1. Aaron Murray is tracking 9 points higher on his completion percentage compared to 2011
Georgia’s quarterback is having a heck of a year. He’s completing 68.2% of his passes compared to 59.1% during the 2011 season. The balanced offense and an another year of maturation are helping Murray play the best football of his career. He will need it against South Carolina.
Murray is completing 78.5% of his throws on first down thus far this season (compared to 61.7% last year). 32 of his 51 completions on first down resulted in a first down. 24 of them went for 15+ yards. 12 went for 25+ yards. The bottom line is with the running threat of Gurley/Marshall, Murray is deadly on first down right now. South Carolina’s pass defense is also struggling on first downs. South Carolina’s strength on defense is the pass rush on obvious passing downs. Avoid obvious passing situations, and Georgia will move the ball.
2. Expect Lattimore’s carries to be dialed up
Spurrier has been slowly ramping up Lattimore’s work load over the first five games. Other than the Vanderbilt game where an injured Shaw and a close road game required giving Lattimore the rock more than Spurrier wanted, it’s been a slow progression to get to the Georgia game. 23 carries against Vanderbilt, 13 carries against ECU, 12 carries against UAB, 21 carries against Mizzou, 23 carries last week against Kentucky.
When the Gamecocks were struggilng to pull away from Kentucky late in the 3rd quarter, Spurrier went to his work horse and gave him 10 carries on a single drive resulting in a Lattimore touchdown which put the Gamecocks up 28-17.
Lattimore’s past numbers against Georgia are, well, big. 182 yards on 37 carries in 2010. 176 yards on 27 carries on 2011. You can essentially guarantee 25 carries and probably more this weekend.
3. Georgia’s wide receivers are underrated
Georgia debuted a five receiver set last week (used it about 5-6 times) acknowledging what we at SDS have been saying.. that Georgia has underrated weapons at WR. With the addition of Malcolm Mitchell on the offense, OC Mike Bobo implemented the five receiver set to get more of these guys on the field.
If you’ve paid attention to NFL chatter this week, much of the talk was about how Dallas QB Tony Romo doesn’t trust stud WR Dez Bryant and how it’s impacted on-the-field performance. Well, you could say the opposite about Georgia WR Michael Bennett and QB Aaron Murary. Bennett has a team leading 24 catches with 345 yards and 4 touchdowns. Murray and Bennett are demonstrating what a quarterback and WR can do when they are in sync. King and Brown each have 16 catches as well. Expect a big game from Georgia’s WR corps against an average SC secondary.
Updated: Michael Bennett is out for the year with an ACL tear he suffered in practice Tuesday.
4. Tennessee game was not indicative of the Georgia defense
Since the game last week, Richt has acknowledged that the Georgia safeties were playing unusually deep to avoid the big play against Tennessee. Essentially, the Georgia offense is so good, if they can just prevent the Tyler Bray 50-yard touchdowns as much as possible, they’ll outscore Tennessee and win the game. This gameplan worked well until two bad turnovers late in the 1st half.
Moreover, the biggest problem with Georgia’s defense late in the game against Tennessee was Georgia’s offense. The last 4 drives other than the game-ending “victory formation” drive were 4 punts and drives of 3 plays, 4 plays, 3 plays, and 3 plays. The Georgia offense put the defense right back on the field for the entire 4th quarter. The Georgia defense was gassed and the Vols.
5. Connor Shaw – how good is he?
I don’t want to say Shaw is a poor man’s Tebow because I think that’s even a bit ridiculous, but maybe he’s a homeless man’s Tebow. “He just wins.” That’s the rallying cry about Shaw and it’s definitely valid. His only loss going back to 2011 was against Arkansas last November. With that said, he hasn’t knocked off a top team in the SEC yet. I would consider Georgia a top team in the SEC, so if Shaw wins Saturday, well, I’ll upgrade him from a homeless man’s Tebow to a poor man’s Tebow.
The Georgia defense will play South Carolina completely different than they played Tennessee. Tennessee’s line protected Bray very well and he got rid of the ball quickly to avoid pressure most of the game last week. I expect guys like Jarvis Jones to make an impact this week and hit Shaw a few times.
Last week, South Carolina lined up in the I-formation and rammed the ball down Kentucky’s throat. Typically an offense that has Shaw running the zone-read, the I-formation helps prevent Shaw from taking unnecessary hits. Georgia will likely see a good bit of both from Shaw.