No. 5 Georgia, No. 6 South Carolina ready to settle their score on the field

The versatility and balance of Georgia's offense, led by quarterback Aaron Murray (C) is going to be key against South Carolina's nationally-rated defense. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

The versatility and balance of Georgia's offense, led by quarterback Aaron Murray (C) is going to be key against South Carolina's nationally-rated defense. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Lights. Camera. Action!

Today, we get to watch a classic Southern drama unfold. Georgia and South Carolina have accepted their roles in it, and they’re ready to play it out before a sold-out theater in Columbia. Both teams have played their parts to perfection to this point, each arriving with a top- 10 ranking and an unblemished record. One will leave in firm control of the SEC’s Eastern Division, at least for a week or so.

“This is why I came to Georgia, to play in games like this,” said Georgia senior cornerback Sanders Commings, who hails from the border town of Augusta. “To be in the top five in the country and to play other SEC teams in the top 10.”

Said South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw, who’s from Flowery Branch: “Two top-10 teams, a lot riding on the game, an SEC East game, ‘College GameDay’ and I’m from Georgia. Yeah, it’s exciting.”

The Bulldogs (5-0, 3-0 SEC) are ranked No. 5 and have a reputation as the SEC’s most explosive team on offense. They’ve averaged a league-best 48.2 points and 536 yards and have scored at least 41 points in every game.

But the No. 6 Gamecocks (5-0, 3-0) are the favored team because they field one of the nation’s better defenses, and they’re playing at home.

“We like these games,” Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said of the national stage. “It sort of lets the world know South Carolina football’s pretty good. We’re not quite where we want to be yet, but we’re up there amongst them, and hopefully we can keep pushing on.”

The Ol’ Ball Coach, 67, is in his eighth season at South Carolina. He’s still trying to lead the Gamecocks to their first SEC title, and he’s had them on the verge. They lost to Auburn in the 2010 SEC Championship game and were edged in the East by Georgia last season despite beating the Bulldogs (and their past 10 division opponents over the past two seasons).

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs will try to avoid becoming the first Georgia team to lose three years in a row to South Carolina. They’ve played 64 times since 1894, and the Bulldogs lead 46-15-2.

“We don’t like to make history in a negative way,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “We definitely don’t want to be on that end of the historical event.”

Traditionally a closely contested affair — eight of the past 11 have been decided by a touchdown or less — none of the games were more drama-filled than last season’s in Athens. The Gamecocks scored touchdowns on a fake punt, an interception return and a fumble return and set up another TD on a long fumble return to the Bulldogs’ 5-yard line en route to a 45-42 victory.

But any notion South Carolina simply was given the victory is dashed when the production of running back Marcus Lattimore is considered. Then a sophomore, Lattimore gained 94 of his 176 yards in the fourth quarter against the Bulldogs. Including his breakout performance as a freshman in 2010, Lattimore has rushed for 358 yards and three touchdowns against Georgia.

“Those past two games really don’t mean anything because I know they’re going to be ready,” said Lattimore, who is coming off a knee injury that sidelined in the seventh game last season. “[Georgia has] a great defense, as always. We’ve just got to continue to do what we’ve been doing and run our plays and execute.”

Slowing Lattimore is the Bulldogs’ clearly defined primary goal on defense. Their mission on offense is equally apparent.

The Gamecocks come in with the No. 2-ranked pass rush in the nation. They’ve collected 22 quarterback sacks, led by 6-foot-6 defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (5.5 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss) and 6-8 end Devin Taylor (1.5 sacks, 3.5 TFLs).

So protecting quarterback Aaron Murray and carving some running lanes against South Carolina’s stout front four will be paramount to the Bulldogs’ success.

“They do a great job of getting pressure with just four,” said Murray, who leads the SEC and ranks third nationally in pass efficiency. “They don’t need to blitz to get pressure on the quarterback and they create havoc in the run game.”

The Bulldogs will counter with an offensive line that features three new starters and a pair of freshman tailbacks. But they’ve managed to have record-breaking success on offense. Tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall average 192 yards rushing between them, and Murray has been sacked an average of .71 per game as Georgia has scored at least 41 points in all five games this season.

“This game will definitely be the best gauge,” Richt said of Georgia’s offense. “South Carolina’s defense is playing great.”

The Bulldogs will play without one of their primary offensive weapons. Split end Michael Bennett, who was leading the team in receiving yards (345), receptions (24) and touchdowns (four), went down with a season-ending knee injury in Tuesday’s practice. The good news for Georgia is that 11 other players have caught passes from Murray, including Malcolm Mitchell, who has made a full-time switch back to offense.

Bennett’s injury seems to have galvanized the Bulldogs’ will to win.

“As bad as everybody wants us to win, we want to win even more than that,” said senior flanker Tavarres King, who has asked to wear Bennett’s No. 82 jersey Saturday. “It’s extremely important to us. We work 365 days a year for 12 opportunities. So winning is huge, and this game is huge to us.”

So we’re hearing.

MORE ON TONIGHT’S GAME

98 comments Add your comment

Big Dawg

October 6th, 2012
6:22 am

GO DAWGS! GATA!

Go Dawgs!!!!

October 6th, 2012
6:22 am

1st!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Dawgs win big tonight

Can't Wait

October 6th, 2012
6:38 am

All ready??????

TossSweep

October 6th, 2012
6:40 am

Dawgs win 41-20

Can't Wait

October 6th, 2012
6:41 am

1st quarter is going to be critical. Need to get all our dawgs calmed down and ready to execute like they are capable of. Murry need to be careful and not over-throw. Don’t need any quick pick for 6 right away in a hostile crowd. If our offence does not spot them 14 or 20 points we should be fine.

Carolina Bays

October 6th, 2012
6:47 am

South Carolina 45, Georgia 24

Temendous beatdown coming for the hapless (and hopeless) dwags on a beautiful evening in Columbia.

Can't Wait

October 6th, 2012
6:54 am

Carolina Bay – you have to admit that Columbia is the armpit of SC. Also – No way is SC able to muster up 45 points. Shaw does not have the receivers that TN does nor does he have the arm. Also – UGA did spot them 20 points on quick turn overs that is not going to happen 2 weeks in a row.

Hobnail Boot

October 6th, 2012
6:55 am

Pure Class for King to wear Bennetts jersey today. We will miss Michael the rest of the year.

Bpm

October 6th, 2012
6:56 am

Gamecock strong!

The Steve Spurrier Fan Club

October 6th, 2012
7:05 am

The Evil Genius triumphs once again over the 3rd rate coaching of Mark Richt and his gang of drunk, brownie-eating, woman beaters.

Hope the leghumpers have a nice drive back to Georgia.

Can't Wait

October 6th, 2012
7:08 am

Gonna be fun to watch the Old Evil Genius throw that visor on the ground several times as a few young freshman run by him and wave on their way to a long touch downs!

sportzfan

October 6th, 2012
7:13 am

@Can’t Wait…….you forgot to mention Tenn.’s three turnovers in fourth quarter to dawgs. Funny how you dawg fans always forget about turnovers you get but always mention how other teams score off your turnovers…..it works both ways…. good defense and special teams are part of the game. Also you say USC doesn’t have Tenn receviers. You are so right, they’re Gamecocks, and pretty dang good. Not only that, Connor Shaw is most accurate passer in SEC…..look at stats. And speaking of arm pits, use some deodorant, don’t want you smelling when you visit Columbia.

Dawg Days

October 6th, 2012
7:21 am

Should be a good one! Go Dawgs!

ZinoDawg

October 6th, 2012
7:26 am

@Carolina Bays – typical Chicken fan. Ego of Bama – trophy case of Vandy. LOL!

Dawgs 28
Chickens 17

GATA!

CHDawg

October 6th, 2012
7:36 am

Win it for Bennett!

Can't Wait

October 6th, 2012
7:38 am

@sportzfan – stats don’t win you games. But you are correct on the issues of special teams being part of the game and I have to admit most Georgia fans are very very fustrated by our special teams play. I hope like hell that the game does not come down to us making an extra point. That being said – I don’t think it will because our defense will come alive this game and Murry will have a huge passing game on your weak defensive backs!

USCBOY

October 6th, 2012
7:39 am

Sigh. All that talent at UGA but this week they play their Daddy and he has just as much talent. And by the way he can coach.

Red & Black 4 life

October 6th, 2012
7:40 am

I will be up at 0330 ,Afghanistan time, to watch this game! This is a big one and this is going to answer a lot of questions. i think…i know the dawgs will be ready and jump all over Carolina!

kerryb

October 6th, 2012
7:53 am

USCBOY
October 6th, 2012
7:39 am

Sigh. All that talent at UGA but this week they play their Daddy and he has just as much talent. And by the way he can coach.

_________________________________________________________________________________

UGA has MORE talent on the field than USC and it will show tonight. I bet you can name more than 3 WR’s for UGA. I can only name one for SC and that it Sanders. He is the only decent one they have. Shaw can pull the ball down and run 85% of the time with this team.

kerryb

October 6th, 2012
7:54 am

Shaw CANT pull the ball down and run against this team.

kerryb

October 6th, 2012
7:55 am

JJ29 will be eating Shaws lunch all night tonight. This weak O-line of SC is no match for UGA’s front 7.

AugustaDawg

October 6th, 2012
7:59 am

Turnovers, Theus and Murray. Determining factors in this game

OkieDawg

October 6th, 2012
8:01 am

I hope Murray does not come out over amped and make a couple of bonehead plays. He needs to come out with the same poise he showed against Vandy and the Dawgs will be just fine.

@Red & Black 4 life…Enjoy the game and thanks for what you are doing.

[...] here: No. 5 Georgia, No. 6 South Carolina ready to settle their score on the field ← Back to Home Tags: augusta, border, carolina, commings, country, exciting, focal, [...]

ole yeller

October 6th, 2012
8:19 am

SC front seven are as good as UGA has faced this season, but after that they are average. The depth is not as good as UGA and that will be the difference. I don’t think SC can rotate their ends like UGA and be at 100% and you can’t play those two ends every snap. They are good but not that good, no one is.

Elmer's Fudge

October 6th, 2012
8:22 am

@Carolina Bays

There is no such thing as a beautiful evening in Columbia.

Georgia Gamecock

October 6th, 2012
8:29 am

Hey Elmer’s Fudge

The sanitation department called, they want you to work a double!

JaxDawg

October 6th, 2012
8:31 am

There goes Gurshall! There goes Gurshall!!

Inlet Dawg

October 6th, 2012
8:34 am

Way to go King!

Tim-Buck-Two

October 6th, 2012
8:37 am

UGA… 42
Lamecocks… 24

GO DAWGS!
GATA!!

joe taxpayer

October 6th, 2012
8:40 am

UGA is over rated. Your defense wilted last year in the second half against quality opponents. This year the only good offense you have played and the defense was bad. Tenn. put up 44. Bobo is better than Grantham and Bobo needs tons of talent. When was the last time UGA beat a top 10 team? overrated and overhyped the usual from Georgia.

bubba king

October 6th, 2012
8:46 am

Damn…my stomach is in knots…gonna be a massive game!

dawglova

October 6th, 2012
8:47 am

We will miss ya MB, no doubt about it. But this is the game that will define what UGA is…a good team that will win 10-11 games or a great team that can is a candidate to win it all! we will see. Line has to protect Murray more than anything…if they dont he starts dropping the ball and we are in trouble.

Mark Richt's Goatee

October 6th, 2012
8:52 am

Win it for Bennett !

I don’t just like the Dawgs in this game. I LOVE them.

I don’t think it will even be close- Dawgs by 3 TD.

joe jenkins

October 6th, 2012
8:54 am

I hope somebody else can help jarvis jones out….corn washington where you at bro? i’m praying we win today…please dawgs get the job done

mike on lake hartwell

October 6th, 2012
8:56 am

G A T A !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

RHB

October 6th, 2012
8:57 am

OUR TEAM

OUR TIME

NO REGRETS

Mark

October 6th, 2012
8:58 am

@Red and Black , thank you for your service. Now, we protect the ball and we win. Kicking game will be huge but Ga has the depth to finish it. Go Dawgs.

Joey

October 6th, 2012
8:59 am

Lattimore scares me, given how we have played vs the run, thus far.

Please, Bobo, get us a 3 TD lead going into the 4th Q, so SC has to let Lattimore sit . . .

sc fan

October 6th, 2012
9:03 am

Georgia football. “when all is said and done, there is a lot more said than done”
SEC football victories… “we are number 3″ not much of a ring to it.
Hershal, gurshall ? just wipe your feet before you come in. By the way , what shape was the ball 30 years ago?
Fans that talk about the past have no present.

WDE

October 6th, 2012
9:08 am

@Red and Black thanks for your service ! T.King your a DGD! Go Dogs !

Joey

October 6th, 2012
9:08 am

So, if (big IF in my opinion) we should beat SC today, and they fall out of the Top 10, will we STILL have to hear that favorite techie saying, “you have not beat a top 10 team in _____ years . . . . ?”

What about if (Iknow, it’s a stretch), we beat Bama in the SECCG, and they fall to #6, what then? Will it be “you have not beat a top 5 team in _____ years…..?”

At what point does UGA and its fans NOT have to listen to that BS, especially when like last season with Auburn, the Dawgs were the reason they dropped out of the rankings?

WDE

October 6th, 2012
9:11 am

@sc fan really really? Your talking crap about UGA not winning a MNC in the last 30 years and your bunch has as many MNC as they do SEC titles ….NONE! Calling you a moron would be a insult to morons everywhere…

ARdawg

October 6th, 2012
9:14 am

Wow The Nerd troll patrol is already out in full force. Don’t you Bugs have a game today too? Oh yeah, you’re 2-3 heading for 2-4 *smirk*

Bigdawgtoo

October 6th, 2012
9:16 am

@red&black
You sir are a damn good Dawg ! Thank you for your service!
GATA

Joey

October 6th, 2012
9:18 am

sc fan = mizzou fan = commadore fan = vol fan = gator fan = tiger fan = etc, etc, etc.

Never will admit he is a tech fan.

Tom Resident Georgia Fan

October 6th, 2012
9:26 am

SC fans have the biggest mouths and smallest brains in the SEC. They get put back in their place tonight.

ARdawg

October 6th, 2012
9:26 am

I would never admit to being a Tech fan either (if I were)

Sammy

October 6th, 2012
9:26 am

Can South Carolina be as lucky as last season’s game to generate 21 points from fake punts, pick sixes, and td sack fumbles, and get another fumble return inside the 5 yardline, really 28 non-offensive points? Highly doubtful. I think SC’s LUCK will run out, and they won’t break 30 points total on offense.

chase

October 6th, 2012
9:45 am

I am looking at this game as a DAWG fan and thinking I “should” be worried

BUT

When you look at it OBJECTIVELY – UGA is the demonstrably better team in every category

Passing Game – Advantage UGA
Wide Receivers – Advantage UGA
Quarterback – Advantage UGA
O-Line – Advantage UGA
Running Game – If it is not a UGA advantage it is at least a Push (Gurly and Marshall are #1 & 3
Lattimore is #2 in the conference)
OFFENSE – ADVANTAGE UGA

DEFENSE-
D-Tackles – Advantage UGA
D-End – Advantage SCAR
Linebackers- Advantage UGA (and its not close)
D-Backs & Safeties – Advantage UGA (and again this is not close)

Overall Defense – Advantage UGA

Special Teams- PUSH – Field Goal Kicking – Advantage UGA

Georgia’s WRs and QB vs SCAR’s small inexperienced DBs – HUGE UGA Advantage
Georgia’s Defense vs SCAR’s Oline – UGA Advantage
Georgia’s DBs vs SCAR’s little WRs (biggest is 5′ 9′) Advantage UGA

Can anyone look at this assessment and really argue? What are your thoughts

If the game is straight up without a bunch of bad calls and sloppy turnovers on either side, GEORGIA WINS by 14