aaron murray

Early Analysis: Georgia vs. South Carolina

 

No. 6 South Carolina at No. 11 Georgia
Saturday, 4:30 PM, ESPN
Line: Georgia -3.5

Only at the highest level of college football can a game in week two be considered a must win. Such is life when you are supposed to be a contender not just for a division title in the SEC, but also possibly a BCS title contender.

When you’re Georgia, however, and are coming off of a 38-35 loss to open the season, it’s a tipping point towards panic-especially with one of the other SEC East contenders coming into your stadium. It’s time for South Carolina to come calling.

The last two seasons, South Carolina was the only team to beat Georgia in the SEC, and those losses served as something of a springboard to appearances in the SEC title game for the Dawgs. But going 0-2 for the second time in three years could turn up the flame on Mark Richt’s seat even higher.

 

For Georgia to win: Control the tempo. A lot of the talk after South Carolina’s game against UNC was about the shape that the South Carolina defense was in. Most of the focus was on defensive end Jadeveon Clowney appearing gassed, but a lot of the members of the Gamecock defense looked like they needed some extra oxygen. They’ve had a couple of extra days off to get ready for this game, and it’s not totally in their DNA, but Georgia might want to vary the tempo and play a little faster than normal to really test just how game ready the Gamecocks are. Not to say that they need to go as fast as Oregon does or as fast as Cal did against Northwestern, but playing fast may not hurt.

For South Carolina to win: Make plays on offense. It was a sluggish effort all around for South Carolina last week, with the offense putting up some pedestrian numbers. Quarterback Connor Shaw will have to do much, much more than he did against UNC (11-20, 149 yards, one touchdown) if South Carolina wants to have any impact in this game.

Key Player, Georgia: Aaron Murray, quarterback. The senior is looking for his first win against South Carolina, having gone 0-3 so far. Murray has played well in big games, although that is not the perception that is out there. If Murray can come up big and avoid the pressure from the Carolina front, it could go a long way to saving the hearts and minds of Georgia fans.

Key Player, South Carolina: Kelcy Quarles, defensive tackle. Most eyes will be on Clowney, the defensive end. But the interior of the line has to take advantage of the attention that Georgia will be paying to Clowney. Quarles, the junior interior lineman had a sack last week and three total tackles. If he can get a push up the middle and disrupt the running game, that will force Georgia into more passing situations and allow for the pass rushing ends to be turned loose.

Key Stat: 3. That is the current winning streak in the series for South Carolina, which is the longest winning streak for the Gamecocks in this series, which dates back to 1894. Steve Spurrier is 15-5 all time against Georgia, notching 11 of those wins as coach of the Florida Gators.

Lattimore

Early Analysis: Georgia vs. South Carolina

No. 5 Georgia at No. 6 South Carolina

Saturday, 7pm ESPN

Line: South Carolina -2

Welcome to the SEC East Championship Game… Oh, wait Florida's in the mix? No matter what the Gators are doing the border battle between the "other" USC and Georgia sets up to be one of the biggest games of the season, let alone this week.

Normally this would be the matchup everyone is talking about, right? Well, maybe it's because it's Georgia and Mark Richt, who likes flying a bit more under the radar, but this battle just isn't seemingly gaining the national traction that should go with this game. Especially since the 'Ole Ball Coach is on the opposite sideline.

Interestingly it seems that Florida – LSU is getting all the headlines, yet these two teams are both ranked ahead of the Gators. No matter the hype, or lack thereof, this promises to be an old fashioned slobber knocker (yes, I just went all Jim Ross on you) and I for one can't wait to see this one between the hedges in Columbia, SC.

So, let's get to how these teams match up, huh?

For Georgia to Win: Well, first things first, it needs to find a replacement for WR Michael Bennett who's out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. This affects one of the most underrated QB's in the country in Aaron Murray, who's completing 68% of his passes and has 12 TD's to just 3 INT's on the year. 

Secondly they need to remain as efficient as they've been in the redzone (18 of 21). Converting on the chances they get on Saturday will be huge. Part of that will be riding the hot hand at running back between Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, who are averaging 7.9 yards and 8.2 yards a carry respectively. I know you're going to say, "but that flies right into the strength of the Gamecocks D" and you're right, but sometimes you have to go with your strength no matter what the opposition brings to the table, call it a surprise attack if you will.

Defensively they need to make Connor Shaw uncomfortable. Rattling him isn't easy, but he'll pick you apart if you don't get after him and do so early and often. That will also take the Gamecocks crowd out of it and make things easier on the offense as well. 

For South Carolina to Win: Marcus Lattimore running and Marcus Lattimore receiving, and finally Marcus Lattimore rushing again. This team needs a huge day from their best play maker to win this game. 

Sometimes the best defense is a methodical offense and if I were the Gamecocks I'd be playing a lot slower of a game on offense to keep the powerful Georgia O off the field. Lattimore is a key component to that and any other win for the Gamecocks. However, he'll need to rush for more than his 88 yard a game average to do it and that will be the interesting part to watch.

This game also needs to be low scoring, the Gamecocks are only giving up 11.2 points a game to opponents and Georgia's offense is high flying, averaging 48.2 points a game. If USC is going to win this one they need to keep them in the 20's at the very least.

Key Player, Georgia: You could say Aaron Murray, or any of the running backs, but I'm going to the other side of the ball and OLB Jarvis Jones. He's been one of the most disruptive forces on the Bulldogs defense with his 32 tackles, 8tfl's, and amazing 4.5 sacks already on the year. As I said before, getting to Connor Shaw and rattling him will be huge and Jones needs to play a key part in that happening.

Key Player, South Carolina: I said it right at the top, it's Marcus Lattimore. He needs to pound the ball early, often, and for a lot of yards to keep the ball away from the Georgia offense. It's just that simple to me. If Lattimore is stopped at home this game is a loss for the Gamecocks.

Key Stat: 2.2 yards per carry – that's the number of yards per carry the Gamecocks defense is giving up and they are about to face two running backs that each average around 8 yards a carry. Something has to give here right? Whoever wins that battle could win the game.

The more you analyze this game the more you realize it's who's offense dictates to who's defense wins the game. This will be one of the most hard hitting, brutal force games the SEC will see all season long and I can't wait to watch this one between the hedges.

But, if you're expecting this game to be an offensive shootout, don't. These teams win with defense and even if one offense is dictating it doesn't mean they are scoring a ton of points. If you like defense, watch this game unfold. It could be a master class in D.

For all his opinions, analysis, and college sports musings make sure you follow him on twitter @andycoppens.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy has been covering college football for nearly half a decade and is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadgers.com. He's also a featured columnist covering college football for Bleacher Report.

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