Georgia vs. South Carolina: The Bulldogs Are About to Decimate the Gamecocks
It’s downright insulting that the spread on this game is only 10 points. I’ll mention that again later today in the gambling preview, but I’m really not kidding. Georgia’s going to win by 3+ scores.
I just don’t think South Carolina can play with Georgia in any phase of the game.
Georgia’s Offense vs. South Carolina’s Defense
Last year, Will Muschamp offered the following post-game comment:
We made Jake Fromm play quarterback. And I compliment Jake: He played extremely well tonight. He was very accurate with the football.
I have so many problems with that statement that I don’t know where to begin. First, this seems to imply that South Carolina put the game in Fromm’s hands by taking away the run. In actuality, Georgia ran for 242 yards. Four Bulldogs had runs of 12+ yards. Four averaged 5+ yards per carry. What’s more, Georgia held the ball for more 38 minutes and picked up 26 first downs. Does that sound like anything other than a Bulldog offense that was able to exactly what it wanted?
South Carolina has a lot to replace defensively, most notably Skai Moore, Dante Sawyer, Chris Lammons and JaMarcus King, and Georgia seems every bit as impressive offensively as it did a year ago. Sure, the Bulldogs have only played one game, but the “weakness” offensively for Kirby Smart’s team (as it relates to lost talent) should be the running game now that Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are gone. Alas, Georgia ran for 284 yards on 8.6 yards per attempt in Week 1—thanks in no small part to the best offensive line Athens has seen in years. Sure, that was against an FCS opponent. But against an FCS opponent last year, the Bulldogs managed an identical rushing yard total (284) on far more carries (54 vs. Samford; 33 vs. Austin Peay).
The Georgia passing game, meanwhile, is mostly struggling to figure out what to do with two quarterbacks. As Muschamp rightly observed last year, sophomore Jake Fromm is very accurate with the football. As Justin Fields showed in Week 1 (completing seven of eight passes), he is too. Some would even say he’s more accurate.
Though South Carolina cruised last week, the Gamecocks still allowed Coastal Carolina to score four times (three field goals and a touchdown), and there’s just really not a reason to think South Carolina has made up the gap defensively yet. Further, I think there is reason to think Georgia’s offense is even better in 2018 than it was in 2017.
South Carolina’s Offense vs. Georgia’s Defense
It’s hard to read too much into a win over FCS opposition, but the shutout was meaningful for Georgia last week as the Bulldogs look to (like South Carolina) replace a slew of play-makers on defense. But my confidence in this match-up has much more to do with what South Carolina lacks than what Georgia has, because frankly I don’t yet know what Georgia has.
I do think South Carolina lacks a game-changing quarterback. Now, that may be a hot take in the Palmetto State, but I’m not blown away by Jake Bentley’s career with the Cocks. He is, from what I can gather, a poor man’s Jake Fromm. And it’s worth noting that I’m a far-cry from a “Frommised Land” fanboy. But who would you rather have?
- 2017 Jake Bentley: 62.2% Completion Percentage, 7.1 Yards Per Attempt, 2,794 Yards, 18 TDs, 12 INTs, 130.7 Rating
- 2017 Jake Fromm: 62.2% Completion Percentage, 9.0 Yards Per Attempt, 2,615 Yards, 24 TDs, 7 INTs, 160.1 Rating
Ultimately, I think you want the quarterback that gets two more yards per attempt, 33% more TDs and roughly 50% as many INTs. Oh, and Fromm was a freshman while Bentley was a sophomore.
Further, Bentley has been downright…well…average against good teams. Here’s what he’s accomplished against ranked foes:
- 2016 Tennessee: 15 of 20 for 167 yards, 2 TD and 0 INTs
- 2016 Florida: 18 of 33 for 213 yards, 0 TDs and 1 INT
- 2016 Clemson: 7 of 17 for 41 yards, 0 TDs and 1 INT
- 2016 South Florida: 32 of 43 for 390 yards, 3 TDs and 2 INTs
- 2017 Georgia: 21 of 35 for 227 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs
- 2017 Clemson: 16 of 29 for 126 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs
- Total: 109 of 166 for 1,164 yards, 7 TDs and 8 INTs.
In essence, Bentley’s average game against a Top 25 opponent is something like 18 of 28 for 194 yards and he’s more likely to throw an INT than a TD. I’m not terrified of that.
I’m also not shaking in my boots over the return of Deebo Samuel. The guy is, frankly, sporadic as an offensive play-maker. Big-time receivers in college tend to be that way, and make no mistake about it he is a big-time receiver. But he’s not a transcendent, take-over-every-game guy. As a freshman he was good for just two receptions for 20 yards against Georgia. He balled out later that year against Clemson (five catches for 104 yards and a score), but the next year he caught four balls for just 14 yards vs. the Tigers. His best games, by in large, have come against weaker opposition (147 yards of offense against UMass in 2016, 125 receiving yards against Mizzou in 2016, 190 yards receiving against South Florida, 122 receiving yards against Kentucky last year). Even if he did go off against Georgia, I don’t think that would necessarily change the outcome of the game – South Carolina is, after all, going to get yards and points somewhere.
And make no mistake about it, South Carolina will want to use Deebo. He had seven catches, one rush attempt and two kick returns against Coastal Carolina last week. I just don’t think he’ll take over a game against Georgia—at least not to an extent that results in a Gamecock upset.
On the ground, there’s not a lot to fear with South Carolina. Rico Dowdle will be the featured back comping off of a 105-yard performance in Week 1. But despite showing flashes as a freshman (back-to-back 100-yard games vs. Tennessee and Missouri in 2016), Dowdle hasn’t emerged as a premier SEC running back. He’s missed time with injury, but prior to last week’s game his last 10 contests showed the following yardage totals: 30, 50, 27, 48, 23, 32, -4, 61, 19, 45.
In theory, this is where Deebo could take over, but Georgia’s been pretty jam-up on special teams coverage and I’d expect more of the same. I don’t think he’ll get a chance to return a kickoff all day. Further, one has to like the Parker White and Rodrigo Blankenship at kicker.
Last year, White connected on just 14 of his 25 attempts. He was good from a long of 44 but made just four of his 14 attempts from more than 40 yards. He has not attempted a field goal this season.
Hot Rod is 1/1 on the year. Last season he connected on 20 of 23 attempts including two field goals from 50+ in the Playoffs (good from 55 vs. Clemson and good from 51 vs. Alabama). On the year he was six of nine from 40+ yards.
I’ll offer this explanation (verbatim) later today in my gambling column, but I don’t think this game is as close as it’s being made out to be.
Frankly, this line is insulting to Georgia and a byproduct (in my opinion) of three narratives: 1. South Carolina played Georgia close last year, 2. Somebody has to step up in the SEC East, and 3. It’s tough to play at South Carolina. First and foremost, the game last year was ugly but it wasn’t really all that close. Jake Fromm was 16/22 for 196 yards and two scores and after the game Gamecock head coach Will Muschamp declared some sort of victory saying, “We made Jake Fromm play quarterback.” That seems to imply that Carolina shut-down the Bulldogs’ ground attack, but Georgia ran for a cool 242 yards. Georgia held the ball for 38:22 and South Carolina had possession for just 21:38. Georgia racked up 26 first downs to South Carolina’s 14. Georgia racked up 438 yards of offense and South Carolina managed 270. The game was never—ever—in doubt. Secondly, yes, someone does have to step up in the SEC East, but that’s all relative to Georgia’s spot at the top. The presence of a behemoth in the division does not necessitate a competitive rival so much as it might induce a wide gap between first and second. Finally, it is very tough to play at South Carolina. That would be concerning if these two teams were remotely even by any measure (talent, coaching, etc.). But that’s not the case. I think it plays to Georgia’s favor that there is so much South Carolina hype right now.
I’ve got the Dawgs: 34 to 13.
That’s all I got/