“Eric Zeier and Steve Taneyhill are not walking through that door.”

No doubt mullet fans everywhere will be disappointed in that bit of insight from Year2’s post about how this season’s SEC East race could boil down to South Carolina and Georgia.  If so, here are his keys:

… A lot of what will determine the race is currently unknowable. Can Stephen Garcia keep his head screwed on straight? Can Aaron Murray raise the level of what is at the moment a thin and largely unproven receiving corps? How good will highly touted freshmen Isaiah Crowell and Jadeveon Clowney be? How big a leap will South Carolina’s offense make in Year 2 of the zone read offense that Shawn Elliott brought from Appalachian State? How good will Georgia’s defense be in Year 2 of the 3-4 scheme that Todd Grantham brought from the NFL?

All good questions.  Still, Bill Connelly makes a strong case that things may not be as close as they seem.  Or, maybe more specifically, that there’s one key above all in this year’s SEC East.

… When Stephen Garcia (3,059 yards, 8.8 per pass, 64% completion rate, 20 TD, 14 INT) was making good decisions, or at least avoiding terrible ones, this South Carolina offense was damn near magnificent.

South Carolina (Garcia Throwing Two INTs or More): 27.6 Adj. PPG (7 TD, 11 INT)
South Carolina (Garcia Throwing One INT or Fewer): 37.6 Adj. PPG (13 TD, 3 INT)

Mistakes begot more mistakes from Garcia in 2010, and while that’s common in a lot of players, it was magnified with this one. A fourth-quarter fumble against Auburn (the first time around) led to another fumble. An early interception against Florida State led to two more before half. It isn’t easy being a Spurrier quarterback — one mistake, and you could get yanked; but heading into his senior season after what I will just call an eventful offseason, Garcia will at some point need to show a level of maturity and funk avoidance that has eluded him to date. He will battle it out for the starting job with sophomore Conner Shaw (223 yards, 6.8 per pass, 70% completion rate, 1 TD, 2 INT), who took fewer chances (for better and worse) while getting his feet wet last fall.

When Garcia had his head on straight, he was able to get the ball to perhaps the best No. 1 receiver in the country, Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery was simply amazing; he was targeted with 36% of his team’s passes, easily the highest percentage among major conference receivers. Only one player in the major conference top ten (Auburn’s Darvin Adams) managed to match Jeffery’s 11.5-yards-per-target average, and in all, only Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon could perhaps surpass the season Jeffery had. He was really, really good. In games in which he had at least one 40+ yard reception, S.C.’s overall Adj. PPG was a stout 38.0. (Other games: 28.8 Adj. PPG.) He was every bit as important as Lattimore in 2010, and he will be so again in 2011.

I had this thought that Aaron Murray might be the most important single player in the conference this year (which is not the same thing as saying he’s the best, before you try to go there), but I think Bill’s got me convinced it’s Garcia.  Sure, Georgia would face a significant drop off if Murray were to get injured, but the same can be said for the ‘Cocks prospects if Garcia gets hurt (unless you think the second, third, fourth and fifth chances he’s gotten are just a sign of Spurrier’s humanitarian side).

No, the difference here is that Garcia’s going to play and he’s not nearly as consistent as Murray was in Aaron’s freshman season.  The issue for Georgia is whether Murray’s supporting cast can live up to their quarterback’s play.  The issue for South Carolina is whether Garcia’s play is going to bring down his supporting cast.

If South Carolina gets Good Garcia for the whole season, that’s going to be a tough team to beat.  If it’s more of the same though, we may be left praising the ‘Cocks for being the best five-loss team of the (half-) decade.

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13 Comments

Filed under 'Cock Envy, Georgia Football

13 responses to ““Eric Zeier and Steve Taneyhill are not walking through that door.”

  1. Keese

    SC can put together a solid game here and there but let’s not get too carried away. As we witnessed last year, any time they faced a quality opponent that was having a decent game also, they got routed. Not to mention the one or two game a season flop.

    • Go Dawgs!

      South Carolina’s best season in the SEC came with five losses and happened during a historic season in which the three powers in the SEC Eastern Division were all experiencing terrible seasons.

      However, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t a good football team. Their star running back was a freshman last year, and when he was banged up, South Carolina wasn’t the same team. He’s got a year under his belt now, and they may be able to keep him healthier this year. Regardless, he’s not going to be banged up in our game. South Carolina’s a dangerous team.

      • The other Doug

        I’d add that they only lost 3 regular season games.

      • AthensHomerDawg

        “Regardless, he’s not going to be banged up in our game.”
        Oh, I beg to differ sir…. he will hit and hit often and hard! I dare say he will spent a good amount of time in the trainers room on Sunday.
        just sayin’

        • Go Dawgs!

          We hit him hard and often in the 2010 game. It didn’t seem to affect him much at all. He’s a tough player, and while he’ll doubtlessly be sore the next day, I think when you think of a guy like that being “banged up”, it’s week six or seven, and the cumulative effects of getting hit over and over start to pile up. Through the middle part of the season last year, he wasn’t the same player that we saw in Week 2. I think in Week 2 this year, he’ll be full strength. That’s what I was trying to say.

  2. Bad M

    Garcia gets in a zone. And unfortunately for us, sometimes its during the big games. See Bama. We must flush him out. Let him scramble a little and he’ll revert to old habits. He’ll make an incredible throw while scrambling, but that’s ok. It just gives him the confidence to force the next one into double coverage.
    Change defenses often. Get him thinking. That’s not where he’s best. That’s why Lattimore was so important for them. He took some pressure off. Slow down Lattimore and Alshon and let Garcia beat himself.

    • AthensHomerDawg

      I think those linebackers on gonna put a hat on him early and SOS won’t pull him to let those cobwebs clear out. That’s when the wheels start to fall off.

  3. I picked USCe to win the East last year & they are Definitely the Favorites this year. However, Upsets happen & I am going with the Dawgs this year. Just a hunch or just a prayer ?.

  4. Ausdawg85

    I think the biggest factor for USCe is going to be the ‘Ol Ball Coach. First, he’s likely to rotate Garcia and Shaw if both are fairly equal in training. He loves rotating the qb’s for change of pace, or just ’cause he’s pissed-off with current play. He’s learned he can lean on Lattimore now, which frees-up more play-action and trick plays to get Alshon in isolation against our secondary. Plus, we’ll be showing our hand against a tougher BSU than the chickens will against ECU. With just a competent D, this stacks-up perfectly for SOS to show how he can still outcoach ‘em all (at least in his mind).

    We are going to need to score…a lot…and have the junkyard D fully deployed. This will likely be our toughest game all year, and most important. But also why we really need to get out in front of BSU early and often to get playing time to our second teamers and not reveal too much of the playbook. If we get into a real long fight with the Bronco’s, and then lose, I won’t like our chances the next week.

    • First, he’s likely to rotate Garcia and Shaw if both are fairly equal in training. He loves rotating the qb’s for change of pace, or just ’cause he’s pissed-off with current play.

      I’ll say it again – the fact that Spurrier allows Garcia to rise from the dead over and over again is a clear indication of what he thinks about Shaw’s ability to lead the team in SEC play.

  5. bad marinara

    Spurrier (and most coaches) aren’t completely stupid. They make stupid decisions every now and then and take can calculated risks that don’t pan out. But if you have an easy call, they usually make it. Would you (yourself…right now) bet your job on Garcia or Shaw? If they didn’t fire coaches after one bad season then things may be different. Spurrier is a scumbag but he’s not stupid. Are you going to throw him a parade if he dismisses Garcia and loses 4-6 games? (See: Richt-hot seat meme)
    Just like the article about Tubs dropping the TCU game. My only response is DUH! Why not! Better to win more and defend your schedule than lose and have nothing to defend. Right now there are almost no consequences for a chump schedule, especially if you win. Yes I will still call him a coward and not respect him…but coaches are like Honey Badgers.