The Georgia Bulldogs head to Columbia to take on South Carolina on Saturday, and the rematch so many have been anticipating for over a year now has finally arrived. It’s time to get excited, folks. It’s time to get hyped.
But what, you may ask, can we expect to see on the field Saturday when these division foes clash? Well, I’m going to do my best to give an unbiased prediction of how this game will unfold. In my mind, there are two possible scenarios that could play out.
Scenario 1—A Low-Scoring Defensive Battle
Okay, okay, I know. Georgia gave up 44 points to Tennessee last week, so there’s clearly something wrong with its defense, right? Well, let’s not give up on this unit quite yet. Yes, there have been some early-game struggles against other teams so far this season. And, yes, UT put a pretty good hurting on the Bulldog defense last week.
Still, with the exception of Brandon Boykin, this is pretty much the same talent and the same coaching UGA brought to the table when it finished in the top five in total defense a season ago. It would be unwise for anyone to come into a game thinking they’re going to easily run this defense over.
And as far as the Gamecocks' defense, there’s no denying the talent South Carolina has on that side of the ball either. The front seven, lead by Jadeveon Clowney, will certainly be the toughest test so far for standout freshmen running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
Georgia’s offensive line has looked better and better as the season has worn on. But, again, this is going to be by far the best defensive front the Dawgs have seen this season. If South Carolina can get pressure on Aaron Murray, we may see UGA’s juggernaut offense slow down quite a bit.
What will happen Saturday in Columbia?
So, it may well be the case that both of these teams struggle to move the ball and this could be a defensive grind.
Scenario 2—A High-Scoring Shootout
Even though Georgia hasn’t faced a defense like South Carolina’s, it has still put up more than 40 points in each of the first five games, twice going over half a hundred. South Carolina will have to respect the home run threat that both Gurley and Marshall bring, which could open up some play-action opportunities for Murray to exploit the South Carolina secondary with.
On the other hand, Connor Shaw has been looking like a surgeon picking apart defenses the past couple of weeks. His completion percentage in the last two games has been ridiculous. Plus, Shaw has the speed and toughness to make plays with his legs against this aggressive Georgia defense.
And let’s not forget about Marcus Lattimore. I know Georgia fans haven’t forgotten how he gashed the Dawgs last season to the tune of 176 rushing yards and a touchdown. Lattimore is starting to show signs of his pre-injury self, and this may just be the breakout game that lets the nation know he’s back.
So, which of these scenarios will we see on Saturday? In my opinion, it’s more likely we’ll have a shootout in Columbia.
Georgia’s defensive coordinator Todd Grantham finally has his squad at full strength again with Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo returning from suspensions last week. But I think UGA’s defense is going to need another game or two with Ogletree and Rambo back in the lineup before we see the full potential of this squad begin to bubble to the surface.
Besides, Steve Spurrier is a good enough coach to game-plan around the strengths of any defense and find a way to put points on the board. I know the Gamecocks only put up 17 against Vanderbilt, but that was the first game of the year and Shaw was gutting it out, playing through a shoulder injury for much of that contest. Since, South Carolina has scored at least 30 points in each game and twice has come within two points of 50.
Finally, with the speed that Georgia has been putting up points, the defense is going to be on the field a lot. I believe we’ll see both defenses begin to wear down in the second half, and this one may just come down to who has the ball last on Saturday.