South Carolina and Georgia resume their intense rivalry over the last few years this Saturday at 4:30 pm on ESPN.
The Gamecocks have reeled off three-straight wins against UGA and are hoping to make it four this weekend. They'll certainly get Georgia's best effort as the Bulldogs are coming off a close loss to the Clemson Tigers 38-35. While the loss to Clemson hurt, it's not nearly as important in the grand scheme of things as this South Carolina game will be. This game starts Georgia's quest to win a third-straight SEC East division title and they still have a chance at making a run at the national championship.
South Carolina is hoping to improve off of its 27-10 victory over UNC last Thursday as South Carolina started off strong in the first quarter and used a powerful running game behind Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds to hold on to the season-opening win. The Gamecock defense was able to contain the high-powered offense of North Carolina and held them to nearly 200 yards less than their season average a year ago. Jadeveon Clowney was the focus of South Carolina all offseason but the defensive end has drawn a lot of criticism for being "out of shape" and not putting up the statistics that everyone expected him to. Clowney had a big game against UGA last year and South Carolina is hoping he'll get back to form against the Bulldogs.
As Spurrier mentioned this week in press conferences, this game doesn't always indicate who the division champion is. The Gamecocks have defeated Georgia the last two years but they've been able to make a run and win the SEC East. But make no mistake, the HBC wants this game. He always does. He's done enough this week to try and downplay a rivalry between South Carolina and Georgia but this has been an awfully close game almost every season since 2000. You can likely expect the same this weekend.
With that said, let's get to this week's edition of This, That and the Other: Georgia:
This will be the chance that Jadeveon Clowney will have to silence the doubters. Everyone is now focused on him throughout the game and if he doesn't show 110-percent effort on every play, he'll get called out immediately. People seem to forget that the UNC offense is one built with speed in mind and quick plays are essential for it to work. They also game-planned in an effort to take Clowney out of the game. It definitely worked at times. However, Clowney still looked like the Clowney of old on several plays and caused a ruckus in the backfield on several occasions.
This weekend, it's a different style of offense. Georgia brings a more pro-style approach than UNC and this should give Clowney ample opportunities to shine. They won't be as uptempo as UNC was and this can afford Clowney and the USC defensive line plenty of chances against Georgia, especially with the way their offensive line played this past weekend.
Georgia's offensive line struggled greatly against Clemson's front group. Clemson was able to bring pressure and cause Aaron Murray to be forced into uncomfortable situations. They also were unable to open up running room for the Bulldog running backs, even though Todd Gurley still had an outstanding game. Murray put up big numbers thanks to some nice catches but it was definitely a struggle for Murray and dropped his record to 1-11 against Top 15 teams.
Add UGA's potential offensive line issues along with a motivated Jadeveon Clowney and it could spell doom for Georgia's offense on Saturday.
That South Carolina could have the return of a healthy Bruce Ellington and Rory Anderson could give this offense an immediate boost in the passing game. Both players were considered the top playmakers in the receiving corps for the Gamecocks but Anderson sat out against UNC and Ellington was limited.
With both of them on the field, it adds the potential for big gains against the young Georgia secondary. The Bulldogs started two freshman against Clemson and the Tigers took advantage. Tajh Boyd put up some big numbers on that secondary and while the Gamecocks aren't quite as explosive as Clemson on offense, they've got a chance to make some big plays happen. We saw Shaq Roland step up last week and catch a big 65-yard touchdown catch so you know he's got some confidence on his side finally. Between him, Ellington, Anderson, Jerell Adams and Damiere Byrd, these are all players that could put up some big numbers.
Georgia is expected to return Josh Harvey-Clemons and Corey Moore in the secondary so they'll gain some experience there but this is a vulnerable group. The Gamecocks have to be effective and take advantage. An effective Connor Shaw running the offense is what South Carolina needs this weekend. The chances will be there for Shaw. He just has to take advantage and play smart.
The other thing to think about with the Gamecocks this weekend is to see how they respond to a tough rough environment. Georgia is not a friendly place and the Bulldog fans love to hate Steve Spurrier. South Carolina owns a three-game winning streak on the Bulldogs and you can expect their best to make sure it ends there.
South Carolina, however, has played in tough environments before and won't be intimidated by Georgia. They also have a lot of Georgia natives who will play with a little bit something extra this weekend looking to stick it to the Bulldogs. Some guys feel slighted they weren't recruited by UGA, others cherish the opportunity to play in front of the home crowd.
Whatever it may be, this is a huge game that both teams are anxious to play and the Gamecocks better be ready for the home field advantage.
This game is one that you can usually count on for a close, seven point or less victory for the winning team. Both teams usually play sound defensive football while doing just enough on offense to give the winning team the victory. There's been a few oddball, high-scoring affairs on both sides in recent years but if history means anything, you can expect South Carolina and Georgia to battle out a lower scoring affair.
The line of scrimmage will be big for both teams Saturday night. South Carolina should be able to use its defensive line against a struggling offensive line for Georgia to provide enough fireworks to make Murray and company pay. The Gamecocks offensive line returns an experienced bunch, although center Cody Waldrop may be out with an injury. If he is, this could certainly be a position to watch as Clayton Stadnik is next in line with no experience to his name. The loud crowd, imposing defense could be a tough match Stadnik and cause some issues snapping the ball to the Gamecocks' quarterbacks.
Turnovers could be key as you saw Georgia with a few costly miscues against Clemson. The three-point loss can point directly to a botched field goal attempt by UGA earlier in the game. You never know when one mistake can be costly and, as it turns out, it was for Georgia. South Carolina should be able to play smart, sound football with Wilds and Davis running the ball and an efficient Connor Shaw at quarterback. Thompson may get his chance to shine but if Shaw is on the money for South Carolina then expect the Georgia native to go the distance for the Gamecocks.
This game took a step back with Georgia's loss this past Saturday but if you are looking for the best football game of the weekend, look no further than South Carolina versus Georgia.
Two heavyweight SEC teams fighting for a chance to be 1-0 and get a leg up in the race for the SEC East title.
There's nothing better than that.