Pretty good read even if they did pick UGA
South Carolina (1-0) at Georgia (0-1)
Sept. 7, 4:30, ESPN
Why You Should Give A Hoot:
Georgia is good enough to win the BCS championship. Even with a few tweaks needed, a lost starting receiver and a couple of concerns on defense, all the talent is in place to run the table, win the SEC championship, go 12-1, throttle some overhyped Ohio State-like team from another conference, and make everyone finally believe that Aaron Murray and Mark Richt can win the really, really, really, really big one.
Or the Bulldogs could lose to South Carolina and be completely and totally out of the national championship chase by September 8th.
The loss to Clemson probably didn’t matter all that much to the BCS title hopes. If Georgia runs the table, it’ll take something special to keep a 12-1 SEC champion out of Pasadena, but there’s still a ton of work to do to even start to believe that’s possible. The first step is getting past the team that provided a 35-7 beatdown last year.
This is South Carolina’s big chance. The national attention has been there all offseason thanks to superstar DE Jadeveon Clowney, but a dominant opening act against North Carolina proved there are other parts to the puzzle, too. Last year’s win over the Bulldogs was the high point at the end of a 6-0 start before losses to LSU and Florida derailed the season. This year’s team might just be Steve Spurrier’s best yet in Columbia, but this begins a brutal stretch of five road dates in the next seven games. Meanwhile, the Dawgs get a relative breather in two weeks against North Texas before dealing with LSU.
Why South Carolina Might Win:
Spurrier has Richt’s number lately. The Gamecocks have won the last three in the series with a blowout last season, a shootout in 2011, and a slugfest early in 2010. This year, USC East has the right makeup and the right type of team to take advantage of a Georgia squad coming off a physical and emotional loss in Death Valley. Surprisingly, Clemson was able to pound away a bit with the running game, cranking out close to 200 yards on the ground to counterbalance a big day from Tajh Boyd and the passing attack. Against North Carolina, South Carolina was able to get physical, but it also hit the home run with Shaq Roland coming up with a 65-yard scoring catch early, and Mike Davis putting the game away in the third with a 75-yard touchdown dash. The Gamecocks might not be Clemson when it comes to offensive pop, but the balance and mix should give Georgia’s defense a nightmare of a time. South Carolina’s offense will be able to play any way it needs to.
Why Georgia Green Might Win:
Will the sense of urgency and desperation matter? This is it for the Bulldogs in terms of must-win situations early on, and while it’s not like they’ll try any harder now, the team might take a few more chances and pull out a few more tricks. Lost in the loss to Clemson was that the game could’ve gone either way, and if it wasn’t for a botched field goal attempt, it might’ve. QB Aaron Murray was fantastic – even without receiver Malcolm Mitchell – and Todd Gurley and the running attack were unstoppable. South Carolina’s offense might have worked against North Carolina, and it should be effective this week, but it doesn’t have a Tajh Boyd or a Sammy Watkins, and it doesn’t have a Murray, Gurley or Keith Marshall. If this gets into any sort of firefight, the Bulldogs are far better equipped to handle it. North Carolina wasn’t able to get its running backs to the USC linebacking corps and the second level. Georgia will.
Who To Watch Out For:
Georgia lost a key part of the receiving puzzle when Malcolm Mitchell tore his ACL celebrating Gurley’s first touchdown. Expected to be the team’s No. 1 target, Mitchell leaves a huge void and a big opportunity for Michael Bennett to become the main man. After a nice freshman campaign, Bennett was lost midway through the 2012 season after tearing a knee ligament in practice. At 6-3, 208-pounds, he’s a little slimmer than last year, but he possesses the size to be a difficult matchup in three-wide sets. His speed has returned, and he showed it off a bit catching five passes for 60 yards against Clemson. Murray is able to spread the ball around, but the more Bennett can do, the better.
- So what’s wrong with Jadeveon Clowney? After all the hype and all the excitement, he was non-existent in the win over the Tar Heels – at least according to the expectations. He came up with three tackles and forced UNC to focus on him play after play after play, but he had a typical game for a defensive end – even the great ones don’t come up with a sack every time out. It didn’t matter much against Bryn Renner and the midrange Tar Heel passing game, but Clowney has to bring the heat on Murray and make him get rid of the ball sooner than he has to.
- Todd Gurley was already on everyone’s radar, and the NFL scouts didn’t exactly need to see much more, but the brilliant and breathtaking 154 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries took him to a whole other level. The thigh injury suffered against the Tigers isn’t considered anything serious, and he’s expected to be at full strength in what could be a battle of No. 1 overall draft picks. Clowney is expected to be the top guy off the board in 2014, and Gurley is quickly making a case for himself as the first guy on the stage in 2015.
- Gurley might have been one of the stars against Clemson, but it was Tiger back Roderick McDowell who proved to be the game’s most effective star, pounding out 132 yards on 22 carries. South Carolina’s Mike Davis could be the McDowell-type playmaker who takes over the game and makes it his. He and Brandon Wilds combined for 179 yards and a score on 24 carries, and while they’re not Gurley and Marshall, they should be productive.
What Will Happen:
Expect yet another war for Georgia. South Carolina was surprisingly flashy against North Carolina, and it might be again against a leaky Dawg defense that still has to prove itself. Clowney will come up with the game everyone has been waiting for, but Murray will keep getting up off the mat after getting clocked time and again, and unlike last week, this time he’ll be on the right end of a close, tough battle.
Georgia 34 … South Carolina 30
Georgia -3 o/u: 55.5
Must See Rating:
(5 Olbermann – 1 Total Divas) … 5