October 5, 2012

Preview: UGA at USC

WHAT: No. 5 Georgia (5-0, 3-0) at No. 6 South Carolina (5-0, 3-0)

WHERE: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C.

WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m.

TV: ESPN (Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, Heather Cox)

REPLAY: CSS Sunday 11 a.m., Wednesday 3 p.m.

RADIO: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network from IMG.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Georgia - QB Aaron Murray (6-1, 210, Jr.), RB Ken Malcome (6-0, 224, RSo.), RB Todd Gurley (6-1, 218, Fr.), RB Keith Marshall (5-11, 216, Fr.), LT Kenarious Gates (6-5, 318, Jr.), FLK Tavarres King (6-1, 200, Sr.), SE Marlon Brown (6-5, 216, Sr.), SE Michael Bennett (6-3, 204, RSo.), TE Arthur Lynch (6-5, 258, Jr.), OLB Jarvis Jones (6-3, 241, Jr.), DE Abry Jones (6-3, 308, Sr.), N John Jenkins (6-3, 358, Sr.), ILB Alec Ogletree (6-3, 232, Jr.),ILB Michael Gilliard (6-2, 230, Sr.), ILB Amarlo Herrera (6-2, 245, So.), SS Shawn Williams (6-1, 217, Sr.), CB Damian Swann (5-11, 189, So.), FS Bacarri Rambo (6-0, 210, Sr.), CB Sanders Commings (6-2, 118, Sr.), K Marshall Morgan (6-3, 201, Fr.). South Carolina - QB Connor Shaw (6-1, 207, Jr.), RB Marcus Lattimore (6-0, 218, Jr.), WR Ace Sanders (5-8, 175, Jr.), WR Bruce Ellington (5-9, 197, So.), LT Cory Robinson (6-8, 337, So.), RT Mike Matulis (6-5, 274, So.), DE Devin Taylor (6-8, 267, Sr.), DE Jadeveon Clowney (6-6, 256, So.), DT Byron Jerideau (6-1, 316, Sr.), DT Kelcy Quarles (6-4, 286, So.), WLB Shaq Wilson (5-11, 224, Sr.), SPR DeVonte Holloman (6-2, 241, Sr.), FS D.J. Swearinger (6-0, 210, Sr.), CB Jimmy Legree (6-0, 189, Jr.)

Saturday's Game

This one doesn't need a lot of hype, for sure. ESPN's College GameDay will on hand, but that's just one of the day's highlights which obviously culminates with Saturday's 7 p.m. kickoff between the 5th-ranked Bulldogs and 6th-ranked Gamecocks. To the winner, a leg up in the SEC East race and one step closer to earning a coveted trip to the Georgia Dome for the SEC Championship game, and possibly more on down the road. South Carolina has never beaten the Bulldogs three years in a row. No, a far as regular season contests go, they don't get much better.

Injury Update

Defensive end Abry Jones was limited to 16 plays on third down against Tennessee due to a sprained ankle, but told UGASports earlier this week that he's at or near 100 percent. The Bulldogs will be without wide receiver Michael Bennett (torn ACL) for the rest of the year, but otherwise Georgia appears to be very healthy for Saturday's game.

South Carolina offense vs. Georgia defense

For Georgia, it starts with finding a way to slow down South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore and contain quarterback Connor Shaw, who account for nearly three/quarters of South Carolina's offense this fall. Stopping Lattimore is something the Bulldogs certainly haven't been able to do. The former Byrnes (S.C.) High standout has rushed 64 times for 358 yards and three touchdowns against Georgia, while Shaw - a Georgia native - will be making his first appearance against the Bulldogs. Defensively for the Georgia, the Bulldogs are hoping that defensive end Abry Jones is indeed ready to play as it will allow John Jenkins to slide back to his more comfortable position at nose after playing defensive end against Tennessee. Also, the Bulldogs except their second week with Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo back in the lineup will provide a bit more stability than it did a week ago.

Key Matchups

• Contain Marcus Lattimore: Yes, this has certainly been easier said than done, but limiting Lattimore will go a long way to Georgia having a successful trip to Williams-Brice Stadium.

• Keep Shaw from hitting big plays: Shaw is a quarterback who likes to throw on the run, so the Bulldogs will have their work cut out for them there, but it's his legs which probably give Georgia the most concern. Shaw had an 80-yard touchdown run called back against Missouri due to a penalty, but considering the issues Georgia has had with athletic quarterbacks, the fact the former Flowery Branch star may be the best of the bunch is cause for plenty of concern.

• Come up with ways to confuse the Gamecocks' offensive line: Like Georgia, South Carolina's offensive line has been a work in progress so expect defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to offer up some new looks and stunts to keep the group guessing even more.

Coach's comment

"People get tired of that pounding and Lattimore's been able to have enough stamina to pound people, and people begin to misfit just a little bit when fatigue sets in. They're not quite as strong when they tackle, the guy starts breaking tackles and all of a sudden he breaks one, gets a lot of space and gets big runs." - Mark Richt

South Carolina defense vs. Georgia offense

Pretty much the entire focus for this matchup has been how effective Georgia's offensive line can be against the South Carolina defensive front, led by defensive ends Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney. All week long, Georgia offensive players have stressed the need for balance to keep the pair from pinning their ears back and coming after Murray. With Gurshall (Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall), the Bulldogs believe they'll be able to keep the two Gamecock pass rushers guessing at least just a little bit, which will then allow Murray to go play-action where he's hit most of his big plays.

Key Matchups

• Keep Taylor and Clowney at bay: Much of this responsibility will fall on the shoulders of freshman right tackle John Theus and left tackle Kenarious Gates, with tight end Arthur Lynch lending a hand.

• Success from Gurshall: Sure, the Bulldogs would love for Gurley and Marshall to continue their early-season success. But more than anything, Georgia wants the pair to provide enough of a running threat to keep South Carolina's pass rush at arms length to allow Murray to work his play-action magic.

• No turnovers: Much has been made about Murray's turnovers in big game. But it's just not the Bulldog quarterback which needs to protect the ball. The Gamecocks got lots of free scores and opportunities a season ago, and Georgia obviously can't afford for that to happen again.

Coach's Comment

"We're a better defense now than we were last year at this time. They (Georgia) went through us like paper last year. They scored six offensive touchdowns and we scored two. It was an unusual game. I don't think I've won one like that. We maximized our opportunities where they sort of dominated us. But Marcus ran for 176 yards. We did some good things in the second half." - Steve Spurrier


I'll start my prediction out by saying something right off the bat - If Georgia loses the turnover battle, I don't believe the Bulldogs will win this game. With South Carolina playing at home, plus the fact they're a dang good team, I just don't think playing sloppy and still winning is something the Bulldogs or their fans should count on. I also probably pick games a little bit different than some. While I look at stats, how they compare and that short of things, I go with my gut a tad more, perhaps more than I should. With that in mind, this is what I'm thinking going into Saturday night's huge contest. 1. I see Georgia's defense making a much better account of itself during last week's game against Tennessee. In talking to guys like John Jenkins and Amarlo Herrera, there was some wounded pride after what happened last week and I just sense a greater effort. Players know what's at stake Saturday. 2. As I mentioned earlier, if Georgia wins the turnover battle, I think the Bulldogs win. I really think it's that simple. 3. I certainly believe Georgia will move the football. While most point to Murray's key turnovers against the Gamecocks last year, he still completed 19 of 29 passes for 248 yards and four touchdowns. Yes, South Carolina plays better at home. But that's no reason Murray should not be able to post some good numbers again, although as colleague Jake Rowe pointed out 100 percent correctly, he needs to show he can be relatively turnover free in a big game. I believe he can. As long as that happens, I really like Georgia's chance.Prediction: Georgia 27, South Carolina 17.