome factor for Georgia fans could come on special teams, where the fate of starting placekicker Marshall Morgan remains up in the air after his arrest on a boating under the influence charge this summer. All indications point to Marshall missing the contest due to the Bulldogs' relatively strict athletic department policies, yet Richt has played coy about Morgan's status.

If this game gives us a show like any of those 80s contests (no Georgia fan who was alive will ever forget Kevin Butler's 60-yard, game-winning field goal in 1984 -- and if you weren't around, click here), the Bulldogs are certain to need a good kicker, and while it remains for debate whether Morgan is that, his experience of last season would almost certainly be a better alternative than a walk-on.

Whatever happens, we should be in for a treat -- and perhaps a flashback to those days of the 80s.

-- Morgan Lee is sports editor for Access North
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All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
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