At the beginning of the year, the battle between Georgia and South Carolina was billed as the game that would decide the SEC East, but after two weeks of football, that is no longer the case. South Carolina is sitting at 1-1 (0-1 SEC), and they could easily have been 0-2 save for a brilliant clock-eating drive at the end of the East Carolina game to keep their offense on the field and get three points. This year, the Georgia Bulldogs will dominate (not just beat) South Carolina.
Let’s take a look at the numbers so far for South Carolina’s defense:
- 1,133 total yards of offense allowed (566.5 per game)
- 18-29 (62%) third-downs converted
- 5.3 yards per carry allowed
- 37.5 points per game allowed
- 33 first downs per game allowed
There’s not much of a bright spot there for Lorenzo Ward and his squad–and by not much, I mean none. The Gamecock defense is ranked 123rd in total defense after two games, showing just how vulnerable this team is after losing some key players from last year.
Now, let’s turn to the Dawgs’ offense. I know, I know, it’s only been one game, but bear with me:
- 328 rushing yards
- 8.0 yards per carry
- 22 first downs
- 45 points
It’s not hard to see South Carolina’s defense being overmatched when you consider how prolific Georgia’s offense can be. With a better-than-expected offensive line, South Carolina is going to have to stack the box to stop Todd Gurley and UGA’s elite corps of running backs. Gurley is Georgia’s human highlight reel, but let’s not forget the damage freshman Nick Chubb did against Clemson (4 carries, 70 yards, one touchdown). Though a stacked box might initially slow down Georgia’s running game, I can assure you that Mike Bobo and team have been studying the revealing footage from the South Carolina-Texas A&M game from Week 1 to show quarterback Hutson Mason how to open up the run game – short passes against a soft secondary. With a stacked box, Georgia’s receivers will have space to make plays.
With a couple play-action fakes, some misdirection, and some solid throws from Mason, the Gamecocks will have no choice but to start paying a bit more attention to the passing game. At that point, Todd Gurley and company will start seeing the holes in the defensive line. Yes, Georgia’s passing game was relatively non-existent against Clemson, but don’t sleep on Hutson Mason and his ability to spread the ball around. If the offensive line can stop what should be a pretty desperate pass rush, Mason could very well set career highs against a secondary that has little identity or pulse at this point in the season.
I will concede that Georgia’s defense is still a huge question mark, and that Dylan Thompson and Mike Davis are more than capable of making big plays. But with impact players like Leonard Floyd, Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson able to disrupt plays at the line of scrimmage, the South Carolina offensive line – which made strides against East Carolina – will have to play up to its full potential to give their offensive playmakers an opportunity to shine.
It’s hard to consider any game a desperation game this early in the season, but this one is as close to it as possible for Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks. A loss wouldn’t eliminate South Carolina from SEC contention, but it would be hard to rebound after two SEC losses, expecially with one of them at the hands of the team many are already picking to win the SEC East.
South Carolina will come out with a lot of passion and heart at home – a stadium where Georgia has not played very well recently, I might add – but I expect to see a similar result to what we saw in the game between the Gamecocks and the Aggies. Georgia will jump ahead early with the passing game, open up the running game, silence the crowd, win the time of possession battle, and roll out of Columbia with a dominant victory over one of its fiercest SEC rivals.
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