If you had any question in your mind at all about how badly Spurrier wants to win the game tomorrow, this should answer it:
Also on Thursday, Spurrier said that safety Emanuel Cook will play against the Bulldogs if he is cleared by doctors. Cook missed the opener as he recuperated from an appendectomy, but has practiced with the team this week. He’s also dealing with his arrest on a weapons charge last month…
“If he is cleared by doctors”? C’mon. The OBC would have LeMarcus Coker’s medical advisors check out the kid if he needed to. Cook will see the field of play.
I have a much harder time seeing how this game plays out than I did last week. That’s primarily because of Spurrier. The ‘Cocks aren’t intimidated playing on the road and I do believe he’ll have them prepared far better than OSU was. SC’s defense will be better than what Georgia saw from the Cowboys last week. Spurrier will do a much better job of exploiting weaknesses and holes in the Dawg defense than Fedora did – it’s what SOS has made a career out of.
But does anyone think that South Carolina’s offense is better than Oklahoma State’s? Bobby Reid was 16th in the nation in passing efficiency last year, and ran for 500 yards, to boot. Blake Mitchell has had his moments, but you can’t say he’s clearly better. I like the Gamecock running backs, but it’s not like Dantrell Savage is a slouch. Bowman is better than any wide receiver South Carolina will deploy tomorrow. The ‘Cocks don’t have a TE who’s going to do more than Pittman. And South Carolina’s line surely isn’t better than OSU’s, which returned four starters from a line that only yielded 19 sacks in 2006.
Besides that, whatever problems Martinez has had as the DC, defending Spurrier’s offense hasn’t been one of them. In the end, in the absence of at least a +2 turnover margin running in its favor, I can’t see SC scoring much more than OSU did.
So if Carolina scores, say, 17-20 points on Saturday, will that be enough? Maybe, given my concerns about the Dawg offensive line. Obviously, with 35 points being scored, the good outweighed the bad last week, but the pass protection broke down often enough to worry me. I expect SC to be able to rush the passer far more effectively than the Cowboy defense did. And the Carolina secondary, even if Cook isn’t 100%, will be sounder in its play than OSU’s was.
I don’t think it’s any big mystery that Georgia needs these two guys to step up…
(PHOTO COURTESY BRANT SANDERLIN / AJC)
… and not just running the ball, either. Their ability to catch the ball and pick up the blitz will be key, as well. If Carolina can shut these two down, Georgia likely won’t score enough to win.
Georgia went into Columbia last year and won by 18 with a third string QB getting his first shot in an SEC game after the starter was injured. Has enough changed from that game to swing the results tomorrow in Spurrier’s favor?
From what I saw last week, Georgia’s dropoff in experience this season hasn’t resulted in a similar decline in the quality of play. If anything, the Dawgs look to have found more playmakers on offense than were there last year. If Bobo is able to keep things under control as he did last week, I think the skill players will more than offset the shakiness of the line. In that case, look for the Dawgs to score around 24.
UPDATE: Phil Steele sees a close game that will decide the SEC East.
I feel this is the game that will decide who wins the SEC East this year. Spurrier has the most experienced team among the big boys in the East and has done very well on the road in SEC play with 5 wins the last two years. His QB Blake Mitchell was suspended last game which means their offense is not yet up to speed. I was very impressed with the Bulldogs in their destruction of Okla St last week but this one figures to be a tight one.
PHIL’S FORECAST: GEORGIA 26 South Carolina 23