The plane ride home from Stillwater must have seemed like a 20 hour flight to Georgia quarterback Joe Cox.
The Dawgs left Stillwater on Saturday with just as many questions as they came with.
The biggest unanswered question was simply this...
Can Joe Cox effectively lead this Bulldog offense?
As Georgia prepares for this week's SEC opener against the South Carolina Gamecocks, the Dawg Nation sits, waits, and debates on the answer to that question.
The Dawgs and Gamecocks will meet in Athens on Saturday. Both teams are coming off less than stellar performances. Both teams are also looking for some offense.
The Gamecocks got the win in their first game of 2009. A victory over NC State may not have been a pretty one, but a victory it was.
Oh how Georgia would have loved to have won ugly on Saturday. Instead, Georgia just lost ugly.
I won't recap those two games. By now, you have seen several dozen recaps on this website.
But I do think we can look at the results of those two games and by doing so, know what to expect on Saturday.
Who will win this match-up?
I believe the Dawgs will prevail (shocking, I know) in Athens and wring the necks of those pesky Gamecocks.
But if that is to happen, I believe Georgia will need to make sure these three things take place.
1) Georgia's Defense must continue it's resurgence.
Several big plays, by several big time players, hurt Georgia in Stillwater. The Gamecocks, however, do not have those big time players.
Try as he might, the "old ball coach" has not been able to bring big time offensive football to Columbia. That is unless you consider a 7-3 victory over NC State an offensive explosion.
Steven Garcia threw for only 148 yards against the Wolfpack, getting sacked three times in the process. The ground attack was led last week by Brian Maddox who ran for 73 yards, at only a 2.9 yards per carry average.
This week should prove much more challenging for Garcia, Maddox and company.
The Dawg defense showed signs of life last week. They are still missing that corner pass rush, and must finish the drill when it comes to interception opportunities.
I look for Georgia to sack Garcia several times. I also look for the Dawgs to come up with the first turnovers of the season.
2) Joe Cox, 5th year senior quarterback, take two
The Dawg Nation is grumbling this week. Joe C or Joe T? Joe T IV?
Well sorry to disappoint, but I am not buying into the demise of Joe Cox just yet.
Cox did look weak last week (maybe it was the aftermath of the flu).
He looked indecisive. When he did make a decision, it was the wrong one. He missed wide open receivers, and failed to find the open man on many occasions.
Joe Cox is not Matt Stafford. We all know that. But he is no Joe T either.
Joe Cox will rebound this week against a very tough defense. He will not light up the Gamecocks for 300 yards passing, but he will make us forget about last week.
He will lead, he will take charge, and he will shut up the critics for at least awhile longer.
Let's not forget that it was Joe Cox who came off the bench in 2006 to lead the Dawgs to victory over Colorado.
It was Matt Stafford he replaced. Many in the Dawg Nation spent the next week calling for Joe C to be the starter.
Richt didn't listen then, and I hope (at least for a few more weeks) he doesn't now.
3) Georgia's offensive line will remind us just how physical they can be
A few weeks ago I decided to give these guys (check out my preview of the UGA Offensvie Line) there props.
They are big. They are experienced. They can be physical and nasty.
So what happened last week?
Mark Richt said it best this week, when he stated that (I paraphrase here) "at times the offensive line played real good, but they know that they can play great."
The offensive line must become a force this week. They must remain a force for the remainder of this season.
They need to make sure that Joe Cox doesn't get touched.
They need to make sure that the holes they open for Richard Samuel, Carlton Thomas, Caleb King and whoever else gets that ball, are big enough to drive a truck through.
They need to play some smash mouth football.
Now don't get me wrong. I realize that South Carolina has a great defense. They always play Georgia tough.
In Athens or in Columbia, this game always seems to come down to the wire. South Carolina is certainly capable of coming to Athens and winning.
In four of the past five years, this game has been decided by single digits (four, two, four, and seven). That one exception was in 2006, when Georgia won 18-0 in Columbia.
This one may very well come down to single digits as well.But for some reason, I just don't think the Gamecocks have the offense to score on Georgia.
The Dawgs on the other hand have a lot to prove offensively. They are also at home. Joe Cox will be on a mission this week. The Dawg Nation will be happy to watch him succeed.
If Joe can do his thing, and the Dawgs can solve their turnover problems and protect the ball it will be a long night for the "old ball coach."
Final Score: Georgia 20 South Carolina 6
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