First, for any newcomer to Bleacher Report, please see Creature vs. Creature creator Justin Goar’s recap of the C vs. C article format.
This early-season SEC game is always a classic battle won in the trenches: Since 2004, neither team has scored more than 20 points in any game, and all but one game has come down to the final quarter or final minutes.
Touchdowns have been few and far between, and not including FSU-Miami, the kicking game has likely played a larger role in this rivalry than in any other. In that five-year span, there have been 13 touchdowns, 12 field goals, two safeties, and one missed extra point.
The 2005 game was especially bitter for Gamecock fans, as the aforementioned missed extra point forced the Gamecocks to go for a two-point conversion late in the game. When they failed to convert, the two-point loss was tough to swallow, knowing at least overtime was a possibility if a first quarter extra point would have gone through.
Gamecock fans are still sick about Mike Davis’ goal-line fumble in last year’s 14-7 loss too.
But while South Carolina’s miscues have certainly played a role in the losses, the fact remains that Georgia nearly always finds a way to pull out a close one with the Gamecocks—and credit goes to them for coming up with big plays.
South Carolina will win if…
The pass rush can create sacks and turnovers
With the loss of Trinton Sturdivant to injury, something tells me Ellis Johnson will have his boys attacking the left side of Georgia’s offensive line regularly. For those who saw the NC State game last week, you may have noticed the speed of Eric Norwood and Cliff Matthews.
The Gamecocks also get a boost with the return of the 6'8", 280-pound monster named Clifton Geathers, who will come off the bench after his replacement, Devin Taylor, wreaked havoc last Thursday, forcing a fumble on the first play of the game, registering a sack and a handful of tackles for a loss, blocking a punt, and earning SEC Lineman of the Week honors—all in his first career start.
Joe Cox had a case of the happy feet against Oklahoma State, and more pressure on him could spell disaster for the Dawgs—which is why I think we’ll see a dose of Logan Gray at quarterback.
The run game can get going
You can say this about pretty much any team in the country, but for the Cocks, the running game is priority No. 1, especially after last year’s conference-worst average.
South Carolina ran the ball an uncharacteristic 42 times last week against NC State, and as we saw last week, Georgia is still susceptible to the long ball. If the Cocks can gain success on the ground, the pass should open up.
Add it all up, and the Head Ball Coach could finally be on the right side of some deep balls—something he has been dying to see since he showed up in Columbia.
South Carolina will lose if...
Blair Walsh gets on the field a lot
Three points against most teams isn’t much, but in this series, and against an anemic Carolina offense, field goals could be considered precious gold come Saturday. If Georgia can get the short field just a few times in this game, it could very well be the difference.
Spencer Lanning gets on the field a lot
When last season’s Gamecock kicker Ryan Succop suffered a severe abdominal injury and could only practice twice a week, Spencer Lanning never came close to getting on the field. When Succop went 1-of-5 against Kentucky last year, Lanning stayed on the sideline, helmet in hand.
Now we know why: Lanning is not a talented—or even average—kicker.
In fact, Lanning didn’t even get to attempt his first kick last week, as the snap was too difficult to set up. As for his second attempt, well, he yanked a chip shot 27-yarder.
If the Gamecocks can’t put the ball in the end zone, they simply won’t win.
I know, big shocker.
Plain and simple, the obvious edge here goes to Georgia: Blair Walsh is an phenomenal kicker, while the inexperienced Spencer Lanning still has yet to make a college field goal.
In what is always a close game, field goal kicking will be essential.
I fear that Gamecock fans will be cursing one player’s name after this game (say it with me now): Spencer Lanning. While I hate to wish ill will on the kid, history is typically not on the side of an inexperienced kicker in a historically close and pressure-packed game.
Just as Dawg fans were scratching their heads while looking at the box score to the Oklahoma State loss, I see Carolina fans doing the same after this game. Throw the stat sheet out for this one, because it won’t tell the story of the game.
Even though the visiting team has come away victorious the last two seasons, I see Georgia sneaking away with one even Bulldog fans realize they don’t deserve.
Georgia 20, South Carolina 17
For the Georgia perspective, check out Kimberley Nash’s article.
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