Georgia vs. South Carolina Preview

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It’s finally here.

It wasn’t easy over the weekend for Georgia or South Carolina, but the SEC East’s two highest-ranked teams remained unbeaten to set up Saturday’s battle royale in Columbia, a game that has large implications every season in the race for the Eastern Division title.

This matchup has all the trappings indicative of midseason games that mean something in the SEC — a prolific offense against a great defense, two All-American candidates for both teams on opposite sides of the ball and College GameDay lifting the hype meter.

Let’s take a look at both teams before breaking down this game’s importance later this week:

RECENT HISTORY: Considered the East’s second-best rivalry in recent years after Georgia-Florida, the Gamecocks have beaten the Bulldogs back-to-back years after Georgia won six of the previous seven head-to-head matchups. South Carolina junior running back Marcus Lattimore is averaging 179 yards per game career against Georgia. Over the last decade, seven games in this series have been decided by a touchdown or less.

OFFENSE: Remember Isaiah Crowell, the SEC’s freshman of the year last season? He’s long forgotten in Athens due to a pair of dominant freshman running backs who have been tearing up defenses this season for the Bulldogs. Comically titled “Gurshall”, the tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have obliterated the competition in their first five college games, rushing for a combined 964 yards and 14 touchdowns. Thunder and Lightning wouldn’t accurately describe these two since both possess tremendous speed and power. Gurley’s a little bigger at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, but that doesn’t limit his breakaway ability. We haven’t even mentioned Aaron Murray, a prolific pocket passer with 12 touchdowns this season. Georgia has scored 40 more points in every game this season, averaging an SEC-best 48.2 points per contest.

On offense, it all starts with Lattimore for South Carolina. Simply put, the Gamecocks win when Lattimore rushes for more than 100 yards. Currently, Connor Shaw is the SEC’s most accurate quarterback with a 78.1 completion percentage and makes plays on the move when South Carolina needs a first down. Shaw’s 35 for his last 39 for 397 yards and four touchdowns. The Gamecocks have scored 30 or more in four straight games for the first time since 1987, but are still searching for their identity with an offense that occasionally struggles with consistency, especially in goal line situations. When the Gamecocks needed it most, though, the offense moved the football and scored touchdowns on four straight possessions at Kentucky to run away from the Wildcats.

Edge – Georgia

DEFENSE: Any way you crack it, Georgia’s star-studded unit has simply under-performed this season and reached its low point against Tennessee over the weekend. In that game, the Vols scored 20 unanswered points in the second quarter to lead at halftime and finished with nearly 500 yards of total offense, exposing a rush-challenged front seven. It was difficult to notice the return of Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree to the UGA defense since the Bulldogs were gashed at the line of scrimmage to the tune of 197 yards rushing and missed several sure tackles on the outside. Georgia did however force three turnovers in the final six minutes that clinched the win and sent 92,000-strong home happy.

Considered among the best in the country prior to the season, South Carolina’s defensive line has proved its worth through five games. The Gamecocks rank second in all of college football with 22 sacks and 13th in total defense at 288 yards per game. South Carolina has given up five touchdowns all season, tied with Alabama for the best mark in the SEC.  In the second half of last week’s game at Kentucky, the Gamecocks held the Wildcats to four first downs and didn’t allow a point after trailing by 10 points in the second quarter. South Carolina’s rush defense is the SEC’s best at 77.6 yards per game. Jadeveon Clowney is this unit’s Heisman candidate should South Carolina continue winning.

Edge – South Carolina

SPECIAL TEAMS: Both Georgia and South Carolina rank near the bottom of the FBS ranks in net punting, coming in at Nos. 105 and 112, respectively. Bulldogs kicker Marshall Morgan has made 4-of-5 field goals this season and 27-of-30 extra points. South Carolina’s Adam Yates has nailed 3-of-4 field goals and hasn’t tried one longer than 38 yards. When the Gamecocks have the ball in Georgia territory, Steve Spurrier will likely go for it.

Ace Sanders and Bruce Ellington are two weapons in the return game for South Carolina, speedy wide receivers that also play on special teams. Sanders has one career punt return touchdown, but made his presence felt this season against Missouri with a game-changing 48-yard return inside the Tiger 5. Ellington countered with a 50-yard kickoff return just before halftime that set up an eventual touchdown pass from Shaw to Sanders two plays later. Only 15 of the Gamecocks’ 33 kickoffs have gone for touchbacks and the punting game has been dreadful this season. South Carolina has only returned three kickoffs, but averages 27 yards per return.

Edge – Even.

COMMENTS

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  • “Tennessee scored 20 unanswered points in the second quarter to lead at halftime”
    It was tied 30-30
    And on special teams, Georgia is averaging 21. 67 (T. Gurley is averaging 34.71 on 7 attempts with 1 TD) on kick returns. Now, South Carolina is averaging 27.67 on 3 (THREE) attempts and 0 TDs on those kick returns. South Carolina is averaging 12.81 ypa in punt returns on 18 punts. Georgia is at 8.79 ypc on 14 attempts. So when it comes to returning the ball, both are good on kick returns and terrible on punt returns. But when it comes to kickers, Marshall Morgan is 2-2 on 50+ (50, 52), 1-2 on 40-49, and 1-1 on 30-32. He has 39 points on the year. Adam Yates is 1-1 on 20-29, and 2-3 on 30-39. His long on the year is a 38 yarder, and he has 31 points on the year. My point being since the games usually comes within a score and Morgan has proven he can hit from 40+, I give UGA the edge on special teams.

    • Its obvious this guy doesn’t check stats or he can’t do simple math.Georgia may have struggled against Tennessee but that’s because the player personal changed. They got to players back from suspensions that hadn’t practiced with the team and were out of sync. This game will be different for the Bulldogs because everybody has a chance to practice together and work the kinks out.

  • I think UGA has this game, it’s going to be hard fought, but i think we pull out the win. Clowney is big man, and a heck of a player, but i think the tandem of “Gurshall” are just to fast for him, as long as the Offensive line can maintain the pocket for Murray and Alec Ogletree plays like he did last week (14 tackles) we shut down lattimore and win the game. prediction is 28-17 UGA

  • Georgia is going to win by two touchdowns. South Carolina has sick D-Ends and that’s it. You can game plan against those ends and Georgia has too many weapons. South Carolina’s secondary is atrocious and Georgia’s wide receivers are very underrated. I think Georgia rolls in this game.

  • Clowney runs up field too much and while he’ll get a sack or two, he leaves holes too much. Georgia will counter with some good draw plays and keep them off balance with all their weapons. Georgia’s offense will be too much. I’m a little worried about Georgia’s defense after last week, but South Carolina’s offense isn’t prolific. Put a linebacker on Shaw and it’s ball game. Ogletree being back is big.

  • The author is right in that the Georgia defensive unit has underperformed this year. Looking at the numbers shows this. However, I do think that this unit will get much better as the season goes on. They had Ogletree and Rambo back for the first time against the Vols, and it’ll take a couple weeks to get those guys back in the swing. The unit should improve each week moving forward, but thus far, they’ve underperformed. Unfortunately, the Georgia offense can likely outscore anybody so it might not matter… until a potential SECCG.

    • Agreed on Georgia’s D underperforming thus far and how they will improve. As bad as they looked at times on Saturday, I think a lot of people are also selling UT short. The Vols have one of the best offenses in the league and they played like it on Saturday: experienced O-line, talented QB, overlooked RB, speedy receivers. Good luck the rest of the way!

  • Good write-up, but I’d argue that it was difficult to notice the return of Ogletree. Granted, the D didn’t play its best and was often gashed at the line of scrimmage, but Tree tipped the ball that resulted in Damian Swann’s INT and led the team in tackles. The Dawgs are the more talented team overall and if they play like it in Columbia, they win.

  • I hear all you dawgs barking. We’ll see how loud you are on sunday morning.
    Let’s play the game.

  • Blaming our defense for the “20 unanswered points” in the second quarter is silly. The offense turned the ball over twice and had a horrible special teams play that left us at the 1. All 3 “drives” started on our side of the 50.

    • but the offense is sooo good, how could they be the reason a game was so close?

      • Because the offense doesn’t affect the play of the defense…but what does is where you start your drives.

        • its still up to the defense to keep them from scoring, whether the drive is 80 yards or 40. momentum certainly factors in on turnovers, but a good defense will still stop teams from scoring.