While I don’t want to read too much into last night’s results from Columbia, given the caliber of opponent (if Southern Miss is expected to win its division in CUSA, it must be a down year in that conference), it’s only fair to point out that any time a team wins by four touchdowns, it must be doing something right. There were definitely positives from the game that South Carolina fans should get excited about – and that the Georgia staff should take note of.
Here are a few things I saw:
- Marcus Lattimore looks to be the real deal. Even better for SC, he’s the kind of running back who can make an offensive line look better than it is. He ran with authority between the tackles and is going to be a challenge for Georgia’s newly reconfigured front seven.
- For South Carolina, that’s a good thing, because I didn’t see the huge step forward for the ‘Cocks’ line that many claim to have observed last night. They struggled with blitzes most of the night and didn’t exactly overpower the USM front seven in their run blocking. On the other hand, when there wasn’t a blitz, they looked good maintaining a pocket for Garcia to throw from.
- Garcia looked like Garcia playing against a crappy defense. USM’s secondary against USC’s receivers was a mismatch from the get-go (it didn’t help that the refs completely ignored the steady stream of pushoffs – some of them pretty blatant, too – by Carolina’s receivers), but Garcia threw some pretty balls when he settled in the pocket. There were also plenty of short passes to make the completion percentage stat look good, and that’s something we should watch to measure how much progress Warren Belin has made in getting Georgia’s linebackers to cover the short passing game.
- On defense, Carolina looked as solid as you’d expect an Ellis Johnson-coached bunch to look. They played very vanilla and were able to do so because USM’s offensive line was weak enough to be handled with just the defensive front four. It also helped that Southern Miss’ wideouts simply don’t block downfield, allowing the safeties to clean up everything in front of them. They did pay a lot of attention to DeAndre Brown; if they take the same approach with A.J., Georgia has to make Carolina’s defense pay for that more consistently than the Golden Eagles did.
- Easily the biggest surprise last night for me was seeing how much of the old swag Spurrier reclaimed. I’m not talking about his behavior. I’m talking about his playcalling. As vanilla as Johnson was, the OBC was anything but – tons of formations, a very nice reverse call, a little wildcat were all on display, along with the old staples. That’s the sign of a confident man who believes he’s got the weapons to play with again. It’s almost as if he was challenging Grantham to see how much he could absorb and get his defense to absorb in a week’s preparation.
By the way, if there’s a more obnoxious broadcast crew that ESPN intends to spring on us than what we were subjected to last night, I’d appreciate some warning. Jesse Palmer and Craig James are close to unlistenable.