The rest of the college football world should consider itself officially on notice now following Georgia’s 52-20 pasting of South Carolina in Saturday’s pivotal SEC matchup in Athens.
The Dawgs were an offensive machine, relying on overwhelming speed and talent and superior strength up front to dominate the visiting Gamecocks through the air and on the ground and cement themselves as the team to beat in the SEC East.
Here’s a closer look at the Dawgs’ impressive victory:
1. Georgia is a tough out for anybody when quarterback Greyson Lambert plays well: Lambert completed 24 of 25 passes, including a school-record 20 consecutive completions, to finish with 330 yards and three touchdowns. Trying to slow down a deep and powerful Bulldogs ground attack led by Nick Chubb is hard enough, but an effective passing on top of that makes the Dawgs a team that could not only reach the College Football Playoffs, but do some damage. You can bet that the rest of the college football world is taking notice.
2. RB Sony Michel is one of the best players in the SEC: The versatile sophomore accounted for three touchdowns (two receiving, one rushing) and is a home run threat every time he touches the ball. Michel offers an effective change of pace to starter Nick Chubb with his versatility. The future pro announced his great strength in dramatic fashion by running over South Carolina defender en route to his second touchdown reception in the third quarter. Michel will see more starts in the NFL.
3. Few teams have offensive lines as good as Georgia’s: With four starters back from last year’s offensive line that helped Georgia rush for nearly 260 yards per game, most people figured this unit would again be the strength of the Bulldogs offense. And they were spot-on with that assessment. The Dawgs dominated South Carolina up front on Saturday, opening gaping holes for the Nick Chubb and others while keeping Lambert virtually untouched the entire game.
4. Georgia’s wide receivers hadn’t been given the chance to make that many plays downfield until today: Nine different Bulldogs caught passes from Lambert, paced by the eight receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown by Malcolm Mitchell. Seven different Georgia receivers tallied at least two catches.
5. All eyes are already looking ahead to the upcoming showdown with Alabama: The schedule says that Georgia has to first dispatch of Football Championship Subdivision foe Southern in next Saturday’s paycheck game between the hedges, but players and fans already have the Oct. 3 date with the Crimson Tide on the brain. Can’t blame ’em.
Offense: A+ — Lambert successfully quieted all the angst coming from Georgia faithful about the state of the Bulldogs passing game with a tour-de-force performance that should make future Dawgs opponents shudder. Buoyed by a strong offensive line that consistently allowed him to throw from a clean pocket, Lambert picked apart the South Carolina secondary by completing 24 of 25 passes for a career-high 330 yards and three touchdowns.
Lambert’s 96 percent completion percentage was new NCAA, SEC and school record, topping the previous NCAA and SEC marks held by West Virginia’s Geno Smith (West Virginia vs. Kansas in 2012) and Tennessee’s Tee Martin (95.8 percent, against South Carolina in 1998).
Tailback Nick Chubb accounted for the rest of Georgia’s offensive balance, totaling 159 yards and a touchdown for his 11th consecutive game of at least 100 yards rushing. The Dawgs scored on all their four first-half possessions, with three of those being touchdowns, in rolling up 323 of their 576 yards of total offense for the game. Georgia scored on seven of its first eight possessions, including six touchdowns and a field goal, and wasn’t forced to punt until late in the third period. The Bulldogs offensive dominated South Carolina from start to finish. The previous Georgia mark had been held by David Greene (20 for 23 against Vanderbilt in 2002).
Defense: A- — South Carolina QB Perry Orth’s first career start began well, but quickly turned into a nightmare. Constantly harassed and denied the luxury of a rushing game, Orth completed four of his first five passes, but struggled the rest of way, completing just two of final 12 attempts with an interception after his quick start. The Gamecocks quickly became one-dimensional as Georgia dominated the line of scrimmage and slammed the door shut on the Gamecocks running game. The visitors enjoyed a few bright moments with dual threat quarterback Lorenzo Nunez, but nowhere near enough. South Carolina managed just 258 yards of total offense, a lot of which came long after the game had been decided. Georgia’s defensive secondary consistently locked down the Gamecocks receivers to make things uncomfortable for Orth and Nunez.
Special teams: C — Kicker Marshall Morgan got back on track following a poor game at Vanderbilt with a 30-yard field goal to open the game’s scoring, but there were too many costly breakdowns in kickoff coverages. Morgan himself was forced to make two touchdown-saving tackles in the first half, but a 51-yard return by South Carolina’s Shon Davis and a subsequent 15-yard face mask penalty against Reggie Davis set the stage for a Gamecocks field goal that closed the score to 24-13 on the first half’s final play. An offsides penalty against Georgia nullified a recovery of a pooch kick in the fourth quarter.
Coaching: A — Nice job by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to script quick, high-percentage easy passes on four of Georgia’s first five offensive plays. The short and easy completions to start the game not only helped quickly build Lambert’s confidence, but set the stage for his outstanding play throughout the game after a shaky performance at Vanderbilt a week earlier. The torrid start to the game put the Gamecocks defense on their heels from the outset and they never recovered. Schottenheimer’s offense had the kind of balance (246 yards rushing, 330 yards passing) that coaches dream of. The two South Carolina quarterbacks combined to go a meager 10 for 22 for 84 yards passing with an interception against a smothering Georgia defense.
Overall: A – This South Carolina team was overmatched in every possible way, but Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier had won four of the last five meetings against Georgia. Soundly beating him and the Gamecocks is proof enough that these Bulldogs are for real and a heavy favorite to be back in Atlanta in December.
Schottenheimer opened the playbook up after playing things close to the vest in his team’s first two games, and it reaped immediate dividends. The Gamecocks were left guessing the entire game and had no answers for the Bulldogs’ array of offensive weapons as the Dawgs enjoyed the luxury of being consistently ahead in down and distance situations. Georgia faced just four third-down plays the entire game and dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt had an answer for everything Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier could muster. The Bulldogs’ 52 points matched the Dawgs’ highest point total against South Carolina first set in 1970 and again in 1974.
RB Nick Chubb: Who else? The sophomore Heisman Trophy candidate is the epitome of consistency, chewing up 159 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries to power a potent Bulldogs ground attack. It marked the 11th consecutive game in which Chubb has rushed for at least 100 yards. Chubb now has more than 2,000 career yards rushing in just 16 career games.
QB Greyson Lambert: Coach Mark Richt’s confidence in Lambert never wavered, and the Virginia graduate transfer made him look a very wise man for it by completing a staggering 24 of 25 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns. Lambert is suddenly en fuego after completing 11 of his final 14 attempts at Vanderbilt a week earlier and 24 of 25 at South Carolina’s expense, including a school-record 20 consecutive completions. Lambert consistently made excellent decisions with the ball while spreading it around to nine different receivers.
RB Sony Michel: It appears there’s nothing Michel can’t do. He accounted for three touchdowns, hauling in a pair of 11-yard touchdown receptions from Lambert as part of his 32 yards receiving on three catches and added 51 more yards and another score on the ground on eight carries.
LB Jake Ganus: As if registering a team-high seven tackles to pace a dominating defensive performance wasn’t enough, the senior inside linebacker topped a memorable night enough by getting down on his knee and proposing to his girlfriend at midfield following the game’s conclusion. She said yes.
Congrats to Jake Ganus! The linebacker proposed to his girlfriend (and she said yes!!) on the 50 after tonight’s win! pic.twitter.com/qmiLD1dZtk
— Georgia Bulldogs (@UGAAthletics) September 20, 2015
• WR Reggie Davis: The junior took a vicious hit from South Carolina safety Isaiah Washington while catching a pass along the sidelines late in the first half. Davis was shaken up and had to leave the game, but soon returned.
• DB Rico McGraw: Did not play because of an injury to his right foot.