Another disappointing season seems to be inevitable for this year’s South Carolina football team, which may struggle to even make a bowl game.
With the second most difficult schedule in the nation, the margin for error is razor-thin for the Gamecocks. However, a loss to Kentucky on Saturday — the first road SEC victory for the Wildcats since 2009 — put the Gamecocks in the precarious position of likely having to pull off an upset to avoid a losing season.
The Gamecocks will have a prime opportunity to pull off an upset on Saturday. Head coach Steve Spurrier has traditionally given the Bulldogs fits.
The Head Ball Coach is 16-6 against Georgia as a head coach and 5-5 at South Carolina. The Gamecocks have won four of the last five times the teams have met, including two wins in the last three years over Georgia teams ranked in the top 6.
Georgia has indeed become wary of the Gamecocks, especially following a road loss at Williams-Brice Stadium last year. Georgia went on to go 6-2 in the conference, finishing second in the SEC East to 7-1 Missouri.
Keys to the Game:
1. Address Nick Chubb — I intentionally chose the word address here. To stop or even slow the All-American tailback is a nearly impossible task for just about any defense. Ask Louisville. The Gamecocks need to meet the 5-foot-10, 220 pound Chubb head-on. Last year, Georgia ran for 217 yards against the Gamecocks, but the defense slowed the Bulldog rushing attack just enough to tip the game in South Carolina’s favor.
Even with a much improved defensive front that allowed just 92 yards in the second half of Saturday’s Kentucky game, it is unrealistic to believe that the Gamecocks can force Georgia quarterback Greyson Lambert to throw 35 times. Instead, the Gamecocks can force the Bulldogs into longer third down situations if they play solid run defense on the early downs.
If Georgia's running backs get more than 30 combined touches, the Bulldogs will win. The Gamecock focus needs to be on forcing Lambert to throw more than he, and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, would like.
2. Stay Balanced on Offense — With nine minutes left against Kentucky, senior tailback Brandon Wilds had 15 carries. He ended the game with 16. Redshirt junior Perry Orth threw 18 second-half passes in the first meaningful playing time of his career. He played well until his last throw, a game-sealing interception.
The Gamecocks shouldn’t shy away from the pass in the early going. The tendency with a young quarterback is to throw away the first series with overly safe play selection.
Orth has the ability and the confidence to stand tall in the pocket and throw downfield, even on his first possession. Orth’s first play of the second half was a 16-yard completion to junior Pharoh Cooper. That being said, Spurrier cannot forget his three-headed monster of Wilds, redshirt sophomore David Williams and redshirt senior Shon Carson in the backfield. The best way to stop a premiere running back like Chubb is to keep him off the field.
If Spurrier can stay balanced with a healthy mix of runs and passes, the Gamecock offense can move the ball on a good Georgia defense.
3. Start Fast — Gamecocks have outscored their first two opponents 22-2 in the second half of their first two games, but have gone into halftime down by a combined 20 points. With the strength of Georgia’s run game, the Gamecocks cannot afford to be in a position where they must comeback to win.
South Carolina scored quickly following a junior Skai Moore interception against Kentucky, but relaxed and faced a 14-7 deficit after one quarter. The Gamecocks need to stay aggressive in the first half and try to jump out to a lead instead of being content with a close game.
Last season, the Gamecocks struggled late in games, blowing double-digit fourth quarter leads on three separate occasions. After a promising second half against Kentucky last week, South Carolina should look to grab the lead early against Georgia.