Georgia – South Carolina preview: tense, very tense.

I admit to some trepidation in even attempting a preview of the South Carolina game, first, because I know in my heart of hearts I’ll never top this one, and second, because the real story to this game is not a fun one and something for which I don’t have an answer:  how does Georgia cope with the incredible amount of negative energy thrown its way by the media and much of the fan base.

Five minutes after the outcome of the Boise State game, you had to figure the sphincters on the Sanford Stadium sideline were bound to be tight based on what was at stake for the season and Mark Richt’s career.  This week’s reaction to the opening night loss has only served to intensify that.  I don’t think there will be ninety thousand-plus fans sitting there tomorrow waiting for Georgia to make a mistake, but I worry that the players will feel like that’s the case and play accordingly.  If that’s the case, it’s probably going to be a long game.  And season.

I posted that the keys to the Boise State game were two-fold, line play and team psychology.  As for the latter, even though the Dawgs looked disorganized, I didn’t see them quit.  Indeed, they played better late than they did from the middle of the second quarter through most of the third.  So there’s that.  But the pressure has been ratcheted up significantly for this game.

As for the offensive and defensive lines, well, the defensive line didn’t play too badly.  I like what Paul Myerberg has to say about that.

Don’t doubt Georgia’s ability to beat South Carolina. Not for a minute, and I’m not sure why you would — and don’t say it’s because the Bulldogs lost to Boise, because that would shoot a lot of holes in a lot of arguments. I can tell you one reason why Georgia can win: the play of the front seven. In stopping the run, more specifically. While the Broncos had their way in the intermediate passing game, the Bulldogs were terrific against Boise’s ground game.

I think that’s fairly accurate.  But that alone isn’t going to put Georgia in the win column.  And that’s because the offensive line play, particularly in the passing game, fell so short last week.  Georgia was done in against Boise State by that and by being on the losing end of the field position battle all game.  Those two things have to improve for Georgia to stand a decent chance of beating the Gamecocks.

I haven’t said much about the Gamecocks here, mainly because they’re sort of Georgia’s polar opposite right now.  What you see with them is pretty much what you get:  a supremely talented pair of skill players in Jeffery and Lattimore; a quarterback who Spurrier is going to have to live with, for better or worse; and a defense that’s fairly similar to Boise State’s (great defensive front, decent linebacking and questionable secondary), only with better athletes.  It’s not a team that Georgia will beat playing its “C” game.

Tactically, I think Myerberg is right about what Georgia should try to do defensively.

… Georgia’s game plan will be simple: we need to stop Marcus Lattimore — or slow him down, at least — and force Stephen Garcia to beat us. Not that Garcia couldn’t beat the Bulldogs on his own; he’s no Kellen Moore, but Garcia has ability, experience and one of the nation’s best receivers to work with. But more so than Boise, South Carolina’s offense is one that plays into Georgia’s perceived strength defensively, if last Saturday is any indication.

Easier said that done, of course.  And Georgia can’t sleep on Lattimore, the receiver, either.  He’s damned good at that.  But Carolina’s receiving corps after Jeffery wasn’t impressive in their opener.  If Grantham can figure out a way to squeeze that down, he’s got a chance.  (It’s not like Georgia gave up a ton of points last year in Columbia.)

On offense, it’s all about Aaron Murray.  He didn’t look like a first-team All-SEC quarterback in the Dome.  There’s plenty of blame to go around for that.  The line play, of course.  Some of the receivers besides Charles and Mitchell need to step up.  Murray’s offensive coordinator needs to put him in a better position to make positive plays (sometimes you’ve got to let the quarterback run the ball out of the shotgun spread just to keep the defense honest, for one thing).  And Murray’s got to do a better job with his decision-making, both in terms of knowing how long to hold on to the ball and in finding the open man downfield.

Ultimately, though, tomorrow comes down to whether the Dawgs can find their collective mojo in time.  As Myerberg asks, “(m)ost importantly, can Georgia recover its misplaced confidence in time for an SEC run?”  If the Dawgs can, that “goals remaining” talk won’t sound cringe-worthy at all.

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50 Comments

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50 responses to “Georgia – South Carolina preview: tense, very tense.

  1. Derek

    The closest similarities to this game I can conjure are the 2006 game at #5 Auburn and 2009 at #7 GT. Someone tell me how that turned out.

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    • Rick

      Well, #7 GT was overrated, and #5 AU had to play against a raw but talented quarterback who was becoming less raw every day. Murray is much further along, and the question is whether his protection can make demonstrable strides in one week.

      I’m not optimistic, but I do think the line (+3) is about right – would not be shocked by a win, but would be shocked by a 2006 AU-style dismantling.

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      • Derek

        I will give a disclaimer. Since my first game in 78 I’ve never thought on Friday that we’d lose on Saturday. Further, I’m not going to start now no matter what you nabobs of negativism say. I’ve seen us beat #1 UF in 1985. I saw us beat #6 Auburn in 1986 with a back up qb. Ive seen us win when no one, including many so called fans, said it wouldn’t happen. I know we can beat anyone on any given saturday and I have that feeling that we are gonna get it done.

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        • Russ

          I’m right there with you, Derek. I can find a reason we’ll win regardless of the opponent. Given that this is a conference game, I say just as much pressure (or more) will be on SC. Rarely have they done well as a frontrunner.

          I expect a win.

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        • Garageflowers

          Thank you. I was beginning to think I was the only one that expects to win every game. Loses don’t get me down as long as they play hard, but this week has been difficult because of the negative reaction from some of the fans. What I got from the Boise game: the defense is going to be good, Crowell is going to be fantastic, and we have some playmakers. The offensive line needs to play better, and the passing game had too many errors ( drops, receivers slipping, and a few miss throws ). With Rambo back, and if they don’t miss Alec too much, The D will be fine. I’m looking forward to this season. I’m just avoiding the negative comments.

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          • gastr1

            I expect to win just as you folks do. I have to admit that over the last three years I have become more resigned to expect that my expectations will not be met when we play someone decent.

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    • D.N. Nation

      Put Brandon Cox in a South Carolina uniform and I’d be more optimistic.

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    • Zero Point Zero

      Damn you for making me hope.

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  2. stoopnagle

    Funny, Derek, but the one game that most quickly comes to my mind is the Oklahoma State – Arizona game from last night: one team knows exactly what it’s doing on offense and does it; the other is a discombobulated mess but still gets a ton of yards, but not nearly enough points.

    On the bright side, I don’t expect to see Mark Richt adopt Stoops the Younger’s “pelvic thrust of anger” any time soon.

    With that, I’ll apologize for my pessimism.

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  3. Tom Steadman

    Good points, sir. But let’s not forget that our D-line did a pretty poor job of putting a rush on the QB in the Boise State game. I counted twice, just twice, that Moore was hurried, and good things happed for UGA on both of those plays. No secondary can shut down receivers with some semblance of a pass rush from the line and backers.

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    • Pressure came when Georgia brought more than three. Problem was Georgia couldn’t get BSU in second-and-long and third-and-long situations enough to unleash the hounds, especially after the Broncos ditched the five-step drop passing game and stuck with the quick, underneath stuff.

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      • AlphaDawg

        It wasn’t a lack of a pass rush, it was Moore getting rid of the ball quick to the right receiver, the few times he held on to it, we were on him. Most of the pass plays were 3 step drops.

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  4. baltimore dawg

    ok. ok.
    but in my current negative mindset, i can’t make myself rule out the possibility that spurrier will break his 1995 sanford scoring record either.

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  5. JaxDawg

    Ironically, Spurrier could march his little team into Athens tomorrow and with a blowout, effectively end Richt’s career at UGA.

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  6. Turd Ferguson

    Brand new bottle of scotch.

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  7. TennesseeDawg

    We gotta stop being the Morairty of CFB. Dawgs will pull this one out.

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  8. Noonan

    I have come down off of the ledge since last weekend. I thought about betting on SC on the money line, but I checked and it is -150. Obviously a lot of gamblers don’t think the cocks are a lock (tee-hee). I have been thinking about the Boise game, and i truly believe that if we could have held the ball longer in the first half and not lost Tree (or had a decent back-up for him), we could have hung around with the #5 team in the country, who have 22 seniors and a heisman-caliber QB. Therefore, if we can play ball-control offense and stop the run, I think we have a decent chance of winning tomorrow. If we win tomorrow, the future looks bright suddenly.

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    • AlphaDawg

      The los of Tree was exploited wonderfully by Moore and Boise’s coaching staff. The D held up good against the rush, but with Tree out late in the 2nd qtr and the 2nd half, Moore showed why he’s Heisman worthy, they ripped the middle of D apart with dinks and dunks exploiting Tree’s absence.

      With Tree injured moving Samual back to RB may prove mortal to Richts career.

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  9. Will Trane

    Boise and SouthCarolina are very different to me in schemes, mindset, and coaches philosophy.
    Read that there is discussion to move Jones inside to “man-up” the inside rushing of Lattimore. Then you read where Richt and Rambo says you have to get a lot of hats on Lattimore to bring them down.
    I feel more comfortable with the offense than the defense. Some how giving up 35 points to Boise was a concern. I understand we shut down their running game but not their offense and their passing game. Just did not see a lot of push and rush from our D line. Frankly, I have trouble trying to figure out what our DEs do in a game. I know against Auburn last year they disappeared. Never saw any outside pressure from them on Moore to funnel him back in. I’d think that would have been something to do. Same for Garcia. But some where along the way this D has to stop allowing offenses to take over in the second and control a game.. Plus opposing offenses from putting up a lot of numbers.
    Bobo and CMR are committed to the shotgun. Think that is good and it may take more than two games to get it rolling.
    FSU was the team that man-d-up Carolina last year. In fact two state of Georgia guys had a huge game…both from Lowndes County. Greg Reid as I recalled laid Lattimore out. And Demps showed how to shut down Spurrier and Garcia throwing the ball.
    Waiting for this D to be more aggressive and force turnovers.

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    • Hackerdog

      As others have said, the 3-step drops that BSU was using are almost impossible to get pressure on. Our problem was that BSU can run a clinic on the short passing game and our linebackers can’t.

      I certainly don’t expect SCU to be as efficient in the passing game as BSU was. But they may be efficient enough.

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      • gastr1

        Once again…they made it look easy in part because we played zone all night on their slow receivers, who just took in little short passes underneath the zone coverage. Why did we not play more man coverage and force Moore to make some progressive reads? Why did we not aggressively bump their receivers off their routes?

        I think that the blueprint for beating Boise was left out on the field and that their weak secondary and lack of sufficient wideouts would have cost them against a well-coached team.

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  10. Russ

    The DL did a good job on the run, and clogging up the middle, which is where Lattimore killed us last year. If the team isn’t too keyed up, they can win this game.

    Also, I know a lot of people wanted Richt to take the ball first last week, but that decision really came back to kill us. We never overcame the hole in field position, and then giving Boise the ball first in the second half put in a scoring hole we never could climb out of. Of course, that’s not the only reason we lost, but it certainly turned out bad for us.

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    • dean

      I don’t blame Richt for taking the ball. He (probably) felt like he had a good opening series of plays to run and that scoring on the first possession would take a little wind out of Boise’s sails. CMR could not have envisioned 2 false starts and a delay of game penalty during that first series. That’s what makes that decision look so bad. Well that and the fact Boise made a great adjustment on offense.

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    • NRBQ

      Russ, you’re gonna have to ‘splain how a team can score first while being in a field position “hole.”

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  11. I said last week, that the BSU game was a confidence building game. Play good, and it will setup a good season for the dawgs. They entered the dome with all the confidence in the world, but it was ripped away in a hurry. All that preseason swagger and hype are now gone, and they are only left with questions. I just have a feeling this team doesn’t believe they can beat USC. Wow…my day was going good until I wrote this.

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  12. dean

    We may match up well with USCe scheme wise but we do not match up well personnel wise. I haven’t felt this down about the state of our program since the Goff years. I just don’t have any confidence we’re going to be able to play well enough to win. With that said I will be there Saturday pulling for the Dawgs to the bitter end.:-(

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  13. Eh. Who knows. Like Derek mentioned, I don’t go into games thinking the guys are going to lose. I even believed in 2008 vs. Florida, despite what Alabama did at “the funeral.”

    But, after seeing little discernible difference in last season and the opener, I have no confidence whatsoever that things will be magically different this time around. Maybe I’ve been burned too many times by my own irrational optimism, but I don’t think I can muster it this week. I’ll still be at the game, and I’ll still be too loud for those around me, but I think I have finally allowed my head to overrule my heart when it comes to my expectations.

    Sakerlina wins 24-13. It will be similar to last year, where UGA is never out of it, but they are never really in it either.

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    • Slaw Dawg

      Well said. Disappointment has become the rule. “Expectations” have been exceeded exactly once in 2 years: the GT win in 2009; and have been disappointed more than I care to think about. What wasn’t fixed during 9 months between Memphis and the Dome is unlikely to get fixed during 7 days between the Dome and Sanford. The Cocks will have to help the Dawgs a lot in order for the Dawgs to pull a W. They’ll help our guys some; that and intermittent Dawgtensity will keep it interesting for a while, but SC has the better D and the better RB, so will win.

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  14. Lance B. Johnson (professional surfer)

    Our line has to step up and shut Clowney down if Aaron Murray is going to play like the All-SEC quarterback he is. Clowney’s very quick off the snap, and if Murray rolls out of the pocket, Clowney will come quick. Hopefully the offensive line will do a better job than they did last week.

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    • Otto

      I agree OL is key and I don’t see how an OL that gave up so many sacks to Boise St will stand up againt what maybe one the SEC’s top pass rushes.

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      • Lance B. Johnson (professional surfer)

        Aaron Murray is a magnificent quarterback, but he’s a pocket passer who needs time to find an open receiver. Luckily our tackles, Glenn and Anderson are both experienced. Hopefully that experience means they’ll be able to recognize and fix their sloppy play that plagued the offense in the Dome.

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  15. JaxDawg

    I have absolutely no confidence in Mark Richt’s ability to coach this team to a win vs a ranked team, or a decent, well-coached team for that matter.

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  16. Vince

    What’s so impressive about South Carolina? They gave up 37 to E. Carolina. Garcia sturggled ot complete passes against a bad defense. They got no sacks against a bad team. They committed 4 turnovers. Lattimore fumbled again, 2nd consecutive game. UGA should put up 50 and blow this anemic defense out of the water.

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    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      +1. I’d love to see it. Personally I am getting sick of hearing about “The Ol’ Ball Coach” and how good his team is. I watche the USCe game last week and they didn’t look so hot to me especially on D. After all the hurt and frustration SOS caused UGA while he was at Florida it would serve that bastard right for the Dawgs to f*ck up his chances with the (Limp) ‘Cocks at an SEC championship once again.

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  17. PNWDawg

    Didn’t UF do pushups everyday during summer workouts for every yard Moreno had against them the previous season? Does our staff look at the way Lattimore dominated us in the same light? Or do each of them just get an extra 180 calories worth of servings from our nutrition specialist?

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  18. AusDawg85

    I want to be optimistic, but my pessimism won’t let me. All I do know is….

    …it’s important.

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  19. Russ

    Okay, I see that all the talking heads on TV are picking Sackerlina, so I’m now convinced we win.

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  20. Turd Ferguson

    Even with the loss of Ogletree (and Geathers being iffy?), I still think our defense will be good enough for us to win. I’ll be surprised if Lattimore has anything like the game he had last year. I just don’t expect us to win, because of our clusterf–k of an offense.

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  21. Wagging the Dog

    pHIL STEELE likes UGA in this matchup. Steele is 86% on picks in 2011.

    http://www.philsteele.com/Blogs/2011/Sep11/DBSep10.html

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  22. W Cobb Dawg

    “how does Georgia cope with the incredible amount of negative energy thrown its way by the media and much of the fan base.”

    It would be more accurate to say ‘how does the fan base cope with the incredible lack of energy and incompetence thrown its way by this coaching staff’. But that would be placing blame on the party that is actually responsible for the performance of the football team. “Fans” didn’t recruit this team, condition the players, plan the offense and defense, and call the plays. Nor did the media. Why are we being blamed?

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