The No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks will play host to the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday night in a huge showdown with both conference and national implications. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game will televised by ESPN. This article takes a look at five things the Gamecocks must do well to notch a huge victory.
One of Tony Morrell's five keys for South Carolina to come out on top is to get pressure on Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. Sophomore Jadeveon Clowney (pictured) was able to do that job last season and will be called upon to do so again this year when the Gamecocks (5-0, 3-0) take on the Bulldogs (5-0, 3-0) on Saturday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN.
1. Pressure Aaron Murray – The highly touted South Carolina defensive line must generate a consistent pass rush in this game and not let Aaron Murray get comfortable in the pocket. When pressured Murray is prone to game changing mistakes and usually isn’t as productive as when he’s allowed to stand in the pocket and scan the field. The Gamecocks have to look no further than last year’s match up between these two teams to what happens when Murray is pressured and hit versus when he’s not.
2. Limit the big plays, cover the flats – Georgia comes into this game averaging over 530 yards and over 48 points per game, and one of the reasons why is the number of big plays they’ve struck for through five games. The Bulldogs have two true freshman home run hitters at running back in Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall and multiple receivers capable of getting behind the secondary. The Bulldogs also used the Gamecocks’ aggressiveness against them last year with screens over the top of rushing defensive ends. Lorenzo Ward’s defense must tackle well, play with discipline and make Georgia show they can sustain drives and not give up quick, easy scores.
3. Offensive line improvement – Both teams have had issues on the offensive line so far this year, and there’s a reasonable chance whichever line plays better on Saturday night will be the difference in the game. Outside of linebacker Jarvis Jones, the Bulldogs have had issues generating a consistent pass rush at times this season and rank tenth in the conference against the pass. It’s imperative the South Carolina offensive line do a good job of not only opening holes for the running backs but also give Connor Shaw the time he needs in the pocket to make sound decisions.
4. Strong on special teams – Special teams always seem to play a significant role when these two teams step on the field together. Last year Georgia missed multiple key field goals and South Carolina turned the tide of the game with a perfectly executed fake punt. Both teams have struggled punting the ball this season, with the Gamecocks being the only team Georgia is ahead of in the SEC in net punting. Gurley has proven to be a big threat as a kick returner, so the efforts of kickoff specialist Adam Yates will also prove important, as will kick coverage. Gamecock punt returner Ace Sanders has been one of the SEC’s best so far and should get opportunities to make some good things happen over the course of this game. Punter Tyler Hull must emphasize getting the ball off quickly.
5. Make ‘em pay – Junior running back Marcus Lattimore has rushed for a combined 358 yards and three touchdowns in his two games against Georgia. He took over last year’s game in the fourth quarter and imposed his will. In 2010, he broke over 40 tackles over the course of the game. The Bulldog defense will be gunning for revenge and is almost certain to do all they can to limit Lattimore’s impact on this game by playing with extra defenders close to the line of scrimmage. If so, quarterback Connor Shaw has to make them pay whether it’s with big plays in the passing game or keeping the ball on the read option if the Bulldogs are overplaying Lattimore.
Final analysis – Georgia comes into this game with a high powered offense and a defense that has shown vulnerability at times this season. South Carolina enters with a less potent offense but a defense that has shown up most of the season. The Bulldogs have only played one road game this season, at Missouri, and didn’t appear to be quite the same team away from the friendly confines of Sanford Stadium.
The Gamecocks will enjoy what should be a significant home field advantage on Saturday night, as the crowd should be as loud as it’s been in quite some time in Columbia. South Carolina has won 23 of their last 26 home games, including 19 of the last 21. They’ve also defeated the Bulldogs two years in a row and three of the last five. In their last eight visits to Williams-Brice Stadium, Georgia is averaging 14 points a game.
I anticipate this game being another fourth quarter war and one that could come down to the final possession. Lattimore seems to take his game to another level against Georgia, and I think he’ll prove to be the X factor again for South Carolina. I also think Shaw’s mobility and knack for moving the chains with his feet will prove extremely valuable for the Gamecocks.
Running back Marcus Lattimore
Prediction – South Carolina 27 Georgia 24
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