Wisdom of the crowd: What does Georgia need to do in order to beat South Carolina?

Georgia fans have been quite vocal this week about what Todd Grantham and Mike Bobo need to change. (University of Georgia)

Georgia fans have been quite vocal this week about what Todd Grantham and Mike Bobo need to change. (University of Georgia)

Second-guessing is second nature to college football fans, and there’s been a nonstop torrent of it in the Bulldog Nation ever since about midway through the second quarter of last Saturday night’s Georgia-Clemson game.

Talking with Georgia fans in the days since the opening loss, I’ve heard a pretty consistent chorus:

Why did Mike Bobo keep trying to run the ball up the middle when it wasn’t working? Why didn’t he make adjustments against Clemson’s blitz more quickly? Why can’t the Dogs’ offensive line pass protect or open up holes for the backs? Did all that moving around Will Friend has been doing with his players make a veteran — if not spectacularly talented — OL worse? Did Todd Grantham’s defense forget how to tackle?

And then there’s the ever-popular: Why can’t Aaron Murray win a “big” game?

Of course, that last trope ignores two straight victories Murray has engineered over Florida in Jacksonville (even with last year’s terrible first half). And if you look at the “big” games where Murray supposedly hasn’t gotten it done, a consistent factor is poor protection on the part of his offensive line.

It’s also true that most (though not all) of us raising these questions have never coached football and aren’t there at Georgia’s closed practices, so we don’t really know what all goes into the thinking of Bobo and the other coaches.

Let’s face it, an offense that racks up more than 500 yards and scores 35 points against a Top 10 team obviously is doing a few things right. And while even the coaches considered the tackling against Clemson to be poor (and addressed it with more contact work in practice this week), no one really expected Georgia’s inexperienced defenders to be able to stop the Tigers’ uptempo offense.

Granted, emotions run high after a high-profile loss and there’s also a certain amount of overreaction going on here. Georgia lost a game by 3 points to a really good team, and had it not been for some key penalties and a botched snap in the second half the Dogs might well have won the game. OK, let’s rephrase that: Georgia should have won that game.

Aaron Murray faces another "big" game. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Aaron Murray faces another "big" game. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Still, that doesn’t mean there isn’t something to the wisdom of the crowd, and the hope here is that against South Carolina we’ll see a game plan that will play more to Georgia’s strengths and minimize its weaknesses.

Like recognizing that this offensive line has some talent deficiencies and dealing with the defensive pressure that everyone knows will be coming from Jadeveon Clowney and company by calling more bootlegs, rollouts, quick slants or screen passes. Also, making quicker adjustments to what the other team is doing.

The crowd’s also right about Bobo’s need to open up Georgia’s running game with more sweeps. The middle of the Dogs’ OL just isn’t getting it done.

On defense, the return of Josh Harvey-Clemons will certainly help, but Grantham still needs to figure out a way to improve the Dogs’ perpetually porous run defense. True, Marcus Lattimore, who ran roughshod over Georgia the past three years, is gone. But his replacement, Mike Davis, had a pretty good day carrying the ball against North Carolina.

And as Georgia found out last year in Columbia, South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw is a legitimate dual threat with those zone reads. The quarterback draw is a big play for the Gamecocks, but I’m sure Grantham is planning on keeping a spy on Shaw. (If not, he can be sure he’ll hear plenty about it next week.)

Containing Connor Shaw is a key to beating South Carolina. (Associated Press)

Containing Connor Shaw is a key to beating South Carolina. (Associated Press)

Yes, dealing with Clowney and the South Carolina pass rush is a must, but I think the most important thing the Dogs have to do in order to win Saturday’s game is contain Shaw.

As for the Bulldogs’ offense, as I told a friend the other day, I’m not nearly so down on Murray as many fans are. I remember how great he was in the Bama game, even if it wasn’t quite enough. It was the defense that let us down against the Tide. And if the OL had played even an adequate game against Clemson, I think Georgia comes out on top. Yeah, Murray was a little off-target to start with (though Michael Bennett’s great hands allowed a couple of those still to be completions) but for the most part I think the Dogs’ quarterback played well enough to win.

Still, looking ahead to this Saturday I’m really concerned how the OL will handle the Gamecocks’ rush and hope that Bobo is scheming to deal with that and won’t wait too late, like he did against Clemson (as the crowd says). Maybe Georgia should come out with Murray in the shotgun throwing lots of quick passes to loosen up the defense. Perhaps some screens to Keith Marshall, who appears to need more space to get going. I think Bobo needs to extend plays by moving Murray around more. I’ve seen him throw some absolutely terrific passes while rolling out. Why keep him sitting in the pocket as a target for Clowney?

The Gamecocks’ strength is their defensive line, but their linebackers are relatively inexperienced. The odds favor the Dogs whenever they can get the ball past that line, whether it’s with Todd Gurley and Marshall running the ball or Murray getting it to his very talented receivers or dumping it off to a tight end or talented young fullback Quayvon Hicks. South Carolina isn’t Clemson offensively, so Steve Spurrier likely will find himself outgunned in a scoring shootout.

Despite the disappointment over the Clemson game, I found a resilient strain of optimism among Georgia fans this week. The feeling seems to be that if we see anywhere near the improvement that you generally get between Games 1 and 2 with the defense, Georgia should be able to come out on top in another closely fought match.

So, enough with rehashing the Clemson game. What do you think Georgia needs to do to beat South Carolina?

Go Dawgs!

Got something you want to discuss concerning the Dawgs? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at  junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

Find me on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

146 comments Add your comment

JB

September 5th, 2013
10:04 am

The players will have to do it. Coaching will not. Just looking at our history. We have more talent than Carolina, But having a OC call 20% of your plays on something that’s NOT working is hard to over come. Not adjusting on defense to stop something is hard to overcome. Watching a punt land on the 20 and watch it roll to the 3 is hard to overcome. Sitting on a 7 point lead and playing NOT TO LOSE is hard to overcome. I wish the players good luck.

Bulldawg35

September 5th, 2013
10:04 am

The first thing we must do is STOP the run!!! Second thing..if we don’t stop the run…tar and feather Grantham and run him out of town on a rail! All kidding aside this is a must win for UGA! I think Richt will get the better of spurrier this time!!!

JB

September 5th, 2013
10:09 am

Interesting watching Ga/Clemson last week. When they had the ball, you didn’t have any idea what play they would call…or what they would do. I would bet their DC knew about 85% of the time based on down and distance and field position what play we would run…………And That punk Lane Kiffen said, ” we have years of tape on Georgia, we know what they are gonna do. You just have to line up correctly and stop them”………. And by the way, they did.

dga

September 5th, 2013
10:18 am

Murray’s 0 TDs and 2 TOs is playing good enough to win? I know the OL didn’t play well, but when the opposing QB accounts for 5 TDs and Murray has a fumble, interception and 0 TDs, I don’t constitute that as “playing well enough to win.” I felt like the only reason the game was even close was Gurley. Probably should have lost by 10 (only reason we scored near the end was because Clemson was in prevent).

Lindsey

September 5th, 2013
10:21 am

All year I have felt that UGA will beat SC this Saturday. I think back to the Nick Fairley/Auburn game and what they did to Murray. The next year when AU came back, UGA played one if its most complete and great games. I think the same thing will happen when we play SC after last year. I have a feeling Murray will play one of his best games with all his heart. I think a benefit to UGA already playing a ranked team is we really know what we need to work on. Even though we lost against Clemson, 3 points is nothing to hang our heads about. Can’t wait for Saturday, GO DAWGS!!

Roswell Dawg

September 5th, 2013
10:24 am

I agree 110% with JB. Our coaching won’t win this battle. Hopefully our players can win in spite of a coaching staff that won’t play to our strengths and away from our weaknesses. Not sure why we can’t/won’t make in-game changes when it’s obvious that our schemes are not working. Any fan of college football knows what should be changed, not sure why our coaches don’t.

Roswell Dawg

September 5th, 2013
10:27 am

I absolutely DON’T want to see one more slow-developing inside handoff. Pound them with sweeps until they prove they can stop us.

Ball Coach

September 5th, 2013
10:28 am

Pretty simple really. Just score more points.

That’s my plan.

BoiseDawg

September 5th, 2013
10:32 am

Bill.. I agree with most of what you said and yes we fans tend to overreact with a high profile loss. That being said, the three point loss (we could have won) is a bit misleading. The reality is we were down 10 inside the final 3 minutes and everyone knew the game was over… even with our late TD we knew we were going to have to kick an onside kick. My point being the loss wasn’t as close as the final score and we can’t look to a botched snap here or a missed call there and say it might have been different. Things could have been different for Clemson as well…

BoiseDawg

September 5th, 2013
10:34 am

Roswell Dawg… you forgot about that really cool fake throw Aaron does after that slow-developing inside handoff that doesn’t ever fool anybody.

Ball Coach

September 5th, 2013
10:37 am

“The feeling seems to be that if we see anywhere near the improvement that you generally get between Games 1 and 2 with the defense, Georgia should be able to come out on top in another closely fought match.”

There’s some truth to that old adage about seeing a lot of improvement between game 1 and game 2. Unfortunately, it applies to every team out there.

BoiseDawg

September 5th, 2013
10:37 am

It seems to me with our wealth of talent at RB… we should try some short passes over the rushing lineman’s heads. I saw UNC do this effectively at least once to counter the S. Carolina blitz. We tried it against Clemson once and it would have worked perfectly, but Murray didn’t put enough air under the ball and instead through a line drive pass that got tipped by the rushing lineman.

BallCoach

September 5th, 2013
10:42 am

Georgia lost to a really good team on the road. All goals are still attainable (SEC, National Title). Georgia is a really good team. We will see just how good in the upcoming games vs SC and LSU. The offensive line play and young defense are a little concerning, but I am not ready to jump ship after one game. Go Dawgs!!!!

Slaw Dawg

September 5th, 2013
10:47 am

@BoiseDawg

Wealth of talent at running back?

When Todd Gurley hits the pine, I don’t see a running game to speak of. What has Marshall done against a quality defense?

I thought wealth meant having more than you need?

True DAWG

September 5th, 2013
10:52 am

Got one word Gurly!!! thats the reason the clemson game was close. Murray is a five year player- he got to lead and figure out what to do and get on thos OL that did not play great! Contain Shaw defense and play discipline. D should be better BUT the offense needs to lead!!! All those veterans- Bobos HUGE raise last year- cmon Bill we need results!!!! We out recruit them! Lets get it done!

Sam

September 5th, 2013
11:07 am

I’d like to see our OL pull and trap a little more. They seem to be more effective when they are moving rather than when they block head on. Also, let Murray out of the pocket. It opens up his vision, gives him an option to run, and wears the DL down because they have to chase him.

Desert Fox

September 5th, 2013
11:10 am

Geez. It’s like beating a dead horse. what they need to do to win over SC is stop making the same mistakes they’ve made in every big game they have lost. stop the run! corral the SC QB. tackle! stop costly T/O’s. protect the QB. and most importantly, stop calling plays that do not/have not worked: up the middle against stacked defenses and that awful swing pass to the RB (or WR) when they have no blockers out in front!! poor gurley, on ga’s 1st possession of the Clemson game, AM throws it to him and he’s immediately swarmed by 3 Clemson defenders. no ga blockers anywhere. that play has never worked for ga. if there’s one play, other then the up the middle for no gain, that embodies Bobo’s inconsistent play calling……. SC just has too many weapons on offense for GA’s young D to overcome. CTG couldn’t stop CU last w/e he won’t stop SC. as far as GA’s Offense, SC has JD et al. Lastly, SC has better coaching staff as did Clem, minus Dabo. It’s going to be hard to watch.

John

September 5th, 2013
11:13 am

Gurley at RB, Marshall at slot receiver. Gurley is a better RB, Marshall is a slasher and excels in the open field. Put your best players on the field and force the opposing team to defend BOTH of them. RB’s won’t be in school long, they usually leave early for the NFL, get the most out of them. UGA only got 1 good year out of Knowshon, because he got lost in the RB shuffle.

AltamahaDawg

September 5th, 2013
11:20 am

One thing we know, is that SC plays out of their mind for this game. so we never know what to expect. That being said……….what I simply do not get this weeks is the multitude of comments that went something like this:

“if you/we can’t even go up to #8 Clemson and not lose by a FG, SC is going to kill you/us.”

Based on what comparison?

Because I saw nothing from SC’s game that leads me to believe they would have even come close to beating Clemson Sat. Night.

Slaw Dawg

September 5th, 2013
11:25 am

@AltamahaDawg

They weren’t playing Clemson. What did you expect to see?

I didn’t see anything in Clemson’s game that leads me to believe that UGA could have beaten NC.

So what?

AltamahaDawg

September 5th, 2013
11:26 am

Really…wouldn’t have even beaten NC? ok

Slaw Dawg

September 5th, 2013
11:28 am

Then again, I wasn’t wearing my red&black sunglasses.

AltamahaDawg

September 5th, 2013
11:31 am

So, let it be known that “slawdog” thinks that Clemson is only a 2 point better team than NC.

Desert Fox

September 5th, 2013
11:32 am

Then there’s the issue of South Carolina’s offensive line, which returns four starters from a year ago. All five starters tip the scales past the 300-pound mark.

The average weight of Georgia’s starting defensive linemen: 278.3 pounds

AltamahaDawg

September 5th, 2013
11:33 am

ah brought out your book of meaningless cliche’s I see. good for you. that almost like having a point.

AltamahaDawg

September 5th, 2013
11:34 am

I’d be more concerned about the experience of SC line, rather than the weight.

gomdawg

September 5th, 2013
11:44 am

Murray did not lose the game the offense line needs to grow up and be ready to play big time football
Defense was fine if the offense had stay on field 6 straight in and out it worked our defense down .

the REAL GSU

September 5th, 2013
11:44 am

Hey SC, we’re gonna run it up the middle repeatedly. Even if it doesn’t work. Just a heads-up.

Classic

September 5th, 2013
11:50 am

A loud Crowd!!!!! Make it where they can’t function on offence!! Get loud and stay loud!!!

Slaw Dawg

September 5th, 2013
11:52 am

AltamahaDawg ,

In the Clemson vs. UGA game, I saw two mediocre football teams with decent offenses and deficient defenses. Looked like a Big 12 game to me.

I don’t know what that has to do with either SC or NC. In their game SC dominated on both offense and defense, despite Clowney being a non-factor for whatever reason. Sick? Lazy? Don’t know. Didn’t matter. Clowney could have spent the entire game on the bench and the outcome would have been the same.

I wouldn’t say that either of those games is particularly predictive of what will happen this weekend. SC isn’t playing Clemson, and UGA isn’t playing NC. Don’t really understand why you think that your imaginary game between SC and Clemson is relevant.

roughrider

September 5th, 2013
11:52 am

I just read that the #1 player in the nation committed to Ala. Ala has 5 other OLM committed this year. Until Richt and Bobo recruit some top quality OLM, UGA will remain will not win the SEC or National championship.

AltamahaDawg

September 5th, 2013
11:53 am

Good heavens people, up the middle run is the set up for the play action pass. You know, the offence we run? ever heard of it?

Did it a few times too many, (as if anything else was working at the time either) but stop the exaggeration. We had 550 yards. That’s hardly all they ran all night.

dawgfan

September 5th, 2013
11:59 am

“What do you think Georgia needs to do to beat South Carolina?”

Uh, howabout change our entire identity? I’m not sure that can be done in 6 days time. South Carolina has all the ingredients of a team that cleans our clock on an annual basis. A big physical offensive line. A dual threat QB. A big, fast, physical and absolutely nasty defensive line. Last but not least, they have a great head coach who has assembled an impressive coaching staff.

Its not looking good at all if you’ve paid any attention whatsoever to Georgia football over the past 5 years or so. I mean like actually opening your eyes and watching the games. If you’ve done that you can’t feel good about our chances in this one.

Let the crying and moaning begin.

JB

September 5th, 2013
11:59 am

OL go to Bama just like Pro type QB’s come to Georgia. Stafford wanted to play under Richt due to the pro style offense, as does this young man at Goose Creek SC who is committed, who is a pure pro type QB. Although the Dawgs have put a few OL in the NFL, Bama certainly does. No mystery here.

Classic

September 5th, 2013
12:00 pm

The crowd makes the difference if you haven’t noticed the USC game last year and the Clemson game this year.

JB

September 5th, 2013
12:02 pm

Yep, no secret at Bama. Put 2 or 3 five star RB’s behind 5 five star OL with great coaching, you tend to get good results. Bama’s offense is pretty vanilla, just very powerful.

AltamahaDawg

September 5th, 2013
12:03 pm

It’s relevant because THATS what we do when we speculate about the future football games. Gee, using comparisons to ponder future match-up never happens does it? And clearly you just chose to ignore the first part of my post where I SAID it was unpredictable, but never mind that.

Not to mention my entire point was a retort ABOUT what some folk saying, USING our game against Clemson game to PREDICT what SC would do for us. (did you even read my post, really)

OH but you went just tad further didn’t you?
What you saw in the game with us losing to #8 Clemson, by 3, on the road, (and seeing the other game) leads you to believe that NC would have beaten Georgia, In Athens, this past weekend. That IS what you said, so that much be really what you believe, correct?

Bulldog Born & Bred

September 5th, 2013
12:11 pm

I look for Murray to hand the ball off a lot this week mostly to Clowney

dawgfan

September 5th, 2013
12:16 pm

LOL @ that picture of Grantham and Bobo. It looks like that picture was taken while they were getting their first look at our 2013 schedule. Caption: “What!?!? Where’s Buffalo?I?I”

Slaw Dawg

September 5th, 2013
12:24 pm

AltamahaDawg,

You are a persistent plonker, aren’t you?

CHDawg

September 5th, 2013
12:27 pm

I watched the Carolina Civil War and I thought SC looked impressive, particularly on offense. The defense has lost some important pieces, and as talented as Clowney is, it is a team of 11 on the field. Not that the D looked bad, but I thought they looked a lot tougher last year. Their offensive line looks big and strong. The running game will be hard to stop, and they will use it to make the passing game work. Shaw will take off at the drop of a hat. Honestly, if I were totally objective I would say SC by 10; I’m not, though, and believe the Dawgs will find a way to win. Also, in recent years it has amazed me how different the same team can look from week to week. You just never know, and especially with young teams early in the season. College is getting more like pro football–on any given Saturday….

GTBob

September 5th, 2013
12:31 pm

Bama’s offense is pretty vanilla, just very powerful.

Did you watch the VT game? Bama’s offense is crap. Their defense usually hides how underwhelming their offense is.

Roswell Dawg

September 5th, 2013
12:33 pm

Bulldog Born & Bred, you and I have seen this movie before. Too funny and right on target!

Dawg

September 5th, 2013
12:52 pm

That slow developing run game that sets up the pass is going to get Marshall killed. Any defense can stop that play because it takes too long to evolve. What really is wrong is running the toss twice. Once getting75 yards plus a TD. Another was a good run. Using Marshall to take the ball up the middle is just wrong. He should be used on the sweep. Dup better th

Eric C.

September 5th, 2013
12:57 pm

Bill, excellent points!

Also, I don’t understand some comments saying the game wasn’t as close as it appeared. It was 21-21 at the half, and if the 20 yd FG snap wasn’t botched…you have a 31-31 game in the 4th quarter, with a good chance of going to OT.

AltamahaDawg

September 5th, 2013
1:18 pm

eh, its not like it took any trouble to call you out on your silly response to my post that you purposely misrepresented the point, then tried to pretend you didn’t understand the question.

AltamahaDawg

September 5th, 2013
1:52 pm

Not a fan of that slow developing handoff. I far prefer the toss sweep from strictly a fan’s perspective. It’s more exciting if nothing else. However, when the line collapses, that’s not going to be a very good outcome either, when there are any number of defender sitting in the backfield. Watching that span of futileness, I never though that the toss sweep was just there for the taking.

AltamahaDawg

September 5th, 2013
1:56 pm

I really didn’t think the play call was the ticket on the 75 yrd run. It was just solid blocking.

Jack Bull

September 5th, 2013
1:59 pm

I’m thinking that Mr. King should read what Jesse Palmer has to say about AM..plain and simple..

Slaw Dawg

September 5th, 2013
2:25 pm

Toss sweeps work when you run one or two of them in the span of an entire game. That in no way implies that the play would work if you tried to run it 20 times.