Mark Richt was impressed with what Texas A&M did to South Carolina’s defense, but doesn’t see it as an offensive template for Georgia this Saturday.
“We’re not going to try to look at Texas A&M’s game plan and mimic it. There are some things we may be able to use, but we don’t have the stable of receivers they have and we have these running backs that we need to get the ball in their hands.”
Mike Bobo, however, sounds more open-minded about what he might take from TAMU’s success.
“You’ll see us do that some,” Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “You’ll see us in three-receiver sets. You probably won’t see us in four-receiver sets or five like we might’ve done a couple of years earlier just because of depth at receiver. There will probably always be a tight end on the field. But we’ll try to give them multiple looks and see how they line up.”
In truth, they both sound like they’re getting to the same place. And why not? As Bill Connelly points out in his game preview, South Carolina’s pass defense has been noticeably weaker than its run defense this season. The question is whether Mike Bobo and Hutson Mason can take advantage of that. Bill thinks that Georgia will have to open things up down the field more than the Dawgs did against Clemson.
The last time these teams played, Georgia won because of the passing game. Gurley averaged just 4.4 yards per carry, but Aaron Murray completed 17 of 23 passes at 18.2 yards per completion. He found Justin Scott-Wesley for a game-changing 85-yard score. He found Michael Bennett for a 32-yarder. Keith Marshall had a 48-yard catch-and-run. Hutson Mason averaged seven yards per completion against Clemson, but only six of Murray’s 17 completions last year gained seven or fewer yards.
I’m not quite so convinced of that. Will Georgia need to throw more than it did against Clemson? Most likely. But TAMU ripped the ‘Cock defense with short and medium range targeted throws that took advantage of sloppy fundamentals. SC hasn’t shown that it plays well in space or tackles well (or at least not until the fourth quarter against ECU). If Mason and his receivers are on the same page, there’s no reason to think they can’t have success in the passing game without having to go bombs away.
As far as the running game goes, Todd Gurley’s right about one thing. With the way South Carolina deploys its safeties, if a Georgia running back manages to break through the first level, there’s room to roam. If that means pounding away until the opportunity presents itself, I don’t think Georgia would have a problem with that, at least as long as the scoring is under control. If South Carolina can open up a lead, that may change Bobo’s strategy.
Which brings us to the other side of the ball. Can Georgia slow Mike Davis down? If so, we saw what happened against Clemson when Pruitt forced an offense into one dimension. Whereas Carolina’s defense has been generous on third downs, Bill points out that Dylan Thompson isn’t nearly as good when he’s forced into passing downs. Bill describes what the Gamecocks need to do:
With Davis’ skill and Georgia’s secondary issues, South Carolina should have the advantage on first down, second-and-short or medium, and third-and-short. Keep it in that range.
From here, it looks like the biggest key to the game may be Georgia’s pass rush. Keeping Thompson off-balance would be big. Mike Davis is a terrific back, but he’s not gonna beat the Dawgs by himself.