The SEC’s premier game during week two features the most underrated rivalry in the SEC. It’s a new hate brought about by one man, Steve Spurrier. The Gamecocks have won the last three, but Georgia has won the East the last two years. This is a developing rivalry game, and it’s real.
Here are five things to watch for Saturday in Athens:
Protecting Murray: Georgia allowed four sacks last week to Clemson’s defense. Left tackles Kenarious Gates and Kolton Houston both struggled blocking the speed rush off the edge from the defensive end. Likewise, center David Andrews looked overmatched, and he committed some holding penalties. This week, Georgia welcomes one of the top defensive lines in the SEC. Jadeveon Clowney, Kelcy Quarles and Chaz Sutton will look to turn up the heat on Murray, and one of the biggest concerns is that Georgia may not even know who its starting five – the right combination – are right now. Expect OC Mike Bobo to steal a page out of UNC’s playbook to scheme the offense against the Gamecocks’ strength with some quick passes, screens and draws.
Running Game(s): Carolina has won the last three games backed by the running game. The Gamecocks have rushed for 672 yards compared to UGA’s 364. Georgia has the edge with the personnel of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, but Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds are capable of carrying the load, especially with the type of success Clemson had last week. Yes, Marcus Lattimore has been a major difference maker the last three years, but USC is 10-1 without him the last two years, including last week. Whichever running game succeeds and eats time of possession will have a big advantage.
Related: No Lattimore, no problem
Carolina secondary: This will be a great test. Aaron Murray may be missing Malcolm Mitchell for the season, but he has seasoned and talented veterans behind him to pick up the slack. The Tar Heels’ passing game finished fourth in the ACC last year, averaging over 290 yards per game, and the Gamecocks secondary played well holding them to 194 yards last week. But this is a whole different animal.
Corralling Shaw: Connor Shaw went all Connor Shaw last week. The SEC’s most underrated player improved to 18-3 as a starter. Shaw completed 11 of 20 passes for 149 yards and one TD. Again, not face-slapping numbers, but that’s why he’s Connor Shaw. He also rushed 12 times for 43 yards, and Georgia’s defense will have to contend with not only Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds, but Mr. Shaw, too. Spurrier is more concerned with getting an early lead and eating the clock with a running game, but Shaw will have to make some big plays to score with Georgia.
Special Teams: Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan is still out this week, and the one glaring play that stands out against Clemson is the botched field goal. Special teams and field position will be critical Saturday. South Carolina kicker Elliot Fry was 2-2 last weekend, but punter Tyler Hull recorded five punts last week for only 33.2 yards per punt. Georgia punter Collin Barber leads the SEC with 47.4 yards per punt.
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