Georgia vs. South Carolina Preview: What’s About to Happen?
I don’t even know where to go with this game, because I really don’t know where this game is going to go. I’m going to throw out a bunch of thoughts today from a Georgia-centric perspective and I hope at the end I can support my gut and/or desire for UGA to win.
This is Georgia’s first road test of the season. For obvious reasons, I don’t count Missouri as a road “test” when speaking of game environments. Williams-Brice (So nice they named it twice) Stadium’s 80,000 fans make more noise on any given Saturday than the 70k at Faurot Field make in a lifetime. This will be the most hostile crowd the Dawgs have seen in one year (the last notable volume heard was at Tennessee October 8, 2011). How the Dawgs – particularly freshmen RBs looking to pick up blitz schemes and audibles – respond will be crucial to the game’s outcome.
Georgia fans will miss this friendly crowd when taking on the Cocks
Georgia will miss Michael Bennett, as discussed here, most when key third downs are needed. His lack of presence will be compounded by the fact that he didn’t just happen to be really clutch on second and third downs. He was Murray’s go-to target. Tavarres King may be Murray’s first-down guy and Malcolm Mitchell and Marlon Brown may be his big play guys, but Bennett was his go-to possession receiver. Not only will his physical presence be missed, but also the psychological reliance Murray had on him. Someone must fill the void left by Bennett and before him the departure of Orson Charles. I’d love to see a Tight End fill that role, and Artie Lynch sure has looked good.
This photo of Steve Spurrier drinking a Coors topless has nothing to to with Michael Bennett.
Georgia must “keep pace” on two fronts on offense: both in timing and in downs. The strength of South Carolina’s defense lies on their defensive line. D.J. Swearinger may be an All-American this season at safety, but his success (much like Rambo for UGA) is dependent on pressure forced by his DL. Like Georgia, however, South Carolina’s defensive line can become worn out. It happened against Kentucky (albeit for a half) and fatigue neutralized the squad. With Murray’s plethora of offensive weapons (Gurley, Marshall, Mitchell, Brown, King, Wooten, Lynch, Rome, etc.) the Dawgs hold an advantage if they can keep a fast pace and wear out Jadeveon Clowney and company – even if UGA’s OL becomes equally fatigued.
Georgia must also stay ahead on the snap-count, so to speak. You hear about pitchers getting ahead in the count (more strikes than balls), well the same needs to happen for Murray and the offense. Bennett’s six third-down conversions lead the team (Marshall is second with four), but perhaps even more indicting is the fact that the average yardage needed during those six 3rd downs was six yards. Georgia cannot afford many 3rd and six play calls on Saturday.
The Dawgs need effective running by Marshall and Gurley (fortunately the two have combined for 35 first down runs on 1st and 2nd down) early in possessions, solid hands by guys like Tavarres King (Nine first down catches on first downs) on play action and top-notch play-calling from Mike Bobo (which frankly, I think the Dawgs have gotten).
Style of Play
Last week it was clear that Tennessee’s only chance of keeping up with the Dawgs was in a shootout. I would love to see Georgia’s defense dominate the game (and I think they’re due for a game), but I also think a shootout favors the Bulldogs. I don’t think Connor Shaw, who is playing terrific ball right now but has been inconsistent even by South Carolina QB standards, has weapons that can match Georgia’s on the receiving end. And, as much as I fear Lattimore, he has not been himself this season (at least not yet) and would be hard pressed to go run-for-run with two fresh backs from Georgia.
Are we sure Joe Cox didn’t just change his hair color and suit up for the Gamecocks?
Georgia has shown much more of an “upside” this season with a flawless game against Vanderbilt even with out Rambo and Ogletree. South Carolina is still looking for their truly “scary good” game. If both teams play their best game I like the Bulldogs a whole lot, probably by more than a touchdown. But every step down from their concerns me. Because, Georgia has also looked a lot worse than South Carolina has at any given time (FAU defensive stuggles, UT offensive and defensive struggles, etc.).
I think Georgia is a much more talented team than South Carolina this year – and I’m not sure that I would have said the same thing last year. And, for the first time in several seasons it seems like we have a group of guys that is capable of not only playing with intensity, but also playing with crisp, sharp precision. This will be a great test for the Dawgs, because unlike years in the past I don’t foresee this being a “Wow, what an ugly game. Those teams really bring out the worst in each other.” type matchup. I think one of these teams will gain considerable national attention for winning this game in a respectable fashion.
And, I think it will be Georgia.
That’s all I got/