Georgia Can't Get Too Cocky Before Big SEC Game
Here's a sampling of what you might hear regarding South Carolina from your everyday Georgia Bulldog fan.
Regarding Stephen Garcia:
"He looks awful."
"I'm not impressed."
"And I thought Smelley (Chris) was bad, but this guy is, wow."
Regarding the South Carolina offense:
"They can't score AT ALL."
"They don't have any playmakers."
"If Georgia managed to shut down Oklahoma State, this should be NOOOOOOO problem."
Regarding Steve Spurrier:
"Another bad ball club for the ol' ball coach."
"This team looks just as average as the last; he won't be here after this year."
"He should have gone back to UF—no way he will ever make Carolina a contender."
Regarding this week's matchup between the hedges:
"This should be a cakewalk after what we saw them do against NC State."
"Joe Cox may be bad, but Garcia is a whole lot worse."
"I know this game is always a close one, but the Dawgs should win, no problem."
Okay, here's what is very clear. Take the Gamecocks lightly at your peril, but when Georgia plays South Carolina, it makes no difference what the rankings or the individual matchups suggest—this game is going down to the wire.
It doesn't matter how many All-Americans or NFL prospects are on each team, nor does it matter who is at quarterback, running back, or wide receiver. This game is guaranteed to be close, and this year likely won't be any different.
As Spurrier marched his bunch into Raleigh last Thursday night, what many saw was a game with little offense and a quarterback who didn't look like he should be leading a pee wee squad, much less an SEC team.
However, here's the caution to be taken when viewing that game with too narrow a lens. Garcia may have looked bad, but when he needed to make a play, he made it—none more crucial than in the fourth quarter, when he hit Moe Brown with a 33-yard pass to secure the win.
Secondly, the Gamecocks held N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson to 74 passing yards on the night.
Despite evidence to the contrary, Wilson is no slouch—he earned First Team All-ACC honors last year as a true freshman (passing for 1,955 yards and 17 touchdowns while rushing for 604 yards) and is expected by many to return N.C. State to legitimacy in the ACC.
All the Gamecocks did was hold him and the Wolfpack to 133 TOTAL yards. That's right, 133.
So as the Dawgs get ready to face South Carolina on Saturday, it would be dangerous to take them or their team lightly—especially since Georgia enters the game with a lot of questions of their own still left to answer.
For one, Joe Cox didn't endear anyone with his subpar performance against Oklahoma State. Despite the vanilla offense coach Mike Bobo trotted out, Cox looked bad on deep throws and slightly unsure on intermediate ones.
It is uncertain how much his health had to do with his performance, but honestly, that's a poor excuse.
He showed up and did enough to show the coaching staff that he was able to play the game—his health, in my opinion, became a non-issue at that point.
Second, will Richard Samuel be as effective if he doesn't have an adequate backup to share the load? Carlton Thomas looked good in space, but he doesn't need to be an option for spelling Samuel. Caleb King needs to get back to business, but will it be this week?
Add to that uncertainties about the offensive line minus Trinton Sturdivant, the overall lack of a significant pass rush continuing to be a problem, and the overall ineptitude displayed by Coach Bobo in his play calling on Saturday, and there seems to be a lot of reason to be concerned.
That said, this is still Georgia, and you can't keep a good Dawg down. If the Dawgs are going to win on Saturday, there are a few things they need to do well.
Run the ball
The Gamecocks have an improved defensive line, no doubt, but this is not the same group from last season that held opposing teams to 133 ypg rushing and completed 31 sacks.
The line is younger, smaller, and much more inexperienced. There is room for improvement, and no doubt Spurrier will maximize his team's potential, but this is an SEC road game against one of the better offensive lines in the nation.
The Dawgs should pose a bigger challenge than NC State.
Utilize more wide receivers and be more diverse with the play calling.
South Carolina lost both Captain Munnerlyn (CB) and Emanuel Cook (S), but to watch the game, it was hard to tell—the secondary looked just as good as last year.
It will be important for the Dawgs to find as many matchup advantages as they can when executing the pass.
Bobo will need to find some soft spots in the Gamecock secondary and exploit them whenever he can—they currently have two underclassmen starting at the corner spot, which could prove to be advantageous for the Dawgs.
Pressure. Pressure. Pressure.
As good as the defensive line played on Saturday, the Dawgs still didn't force a turnover or complete a sack. This was supposed to be a major point of emphasis this offseason—getting more pressure on the quarterback.
Our defense, for all its talent, has got to get nastier at the line of scrimmage. If they don't, it won't matter how mediocre the opposing quarterback is—they will get manhandled.
South Carolina's offensive line is improving, but it is a work in progress. The Dawgs need to take advantage of the youth and relative inexperience of this unit by being more aggressive at the point of attack.
Plug those holes and make it hard for those Gamecock tailbacks to find any kind of daylight. Force Stephen Garcia to make a play and turn the Gamecocks into a one-dimensional squad.
Garcia may have all-world talent lurking behind that sub-par performance, but let's not allow this to be the game where he finds his rhythm—keep him off-balance and force him to make tough decisions.
Coach Jon Fabris seems to love the directional kick, but here's the problem: It doesn't work very well.
On many kickoffs, the ball sails out of bounds, giving the other team a shorter field. If the Dawgs are not confident in the players who are currently on kick coverage, then they need to readjust the coverage teams and put the fastest guys on the field—regardless of position.
Better yet, just kick it deep and shoot for more touchbacks—enough with the directional kicking. Make the other team start from their own 20; that's a whole lot better than allowing them a short porch.
In the last eight years, this game has been the one that leads to the most nail-biting and hair-pulling of them all, because it's the one game where there don't seem to be any true advantages for either team.
Six of the last eight games have been decided by a touchdown or less, and the combined average score has been 27 points—it's definitely worthy of an SEC coronary for how stressful it is for both the teams and their fans.
The outcome will be anyone's guess, but if it were played on paper, the Dawgs have the edge and should be able to eke out a win.
However, as stated earlier, where this matchup is concerned, none of that really matters.
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