There's nothing like a Southeastern Conference slugfest, and Week 6 brings us two marquee matchups.
The Bulldogs enter as the fifth-ranked team in the nation, largely because of their dynamo running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. South Carolina is No. 6 because of its daunting defense and rehabilitated ball-carrier Marcus Lattimore.
Picking a winner here is splitting hairs, but someone has to do it.
First, let's preview this matchup from top to bottom.
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium; Columbia, S.C.
When: Saturday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. ET
Betting Line: South Carolina (-2), Over/Under 55
Who Might not Play for Georgia (according to USAToday.com)
G Hunter Long, Foot (Out Indefinitely)
FB Brandon Harton, Thumb (Out)
T Kolton Houston, Eligibility (Out Indefinitely)
Who Might not Play for South Carolina (according to USAToday.com)
T Mike Matulis, Shoulder (Questionable)
RB Shon Carson, Wrist (Out Indefinitely)
BCS/Top 25 Implications
It goes without saying that this is a huge BCS game. The SEC East crown could eventually be decided by this game, playing a major role in the SEC Championship Game and any BCS bowls thereafter.
Georgia only plays one other ranked team after this—the Florida Gators. South Carolina, on the other hand, must face Florida, Louisiana State and Clemson to close the season.
The Bulldogs could coast their way home with a big win in Columbia on Saturday. A victory over Florida would all but ice their SEC East title hopes.
The Gamecocks will have a tough road regardless of victory, and a loss would make their hill even steeper to climb in the second half of the season.
What They're Saying
1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker is the gold standard for Georgia football. Every running back is compared to him from the second he walks through the door, and dynamic first-year ball-carrier Todd Gurley certainly isn't an exception to that rule.
Check out what Walker said in an interview with The Augusta Chronicle's Mark Weiszer:
He's an incredible back. He has size and vision. The Georgia fans have something to look forward to with him running the ball like that. There's a couple of them. That's what you need to build your program back up.
That's high praise from a legend, even for a back with 536 yards and nine touchdowns in his first five collegiate games.
Sticking with the running back theme, let's bounce over to Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Dave Paschall.
Paschall brings us a quote from Georgia coach Mark Richt concerning South Carolina's beastly back, Marcus Lattimore:
Lattimore does seem to play even better as the game wears on. I think defenses are fresh early in the game, and they run faster, hit harder and make less mistakes. As fatigue begins to set in and as a back begins to really finish his runs with some physicality, guys get tired of that. People get tired of that pounding, and Lattimore has been able to have enough stamina to pound people.
All of this is true, and it's what makes him so scary. Lattimore stands 6'0'' and 218 pounds, and he has come back from last year's knee injury looking to punish people. Lattimore has run for 440 yards and eight touchdowns this season, and he will play a key role in Saturday's contest.
Who to Watch (Georgia): Aaron Murray, QB
Everyone likes to talk about Gurley and Keith Marshall in the Bulldogs backfield, but how about Murray?
In his third year as a starter, the signal-caller has thrown for 1,370 yards and 12 touchdowns through five games this season. He's only thrown three interceptions and is completing just more than 68 percent of his passes.
South Carolina boasts arguably the best pass-rush in the nation. Jadeveon Clowney, Devin Taylor and Kelcy Quarles will be pursuing him aggressively to try forcing turnovers and negating the big play.
Georgia's run game is important, but Murray holds the key to victory.
Who to Watch (South Carolina): Marcus Lattimore, RB
If South Carolina is going to win this game, Lattimore must have a big night. He's one of the best running backs in the nation and perhaps the most NFL-ready ball-carrier around.
Look for the Gamecocks to give his hulking frame the ball over and over again. Georgia allowed more than 100 yards rushing to Tennessee last week, and it doesn't hold a candle to Lattimore no matter how you cut it.
Quarterback Connor Shaw is important, but Lattimore is where it's at. He's racked up eight scores this year, despite lacking elite home run ability.
He's going to get the ball early and often in this one.
Key Matchup: Georgia Offensive Line vs. South Carolina Defensive Line
It all comes down to this. If Georgia's hogs up front cannot keep Clowney, Taylor, Quarles and Co. out of the backfield, it's going to be a long day for the Bulldogs.
The Gamecocks love to dial up pressure, and they don't need to bring extra blitzers to make it happen. Clowney is possibly the most dynamic pass-rusher in the nation, capable of changing a game all by himself.
Look for Georgia to devote an extra tight end or running back to stopping the pressure. Even that might not be enough, though.
It's a tough one, but I think Murray's will be the difference. As good as Lattimore is, Shaw and Co. are give-or-take players surrounding him.
South Carolina has one elite running back. Georgia has two.
Look for Murray to make a few key plays, using his feet to evade the South Carolina pressure.
Prediction: Georgia 27, South Carolina 24
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