Position-by-position edge: South Carolina at Georgia
Taking a position-by-position look at South Carolina vs. Georgia, here’s what to watch for in Saturday’s showdown between the Gamecocks and the No. 7 Bulldogs:
QUARTERBACK — Georgia: It’s not a position of strength for either side, but Greyson Lambert at least won his starting spot. Perry Orth, on the other hand, is assuming the role after Gamecocks starter Connor Mitch was lost due to a shoulder injury last week. Other than a late interception, Orth was solid against Kentucky and will get the benefit of starter’s reps in practice this week. The flip side is that he’ll be facing a tougher defense. Meanwhile, Lambert came out cold against Vanderbilt, missing on his first seven passes, but steadied in the second half and finished 11 of 21 for 116 yards. He’s yet to throw an interception this season.
RUNNING BACKS — Georgia: Brandon Wilds is a good back, but Nick Chubb is something much more than that. The Bulldogs sophomore has rushed for more than 100 yards in every game since moving up the depth chart midway through last year and is averaging nearly 9 yards per carry on the season. Behind Chubb in the Georgia backfield is some of the country’s best depth at the position, including multi-talented sophomore Sony Michel.
WIDE RECEIVERS, TIGHT END — South Carolina: Pharoh Cooper is one of the conference’s most dangerous offensive weapons, and he’s the reason the Gamecocks get the edge here. Both teams are looking for some secondary targets to emerge. Michel actually leads Georgia in receiving yards, but senior Malcolm Mitchell is the Bulldogs’ go-to target on the outside. Freshman Terry Godwin is showing flashes of big-play potential, and tight end Jeb Blazevich is a legitimate weapon in the passing game, but Georgia must figure out ways to get them more involved on a consistent basis. For South Carolina, tight end Jerell Adams appears to be set for a breakout senior season.
OFFENSIVE LINE — Georgia: The Bulldogs’ front was billed in the preseason as one of the country’s best and have done nothing thus far to tarnish that reputation. With four starters back from the unit that helped Georgia lead the conference in rushing yards last season, the Bulldogs are averaging 6.6 yards per carry through two games in 2015. South Carolina’s partially rebuilt line has performed well in the running game, but Kentucky was able to create pressure last week, notching a pair of sacks and four quarterback hurries.
DEFENSIVE LINE — Georgia: Jeremy Pruitt’s 3-4 defense doesn’t create many opportunities for the guys in the trenches to shine, but the Bulldogs have the edge in terms of talent and experience. Senior Sterling Bailey is a three-year starter who recorded 10 tackles and a sack against the Gamecocks in 2013 and has nine tackles through two games this season. Also keep an eye on 330-pound nose tackle Chris Mayes; the senior has re-emerged this year after dropping down the depth chart last season. The Gamecocks are hoping for big things from JUCO defensive end Marquavius Lewis and Gerald Dixon Jr., a returning starter on the interior.
LINEBACKERS — Georgia: South Carolina’s Skai Moore is one of the SEC’s best linebackers — and Georgia has two that are maybe even better. Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins lead the Bulldogs group and have combined for 33 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks through two games. The corps has also been buoyed by Jake Ganus, a transfer from UAB who has taken over a starting spot inside. Moore earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors after the Gamecocks’ season-opening win over North Carolina and has 18 tackles and three interceptions on the year.
SECONDARY — Georgia: The Bulldogs lost only one starter from a unit that ranked fifth in the country last year in passing yards allowed. Last week against Vanderbilt, they gave up nearly 300 yards through the air, but also intercepted three passes — returning one for a touchdown — and kept the Commodores’ completion rate below 50 percent. The Gamecocks appear to be improved from the unit that finished 10th in the conference in passing yards allowed last season, but still show room to grow. Through two weeks, opposing quarterbacks are completing 66 percent of their passes against South Carolina.