After an impressive win over the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns, the Georgia Bulldogs will start to find out how "for real" they really are this season when they face-off against the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday—at high noon.
Steve Spurrier's team looked impressive in their victory over the Southern Miss Golden Eagles (a team considered by many to be one of the best in their conference this season) last Thursday, and the team hopes to continue their winning ways against Mark Richt's team this weekend.
Despite what the polls say (the Gamecocks were left off the coaches' and AP preseason polls), the feeling in Columbia is that this will be the year that Spurrier will finally take his team to an SEC Championship.
Most Bulldog fans can tell you plenty about their rival to the north, but here are ten quick points anyway—just for kicks.
1. They may finally have found their running game.
For years, the Gamecocks have lacked an adequate run game to compliment the passing attack—this has been a familiar sticking point for Spurrier for as long as he's been in Columbia, because he hasn't been able to field a phenomenal passer in that time either.
As a result, his offenses have stalled more often than he'd like and his teams have performed disappointingly in the process. Marcus Lattimore may be the cure to what ails them at the tail spot—opening up a plethora of possibilities on offense.
2. Marcus Lattimore is the real deal.
It was just a Conference-USA team, but it was hard not to recognize the talent that Lattimore will bring to the field this season.
The true freshman has the size, speed, and hands to be a big-time threat out of the backfield.
Furthermore, it is clear that he offers a legitimate goal line option for the Gamecocks this season—his 6'0", 200+ pound, frame makes him a load to bring down at the line.
3. Ace Sanders needs to be accounted for because he's a playmaker.
The speedy receiver out of Bradenton, FL had one very impressive run on Thursday night.
On a clear reverse, Sanders took big advantage of the Golden Eagles' lapse in defensive concentration as he sprinted down the field for 31-yards.
Sanders is only 5'7" but he is just the type of player that Steve Spurrier likes to have fun with on offense—he will definitely find his way onto the field.
4. Stephen Garcia is still a significant running and scoring threat.
The much-maligned quarterback didn't overly impress with his arm but he's still got plenty of scoring ability as a scrambler.
The junior was responsible for two rushing touchdowns in the win—one of which was a 22 yard scamper.
Garcia has good instincts as a runner and he isn't afraid to use those instincts if he sees an opportunity to gain some positive yardage or score six.
5. Alshon Jeffery isn't showing any signs of a "sophomore slump".
Jeffery accounted for 106 yards on seven catches (15.1 ypc average) and he was clearly the go-to guy for Garcia.
He's going to pose match-up problems for any secondary with smallish defensive backs because of his size.
In order to disrupt him, a team is going to have to do it off the snap—otherwise, he's as money as they come on the football field as a receiver.
6. Connor Shaw will be pretty darn good this year in his backup role.
Shaw didn't get very many snaps (6), but in his limited appearance, he showed he is not intimidated by the SEC spotlight.
He appears, from the outset, to have a run-first mentality. However, he's an effective runner too and he doesn't seem bothered by making plays with his feet.
He keeps his eyes downfield at all times and he's a definite weapon if the Gamecocks decide to run a little wildcat this season—particularly with Ace Sanders and Marcus Lattimore in tow.
7. The offensive line still needs tweaking.
The Southern Miss defensive front didn't have much trouble handling the South Carolina offensive line early in the game.
That said, the line is still likely one of the best Spurrier has had since he arrived at South Carolina and any inconsistency is likely due to a new line coach—the talent is there.
8. The secondary...well...it's not very good—yet.
South Carolina didn't impress early with the play of its secondary.
The Golden Eagles, despite the loss, moved the ball very well against the Gamecocks, and if not for a couple of busted plays in the redzone, the end score might have looked very different.
The team was without its star corner, Chris Culliver (moved from safety to corner during the spring) and there is the possibility that the shuffling of the secondary was the main issue behind a lackluster pass defense (Akeem Auguste also switched positions this past spring).
9. The defensive line is still searching for its identity.
South Carolina didn't shut the Eagles down, so much as the Eagles shot themselves in the foot with crucial turnovers on potential scoring drives.
Overall, the Eagles were effective when faced with a third down (10/19), and quarterback Austin Davis was able to elude the pass-rush most of the evening. He fumbled on a run play early in the first, but the pressure of the front seven led to only one sack—midway through the second quarter.
Does that mean the defensive line at South Carolina is not up to par? No, but they have yet to find the answers for the departed Clifton Geathers and Eric Norwood.
10. They do a lot of damage on first and second down—third downs...not so much.
Again, this is only the first game of the season, but the Gamecocks struggled to complete third downs against the Eagles (4/10), while the Eagles converted better than 50 percent of theirs.
Does that have to do with the playcalling, the confidence of Stephen Garcia behind his, still-jelling, offensive line, or just first game jitters?
We'll find out soon enough.
(This article appears courtesy of The Lady Sportswriter)