Now THIS is football season! I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say this has the potential to be the best game we’ve seen so far.
The Georgia Offense: The Bulldogs suffered a big blow earlier in the week when leading receiver Michael Bennett suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice. It’s expected that Malcolm Mitchell (who also sees snaps at CB and, until recently, returned punts) will step into the void, and sophomore Chris Conley may see more balls thrown his way as well. Freshmen Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley have been key to a strong running game, combining for 14 TDs and nearly 1000 yards through five games. With three new offensive line starters this season, the strength of the running game has been a pleasant surprise for Dawg fans. (Speaking of the offensive line, LT Kenarious Gates going up against South Carolina DE Jadaveon Clowney will be a matchup to keep an eye on. Gates is no slouch, but Clowney is a stud.) Another thing to watch will be how well Georgia’s offense takes care of the rock, after gifting Tennessee 20 points off of turnovers last week. Doing that against the Vols is one thing; do that against the Gamecocks and South Carolina is going to be 6-0.
The Georgia Defense: The top two Bulldogs to watch on defense will likely be CB Sanders Commings and LB Jarvis Jones. Commings had five tackles and two INTs last week against Tennessee, and Jones was named a First Team Preseason All-American. The biggest order of business for the Dawgs will be to contain Marcus Lattimore. Allowing an average of 3.7 yards per carry before you face Lattimore is not a good thing. The run defense will need to be stouter than it has been thus far. In addition to Lattimore, South Carolina QB Connor Shaw is a threat to pull the ball down and take off at any time.
The South Carolina Offense: In his two career games against Georgia, Marcus Lattimore has rushed for 364 yards and 3 TDs. QB Connor Shaw is a legitimate threat both passing and scrambling. One little-known player to watch might be TE Rory Anderson. He has just seven catches on the season, but three have been for touchdowns- not a bad percentage. And he’s averaging just over 20 yards per catch. Obviously that pace will slow, but if his production continues, Anderson gives Shaw a nice target to complement WR/PR Ace Sanders.
The South Carolina Defense: DE Jadaveon Clowney is a standout, and he should be able to pressure the QB. (Here’s an eye-opening stat: Clowney has 5.5 sacks this season, which is more than Florida or Mississippi State.) Stopping the run will be a taller task, as the Bulldogs have two excellent running backs; however, the Gamecocks’ defense has been allowing an average of just 77.6 rushing yards per game. Senior CB Akeem Auguste returned from injury last week, adding experience to the secondary that will be challenged with stopping WRs Ace Sanders and Victor Hampton.
Prediction: I’ve gone back and forth on this one all day. It’ll be close, but ultimately, I think the combination of Marcus Lattimore and the dominant defense of the Gamecocks will prove too much for Georgia to handle. South Carolina 27, Georgia 24