First thoughts on Georgia – South Carolina, or, as I like to refer to it, the “hasn’t seen” game. As in, Georgia hasn’t seen as good a defense this year as the Gamecocks’ D. As in, South Carolina hasn’t seen an offense remotely in the same class as Georgia’s. As in, the Dawgs haven’t seen a running back of the caliber of Marcus Lattimore. As in, the ‘Cocks haven’t seen as good a quarterback as Aaron Murray. As in…
I think you get my point. Anyway, a few specifics:
- Very different challenge for Georgia’s defense this week. Gone is the scary downfield passing attack, to be replaced by a quarterback who’s been as efficient as Murray throwing the ball and is also an effective runner. Not to mention a tough son of a gun.
- Oh, yeah. There’s that Marcus Lattimore fellow. He’s not bad. Matt Hinton had a good piece about Lattimore that he posted before the Kentucky game in which he pointed out that Lattimore hasn’t been dominating South Carolina’s offensive numbers this season because Spurrier hasn’t needed him to. Cue the Kentucky game – the ‘Cocks are down 17-7 at the half and what does the OBC do? He dials up a heavy dose of his stud running back (10 carries for 61 yards in an 81-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter that put South Carolina up 28-17) to fuel a 31-point run and an easy win. Basically what Spurrier’s done is keep Lattimore in second-game shape even though the season’s five weeks old now.
- So what does that mean for Grantham? Well, for one thing, he won’t have his safeties lined up halfway to Watkinsville this week. For another, unlike the last two seasons, he’ll have a full quiver to shoot from, with no players out due to suspension or injury. The goal this week will be containment – controlling the zone read play and the intermediate passing game which Shaw has executed well.
- Another thing to keep an eye on is that South Carolina ran out of the I-formation a good bit against Kentucky. It’s a smart way both to protect Shaw’s shoulder and to pound on the defensive front to wear it out to enable Lattimore to control the fourth quarter in the way we’re all too sadly familiar with. In other words, it’s a big test for the new strength and conditioning regime. Also, I hope Grantham backs off from playing Jenkins and Geathers together so much; keeping them fresh for the inevitable strikes me as a good strategy.
- What is Bobo going to do about those defensive ends? Throw the kitchen sink at ‘em, I expect, in hopes of keeping them off-balance. One thing I know is that he can’t expect Theus to handle Devin Taylor by himself all game. I do think the Dawgs will have some success moving the ball on the ground, but I’m scared to death of a couple of Murray turnovers coming by way of a fierce pass rush. Aaron’s got to be smart about not holding the ball too long. Also, expect lots and lots of max protect. Which may be fine, as I’m not as impressed with the ‘Cocks secondary as I am with their front seven. And I’m not forgetting that Georgia moved the ball on these guys throughout last year’s game.
- I’m not sure I really want to talk about special teams. Moving Mitchell out of punt return duty should help, but we can’t be sure until we see McGowan in action. I keep thinking that a game is going to come along where the extra point adventure is going to come back and bite Georgia in the butt. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if this week’s game proved to be that point. On the other hand, I keep thinking Ace Sanders on punt returns is a turnover waiting to happen if the right guy times the right hit.
- Oh, and that silly Spurrier tiff with Ron Morris? I’ve seen someone suggest it’s the Evil Genius’ brilliant strategy for taking attention away from the game. (Question not addressed: why would he care about that?) Andy Staples thinks it was a distraction in the Kentucky game. Me, I just think Spurrier is a little bored. His team is functioning well and is in a post-Garcia era with no real major distractions. He’s got no players who need messing with, so the media makes a convenient target. Will any of that make a difference Saturday night? I don’t think so.