Georgia-South Carolina likely to be another nailbiter

Georgia faces another dual-threat quarterback in Connor Shaw. (Associated Press)

Georgia faces another dual-threat quarterback in Connor Shaw. (Associated Press)

Back in the offseason, a lot of fans on both sides of the Georgia-South Carolina rivalry fantasized about how great it would be if the two teams met undefeated in their new midseason slot on the schedule. Saturday, we get our wish in a nationally televised game that will mark the first time in the history of the series that both teams are ranked in the top 10.

Dawgs fans are anxious that Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks not get a third consecutive win in the SEC showdown and would love nothing better than to see Mark Richt’s team in the driver’s seat in the SEC East. But they also recognize that while both teams still have the Florida Gators to deal with, South Carolina also must face LSU.

As Spurrier noted this week, “This isn’t the end of the year no matter what happens, win, lose or draw.”

In other words, the same scenario that gave the division title to the Dawgs last year, despite a loss to the Gamecocks, is still very much in play this season as well.

How do Carolina fans feel about this game? For that viewpoint, I enlisted Atlanta Gamecocks fan Corey Broman-Fulks. Here’s what he has to say about Georgia-South Carolina:

Last season’s game was a demoralizing loss for the Bulldogs to start them 0-2 and set up the perfect path to a second-straight SEC East title for the Gamecocks. We all know that didn’t happen, thanks to a ridiculous loss by SC to Auburn and Georgia’s 10-game win streak.

Since that game, both teams have only lost twice, are undefeated this season and ranked in the top six. Comparing similar opponents this year, both teams beat Mizzou by 21 and Georgia destroyed Vandy while Carolina barely beat them in the season opener. So, what do I take away from that? Nothing. South Carolina rarely plays well in openers and has been dominant since (minus the first half of the Kentucky game).

Aaron Murray has had success throwing to a lot of different receivers this season. (Associated Press)

Aaron Murray has had success throwing to a lot of different receivers this season. (Associated Press)

Georgia’s offense is dangerous. With Aaron Murray, all those wideouts (the loss of Bennett will hurt) and Gurshall averaging something like 50 yards per carry, there’s a lot to cover for South Carolina’s D. Carolina hasn’t faced an offense like this yet this season, but Georgia’s O is in that same boat. Georgia’s defense has been spotty so far, but they’ve only had one week of the full group. I expect them to come out stronger than they did against Tennessee.

In the end, South Carolina’s defense is going to be just too stout for the Bulldogs. The defensive line is a deep group led by Jadeveon Clowney, Devin Taylor, Chaz Sutton, Kelcy Quarles and Byron Jerideau. With these boys, there isn’t much room to run and not a lot of time to drop back. Behind them are some big hitters with Shaq Wilson, D.J. Swearinger and Devonte Holloman. Clowney, Taylor and Sutton will rough up Murray, SC’s DBs won’t give up too many big plays and the front will do just enough to slow Gurshall down. Georgia will score and probably put together several nice drives, but it won’t be enough.

Georgia will probably start out crowding the box on D asking for USC QB Connor Shaw to beat them with his arm, which he can. Shaw is back healthy and has thrown for an 89 percent completion rate the last two games. The last two years, UGA has seen a lot of running back Marcus Lattimore wearing them out. They’ll get a lot again this year, too, but they haven’t had to face the added dimension of Shaw’s feet and accuracy. The receiving corps looks vastly different without Alshon Jeffery, but this group can fly and Shaw loves to spread it around.

So, I give the slight overall edge to the Gamecocks, unsurprisingly. With the game in Columbia, an offense that can control the ball, and a very stingy defense, the Gamecocks take down the Dawgs for the third year in a row. GO COCKS!

(And yes, I’m afraid I just jinxed them.)

Thanks, Corey.

He’s right that Georgia hasn’t faced a defense as good as South Carolina’s so far this season, and after seeing a couple of Aaron Murray’s passes tipped last week against the Vols (one resulting in a pick-6), I’m worried how Georgia’s quarterback will fare throwing to the outside over the Gamecocks’ two very tall defensive ends, Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor (who measure 6-6 and 6-8). And the Gamecocks rank second in the nation in sacks, too. Ball security must be a top priority for Murray this week.

But I think Corey underplays slightly the other side of the coin: South Carolina hasn’t faced an offense as balanced and as explosive as Georgia’s league-leading unit.

Marcus Lattimore gets stronger as the game progresses. (Associated Press)

Marcus Lattimore gets stronger as the game progresses. (Associated Press)

I know some observers look at this game and only see the flying feet of Marcus Lattimore, who has gashed the Dawgs the past couple of years. But the freshman tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall adds a dimension to Georgia’s offense that the Gamecocks didn’t see last year, and even then the Dawgs scored 42 points against the tough Carolina defense.

Plus, there’s the Georgia passing attack, which will face a less imposing Gamecock secondary than last year. Even without Michael Bennett, Murray has a lot of folks capable of making big catches, and he’s already spread the ball around impressively this season.

Of course, there’s more to the South Carolina offense than just Lattimore, and while the Gamecocks’ receivers aren’t on the same level as last season, the running capability of dual-threat quarterback Connor Shaw, who is Carolina’s second-leading rusher this season, concerns a lot of Georgia fans. I expect that, as was the case in the Missouri game, Todd Grantham will load the box and try to contain the Carolina running game as best he can while making Shaw use his arm to win.

Which, of course, Shaw can do. He’s completed 78 percent of his passes so far this season. Basically, the ability of Jarvis Jones and company to put pressure on Shaw will determine how effective Georgia’s defense will be.

The Dogs have a more potent running attack this season, led by Todd Gurley. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

The Dogs have a more potent running attack this season, led by Todd Gurley. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

A fast start would be a big help for Georgia because if, as is likely, the outcome is still up for grabs in the fourth quarter, the edge goes to the Gamecocks, as Lattimore seems to just get stronger as the game progresses, as was the case last year.

Still, despite Lattimore’s success on the ground and Carolina playing stout defense Georgia would have won last year’s game if not for special teams errors and turnovers, and those are likely to be the keys again this year. If the Dawgs can hold on to the ball and play heads-up football on punts and kicks, their offense is capable of outscoring South Carolina’s.

Of course, gamesmanship from the Evil Genius and a killer pass rush from Carolina could have something to say about that.

If Georgia’s defense turns in another disappointing outing, it will be tough for the Dawgs to win in Columbia. But if the Dawgs’ D finally puts it all together and is able to contain Shaw, Georgia’s high-octane mix of pass and run could spell the difference.

Either way, it should be a fight to the finish.

Got something you want to discuss concerning UGA athletics? Or maybe a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Send it to junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

90 comments Add your comment

NC Dawg

October 4th, 2012
10:56 am

First!…and Goooo Dawgs!

CHDawg

October 4th, 2012
11:01 am

Win it for Bennett!

dtopgun515

October 4th, 2012
11:02 am

dtopgun515

October 4th, 2012
11:04 am

close! I hate that Bennett is out for the year. In my opinion he was Georgia’s best reciever without all the media hype. Hope we don’t miss him as much as I think we will and other guys truly do stepup.

Hank Hill

October 4th, 2012
11:08 am

Let’s go, Dawgs! I want to see three visor throws before halftime.

CHDawg

October 4th, 2012
11:14 am

I think our D is for real, and this game will begin to show that. They play great for the Dawgs, but several of these guys also have NFL dreams-this could be their biggest stage for scouts this year (I hope not). I am tempted to think it might be a defensive struggle, but that is exactly what we thought last year, and look what happened. Turnovers and Special Teams are critical. We have a top rated rushing game, and they have a top rated run D. Who wins will determine a lot. Bobo has been doing a great job this year, I think we win if his NFL-like offense of the Dawgs hits the stage in Columbia.

Inlet Dawg

October 4th, 2012
11:18 am

We need to control the clock and control the game,keep our defense off the field and rested and they will look like natural born world shakers.Go no huddle and a fast pace game it will appear that the chicken whisperer made half time adjustments and came out to whip us.Play all our running backs and keep the defense fresh.It takes more energy to play defense.

CHDawg

October 4th, 2012
11:19 am

Lattimore is one of the best TBs I have seen recently, but I sure wouldn’t want to run on Ogeltree, Herrera, Jones, and our line. We have some classic matchups on both sides of the ball. Herrera just has a little of that Nobis/Butkus look about him to me.

RNB

October 4th, 2012
11:24 am

Georgia’s D will again be unable to stop Lattimore. This is why they lose. Defense is very disappointing to this point.

wiseoldawg

October 4th, 2012
11:46 am

If the Georgia OL is allowed to hold as much as opposing OL’s have held the Dawgs pass rushers this year then Murray will have plenty of time to throw

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

astrouga

October 4th, 2012
11:57 am

UGA has too many weapons. Look for us to have our way with USC by the fourth quarter. Unless we turn the ball over, expect this one to be 28-10 at half, 48-24 at the end. UGA should move ahead of FSU and LSU (I expect LSU to lose) in the polls with a strong performance. Unfortunately, UGA is getting no very little love from the media compared to FSU.

robodawg

October 4th, 2012
11:58 am

SC’s defense hasn’t faced a great offense. Our offense hasn’t faced a great defense. Something’s gotta give. I think we are gonna have to win it in the 4th quarter somehow. This should be a defensive battle. And as Spurrier has pointed out, our D is likely to be on the field for more plays than their D. We gotta stay mentally and physically strong, and some guys are gonna have to make some incredible plays. I see our defense once again icing a win with a key interception late in the game.

swimdawg68

October 4th, 2012
12:05 pm

Let’s not forget that SC trailed Kentucky by 10 points at the half last week, not exactually what you would expect from this “great offense”. I’m sorry, I just don’t accept that SC is better than us. They barley beat Vandy and we rolled over Vandy and that was accomplished by a “no call” on an obvious pass interference play that was crucial to the outcome of the SC/ Vandy game. They beat Mizzou in SC and we had to beat them on the road. If Shaw takes some hard hits from our defense (and I expect he will because he likes to run with the ball), I predict he will be unable to finish the game. If SC tries to put 8 “in the box” to stop Gurley and Marshall, Murray will cut them up with our receiver corp that is far superior to SC’s.

Finally, I predict a UGA victory and I predict it will be by more than 10 points. GO DAWGS!

DawgFanInBama

October 4th, 2012
12:13 pm

Corey = Delusional.

SC defense is stout? Hmm.

WDE

October 4th, 2012
12:18 pm

Unleash the Gurshall!! Line up play hard and fast every down and GATA!! Go Dogs !

Rory

October 4th, 2012
12:48 pm

As a SCAR fan, I expect this to be a close game. What will prevail is coaching! And EVERYONE IN THE COUNTRY knows that SCAR has better coaching than UGA. We are also hoping to re-introduce Mr. Clowney to Mr. Murray again…and again.

Looking forward to a great game!

SEC Losers

October 4th, 2012
12:48 pm

Arkansas loses to Auburn

Florida loses to LSU

Georgia loses to South Carolina

Ole Miss loses to Texas A&M

Vanderbilt loses to Missouri

Kentucky loses to Mississippi State

Enjoy the weekend!

93 Dawg

October 4th, 2012
12:51 pm

The matchup of our offensive tackles against their D-Ends scares me the most. I love the work John Theus is doing, but this will be his biggest test by far. After the TN game, Murray has me worried about turnovers again. This all leads to a repeat of last year. Ughhh!! I believe the defense will play a much better game than last week. If Shaw looks to run, we need to look to punish him. I believe the key is to protect Murray. If we do, the offensive balance can remain intact and we will score and score. I’m looking forward to my first game at Williams Brice. It should be a thriller!
GO DAWGS!! GATA!!

Jordie

October 4th, 2012
12:55 pm

I expect to see UGA get up by 14-21+ points to start the 4th quarter, kind of forcing Spurrier to throw it around a little bit, and abandon the run game.

I expect UGA to throw for 300 yards against the suspect SC secondary. Mitchell is no drop off to the loss of Bennett, in fact, UGA might be stronger with Mitchell replacing Bennett. Add in King, Brown, Lynch and Rome, and I feel SC’s in for a long, long day.

UGA is loads better offensively by the numbers on pass and run and points, also is better at LB & DB, and special teams. SC is better in the D-Line, UGA is better everywhere else.

I expect UGA to use a lot of the way Tenn offense played UGA to control the passrush, I expect Murray to release the ball quickly.

I don’t expect Murray to give SC 14-21 points like he did last year on the 3 turnovers, and the punt return team defense is much improved, only allowing 8 yards a return, so no fake punts in 2012 and cheap td’s.

So I expect UGA to put up 49 points, after all, UGA scored 42 last year, without Gurley & Marshall, and Murray is much improved. The offense is averaging 48 points per game, I expect that to continue. The last 2 of 3 UGA-SC games were high scoring affairs, and this one will be also.

Look for SC’s offense to start slowly, like they did against Kentucky, and for UGA’s defense to continue to clamp down in the 2nd half and 4th quarters, where UGA is ranked top 25 nationally in defensive scoring.

Tuck Fech

October 4th, 2012
12:57 pm

Sorry, guys. This game comes down to coaching and preparation. Add the fact that the game is in that glorified trailer park known as Williams-Brice, and I think our chances of pulling off a win are iffy at best. Sorry to say it, but USC wins by 10. I hope I’m wrong.

Jordie

October 4th, 2012
1:03 pm

Spurrier has a tendancy to rest Lattimore in the first half, saving him for the 4th quarter. UGA has to take advantage of that and jump out to a big lead.

Johnny Depp

October 4th, 2012
1:32 pm

SC is overrated.

MarineDog

October 4th, 2012
1:58 pm

I think that this will be a tough game from each team perspectives. I don’t think that these defensive stats mean as much as everyone is making them out to be. If I recall, both teams had highly ranked defenses last year and the score was 45-42. The same holds true for the offensive performances. SC scored 21 points by the defense and another 7 on special teams. All 42 points scored by Ga was made by the offense. So there is a precedence for UGA scoring over 40 points in this game. This year the offense is even more potent. The difference this year is that we have a better running game than we have in a while. That’s going to be the difference in this game in my opinion. SC had a few weapons last year than they don’t have this year…Jeffrey and Ingram. UGA has only played 1 week with its entire defense intact. The 1st week, we had 4 players on defense missing. The 2nd week, we had 4 missing. Jarvis Jones has also missed a week. The 3rd and 4th week, there was still 2 players missing.

The game against TN is not an accurate comparison on how the defense will stack up against SC. TN is a very effective passing team, with a possible 1st round pick in Bray and a likely first round pick in Patterson and Hunter. The defense played so far off the line in order to prevent the deep ball threat. If you notice the last few series of that game, you will see that they change that strategy and forced Bray into 3 turnovers. They will not play SC the same way. They will play to stop the run …..Lattimore and Shaw, and to prevent the short passes across the middle. SC is an easier team to contain offensively than TN. Everyone is saying how FL shut them down, but Tn has gotten better since then and it was evident in how they didn’t make the same mistakes that they made against FL. Sometimes, you just have to give the other team credit. They came prepared. You will see a much improved defense against SC this weekend. There are ways to mitigate SC over-aggressive defensive ends and with 2 stellar Rbs, SC will get gashed on more than 1 occassion. The best way to isolate Clowney is to run directly at him. Our strongest running side is to the left and that’s the side that Clowney’s on. This will be a chess match and in the end, i think UGA will emerge as the winner of this game.

BKbroila

October 4th, 2012
2:01 pm

Wow….Clowney is such a Juggernaut…averaging 1 sack/game…SC fans act as if he is a barbed Wrecking ball or something…give me a break….He and Taylor can be contained, because unlike Lattimore, they appear gassed after the 1st half of games…UGA has only surrendered 7 sacks this season….If they excape this game only allowing 2-3 sacks and Murray doesn’t drop the ball whenever he is hit, they will win…SC will bring backers, so it is important for Bobo to incorporate Lynch and Rome a little more in the game…I’m sorry, but Shaw has had 2 perfect games and there is no way in hell he doesn’t feel a bit of pressure in this game and have an off day….SC is going down…by 17…

Dawg Haus

October 4th, 2012
2:03 pm

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Dawg Haus

October 4th, 2012
2:06 pm

Dawgs win with a balanced offense and focus on making the chicken QB beat them with his arm. Tree will be all over Lattimore like white on rice. Control the ball, play smart D, win the game. Go Dawgs!

edumacated

October 4th, 2012
2:24 pm

If JJ can knock Shaw down hard a couple of times early in game UGA wins by 21. If the D never gets consistant pressure on that guy, he and Lattimore will gash them all day on 3rd and short and SC wins a close one.

ARdawg

October 4th, 2012
2:31 pm

A good defense is held in check and on their heels against a balanced attack. When both run and passing game are effective with a dual threat QB, even great defenses are immobilized to some extent. Murray plays his game and he’s very capable, we win this one cruising in the 4th qtr. If the D lays it in to Conner Shaw early and often, it’ll be a long night for the chikins. Otherwise, I’ll go along with the nail biter

SlawDawg

October 4th, 2012
2:50 pm

Hard call on this game. Neither team has faced a quality opponent, so there’s not much there to judge by. If it comes down to coaching, then it will be a long day for the Dawgs.

Skokie Dog

October 4th, 2012
2:54 pm

If the Dogs score more points than the Chickens by the time the clock reads 0:00, then the Dogs will win. Book it?

SlawDawg

October 4th, 2012
2:56 pm

Book it?

No. The clock reads 0:00 at the end of the first quarter. That won’t cut it. ;)

JRW7

October 4th, 2012
2:56 pm

I’m still worried about our defense, but GO DAWGS!

Skokie Dog

October 4th, 2012
2:56 pm

I think the clock reads 0:00 at the end of the fourth quarter too. That’s the 0:00 that I had in mind.

Rooster

October 4th, 2012
3:18 pm

The Great “Gurshall” will not do a great job pass blocking this weekend. UGAG loses 35 to 21.

McDawg

October 4th, 2012
3:23 pm

you have to get low to get Lattimore-he usually hits the defender first which is why he carries the pile 3-4 yds

never seen such a big guy play that low to the ground

The Ballad of Poor Joe Cox

October 4th, 2012
3:51 pm

The D has to step it up! come on you old junkyard dawgs!

truedawg

October 4th, 2012
4:14 pm

Turn overs! If the Dawgs don’t cough it up, Dawgs win by 2 scores. SC defense is good, but they haven’t faced a Offense like ours. Do the math..what is SC avergaing scoring? what is UGA average scoring? what is UGA’s D giving up? what is SC D giving up? average that out..Dawgs win by 10. We’ll see if that works out, but by the numbers..lol GO DAWGS!!!

Desert Fox

October 4th, 2012
4:26 pm

If the GA D can show up like it did in the 1st half of last seasons SECCG vs LSU, and this time have the support of their other team mates on O and special teams, they walk out of columbia w/a W. Basically, its the same D players that played in the championship game last season and where that team went is a mystery. I think GA will score enuf to win. It did last season but terrible ST play and mistakes kept the dawgs behind the 8 ball and Lattimore put it away on a tired dawg D in the 4th qtr.Need to play errorless ball on both sides of the line to beat a good SC team.

PsyLens

October 4th, 2012
4:32 pm

When we are on O here are 2 things to watch for:
1. Watch their DEs. They are tall and could disrupt passing lanes. They like to pursue the QB. These two DEs match-ups will have been circled by Bobo I guarantee. If UGA holds them off the Dawgs light up the scoreboard like a Christmas tree through the air.
2. Our RBs ability to turn the corner on the outside run. The second biggest reason that losing 82 hurts us is that the man is a blocking machine. (It’s kind of sadly ironic that’s what he was doing at practice when he got hurt.) If our WRs can keep up the blocking scheme, as I know they can, we have 2/3rds of what we need to run the ball. If that happens, then refer back to no. 1; because rounding the corner also means running beyond a DE. Success here means T-shirts saying: “Unleash the Gurshall!” will be big sellers.
When we are on D, 2 things to look for:
1. LBs. The Old Ball Coach (Don’t you just love how he admitted to hating that title?) loves to throw it behind the LOS. This is one of the reasons that Shaw has such a high passer rating. The kid is a solid QB, don’t underestimate him; but, I could have a passer rating over 100 in that system. So the screen (a.k.a. dinks and dunks as the Old Ball Coach’s favorite writer Ron Morris likes to call them) vs. our LBs is an important match-up and should let us know early in the first half and, based on adjustments, early in the second half, how effective our D will be vs. SC.
2. Ss. If you see a S in the backfield terrorizing Shaw, don’t be too surprised. If you see a S tipping or picking a short pass, don’t be surprised. If you see a S making a screen pass a 2 yard play don’t be surprised. If you see a S miss a tackle … hold your breath and hope there’s another dawg near by.
This game could be close. If the Dawgs don’t turn the ball over, protect Murray, play average on special teams and run outside of the tackle-box, expect a lot of visor throwing in the first half and a quiet stadium by the 4th quarter.

beanster

October 4th, 2012
5:19 pm

We didn’t have Ogletree last year. That really hurt our ability to stop Lattimore. He’ll be the difference in shutting down their run game. Their yardage will come from Shaw scrambling along with short passes but they won’t get more than 2 TDs and a field goal or two on offense. I don’t see UGA having a turnover free night however, with either a fumble run back for a TD or pick 6.

I think they get to our running game early on. Those 2 beasts are going to be pumped up and in our backfield; something our young backs have yet to experience. Eventually it will be Marshall, not Gurley, finding the holes in their secondary and ripping off big yards. Gurley’s power style will finally be effective late in the fourth and will help the Dawgs put the game away. But it is going to be an adventure getting there and could look bleak for Dawgs fans as late as the middle of the 3rd quarter.

UGA 29 SC 24

Strat Cat Dawg

October 4th, 2012
5:36 pm

No one knows how this one’s gonna go- anything can happen. I like the Dawgs’ chances because of Murray’s maturity, the freshmen RBs, Malcolm Mitchell stepping up at WR, the jelling of the D with everyone set, and the Underdawg role… but it won’t be easy

Strat Cat Dawg

October 4th, 2012
5:38 pm

Should be close… but Murray’s maturity, the freshmen RBs, Mitchell stepping up at WR, the D jelling, and the underdawg role work for me… Dawgs in a close one

AirForce1

October 4th, 2012
5:44 pm

This game will be won or lost between the tackles…..UGA O-line vs SC D-line.

Dawg1

October 4th, 2012
6:00 pm

The ball is due to bounce our way in this series…

Georgia by 2 TD’S.

No disrespect meant to South Carolina…

We’ll see…

Huh?

October 4th, 2012
6:08 pm

USC will be able to move the chains by dominating UGA’s defensive line. The D line for UGA has been very unimpressive this year. At the same time, UGA’s offense will get some points, but won’t look as good as they have due to the fact that they are playing the toughest defense they have seen this year. With the game also being in Columbia, I see USC winning by 7.

atlxman

October 4th, 2012
6:22 pm

i really dont think shaw can beat uga with his arm..look back at what he has done against other teams from the sec. ky is the only team he has done well against in the sec….shaw is nothing more than a div 1aa qb who happens to play on a team with a really good defense. uga defense held their offense to 17 points last year. if not for the 3 turnovers and the fake punt uga blows out south carolina. i really dont think uga offense will spot south carolina 3 tds like last year. uga can work around the big DE”s now that uga has a really good running game and now that murray has another year under his belt really sets up UGA for a blowout win that they could and should have had last year.

atlxman

October 4th, 2012
6:24 pm

i would also be really surprised connor shaw makes it through the game without gettng hurt. his type off running does not match up well against uga defense. his big runs will most likely come off of scrambles.

atlxman

October 4th, 2012
6:27 pm

if this game was the 2nd game of the year i would say it would be close but now that uga has had 4 games under their belt their offense will not have the timing problems they had in the past when playing south carolina’s good defense.. uga offense is clicking on all cylinders and uga defense is way better than south carolina offense.

atlxman

October 4th, 2012
6:33 pm

im felling more of a 42-14 UGA wins maybe south carolina scores 20 if uga has a turnover or 2