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.