The Dawgs defense can't afford a bad game against South Carolina
Of all the college football games on this week, none are as intriguing as the Georgia/South Carolina game. Furthermore, there is no in-game matchup more interesting than the Bulldogs defense against the Gamecocks offense.
This has always been a rivalry game, but the stakes are higher this season. Not only is it an SEC East battle between the two favorites to win the division, but it is No. 5 battling No. 6 in the country.
No. 5 Georgia is looking to avenge its last two losses to South Carolina, while at the same time legitimize the program as a title contender. The No. 6 Gamecocks will look to win three in a row against the Bulldogs for the first time in school history. They, too, are trying to establish themselves as title contenders.
This heavyweight bout will come down to the South Carolina offense versus the Georgia defense, and it will be brutal.
So, which unit will reign supreme?
Connor Shaw composes half of the mighty South Carolina offense, and he is good.
Connor Shaw is young, agile and he can make plays. Also, he is inhumanly accurate. Against Missouri, Shaw went 20-for-21 with 249 yards and two touchdowns. That is a 95 percent completion rate.
The nation's No. 10 passer in accuracy was not always the starter. He had been sharing time with Dylan Thompson the first three weeks.
But after his near-perfect performance against Missouri, he took control as the starting quarterback. Under center, he has helped lead the Gamecocks to two wins where the offense scored at least 31 points.
As mentioned earlier, Shaw can make plays. Of course he can make plays with his arm, but what will drive the Georgia defense crazy is that he runs. Shaw is not afraid to run, and in his recent game against Kentucky he had 19 carries for 76 yards.
As a duel-threat quarterback, Shaw will have the best chance of any quarterback this season to defeat the Georgia defense.
What QB Connor Shaw doesn't have working for him is his receiving corps, which plays into the hands of the Georgia secondary.
Only WR Bruce Ellington and WR Damiere Byrd have shown even a glimpse of consistency, but only for two games. With such a glaring weakness, the Bulldogs secondary could have a big day.
Now, the Gamecock receivers can make big plays, like the 94-yard touchdown Byrd had against UAB. But with safety Bacarri Rambo and corner Sanders Commings lurking, South Carolina may have little success through the air.
Rambo plays like his name suggests. He is instinctive, and when he hits, the offensive player really feels it.
The senior Bulldog had been suspended for the first four games, but he immediately made an impact in his return against Tennessee. He seemed to be everywhere, as he was deflecting passes and collecting tackles left and right.
He is joined by senior Sanders Commings. The 6'2" corner had an unbelievable game against Tennessee. His two interceptions late in the game sealed the win.
These are two guys who will likely be playing on Sundays in the near future, and facing such a weak receiver corps will allow the Georgia defense to focus on the real problem.
Yes Georgia fans, running back Marcus Lattimore is back.
Lattimore is basically the offense for South Carolina. He is the featured back, and he is the most reliable receiver.
The stud running back has two 100-yard rushing games, and he has two games of 85 yards. He has also demonstrated his ability to catch the ball, as evidence by his 60-yard receiving game against Missouri.
It is difficult to not like this guy, unless you are a Georgia fan. Then you just remember that he rushed for 182 yards in 2010, and rushed for 176 yards last season against the Bulldogs.
As Scott Hood of GamecockCentral.com points out (via TheTandD.com), 192 of those yards have come in the second half. In fact, Lattimore is quite the unstoppable force in the second half, much to the chagrin of opposing teams.
Lattimore has rushed for 65 yards in the second half in eight games in his career; South Carolina has won each game.
So, just to clarify, he can run, catch and finish a game? Some NFL team is going to be very happy when they draft Lattimore.
But until he leaves, the Bulldog front seven will have to be the immovable object to halt the unstoppable force.
Without a doubt, Marcus Lattimore will be the best back Georgia faces all season. But if any front seven can stop Lattimore, its this one.
Except for maybe LSU, no group has as many potential NFL draftees as the one playing on Georgia's defense, and each one will need to come to play this week. Between the massive defensive line and the early-round talent residing in the linebacker corps, the Bulldogs have the talent to control SC's run game.
On the line, Georgia hosts two mammoths that only move when they decide to.
Kwame Geathers may have left his home state of South Carolina due to lack of food. The guy is 6'6", 355 pounds, and moves. Geathers is more of an "it" because people just don't come in that size.
Geathers is a space-eater that will thrive in the NFL, but he's just the backup. The guy who starts is even bigger.
DT Mountain John Jenkins defies the laws of physics. The senior prospect is 6'3", 358 pounds, and that may be an understatement.
What is scary about Jenkins is that he wears No. 6, and that he moves like he should be wearing the number. Such a low number is more for "skill" position players, and Jenkins has skill.
Besides being a world class run-stuffer, "the mountain" moves with surprising quickness, and he gets to the quarterback. Lattimore may be able to break through walls, but a mountain may be too much.
If Lattimore is lucky to avoid getting squashed by Georgia's behemoths, he'll then have to get past the linebackers. The Bulldogs have a solid corps of linebackers, but it is headlined by two in particular.
Alec Ogletree and Jarvis Jones are two of the most feared linebackers in college football.
Ogletree has the speed of a safety, which he was at one point, and the instincts of Ray Lewis. He, along with Bacarri Rambo, was suspended the first four games, but had quite an impact on the Tennessee game. He had 14 tackles, and he brought leadership to the heart of the defense.
His partner in domination is Jarvis Jones. He is quick, ruthless, can defend the pass and can stop the run. According to Jordan Conn of ESPN The Magazine, Mel Kiper has Jones at the top of his Big Board. A player does not get there because he isn't the most dominant force at his position, if not in all of college football.
Jones leads the team with four and a half sacks, but it will be his run-stopping ability that helps Georgia win against SC. He will need to show that relentlessness and tenacity that has served him well since he joined Georgia.
This will be the most vigorous battle of Week 6, and it will come down to South Carolina's offense and Georgia's defense to determine the victor.