CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Georgia and Clemson are evenly matched in several areas. Both have starting quarterbacks who are Heisman Trophy contenders and defenses that are works in progress.
But where the fifth-ranked Bulldogs clearly outshine the No. 8 Tigers heading into Saturday night's game at Death Valley is in the backfield with sophomore running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
"We can come out in that first game rolling, score about 30, 40 points," Gurley said. "We'll see."
In a matchup of top 10 teams any edge can be pivotal. And one of the marquee games of college football's opening weekend, the "Gurshall" tandem could be the difference in the game for the Bulldogs.
Still, there are other impact players — including two talented quarterbacks.
Georgia's Aaron Murray was selected the top quarterback in the Southeastern Conference in a preseason vote by league coaches. His Clemson counterpart Tajh Boyd is the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year.
Skill players on both sides like Georgia receiver Malcolm Mitchell and Clemson pass-catcher Sammy Watkins also are capable of making big plays.
On the defensive side of the ball, both squads are loaded with uncertainties and newcomers.
Yet, it's the running game where Georgia looks strongest.
Gurley and Marshall shared the spotlight as freshmen and became one of the SEC's most dynamic duos as they combined for 25 touchdowns.
Gurley rushed for 1,385 yards, becoming Georgia's first 1,000-yard rusher in four seasons. Marshall ran for nearly 7 yards a carry and had three games with 100 yards or more.
Meanwhile, Clemson is searching for a running game after Andre Ellington finished up his eligibility last fall. Ellington twice went over 1,000 yards and gave the Tigers the breakaway speed that meshed with the strong passing game.
Fifth-year senior Rod McDowell will get first crack at Ellington's spot with backups D.J. Howard and Zac Brooks likely to see time, too.
McDowell has waited his turn behind several NFL backs at Clemson, including C.J. Spiller, Jamie Harper and Ellington. The Tigers believe the tailback is more than capable for the job.
"I think he's the most explosive player on our offense," Boyd said of the tailback called "Hot Rod."
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