Georgia is out to prove they are an improved team from 2010 and get back on track to compete in the SEC East. The Bulldogs are looking for a statement game to help Mark Richt down from the hot seat.
South Carolina begins their defense of their first SEC East title. The Gamecocks are poised to make another run at the SEC Championship Game with returning stars Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffrey.
The following is a look at some of the keys for both teams on offense and defense, each team's x-factor and some final thoughts on the game ahead.
Although the offensive line was less than stellar, Aaron Murray was at least partly responsible for a couple of his six sacks against Boise State. Murray needs to speed up his progressions and get rid of the ball faster if Georgia is going to have a chance against a speedy South Carolina defense.
Murray also needs to do a better job of feeling pressure, getting out of the pocket and making something happen when pressure comes. It would be interesting to see offensive coordinator Mike Bobo call some designed rollouts to give the deceptively speedy Murray a run/pass option and the chance to make some plays with his legs.
Somebody is going to have to step up at wide receiver, big time.
Tavarres King and Marlon Brown were a complete non-factor against Boise State. King had one catch for three yards, while Brown had three catches for 12 yards. True freshman Malcolm Mitchell did have a 51-yard touchdown reception, but other than that, there was absolutely zero production from wide receivers.
Mitchell displayed playmaking ability, but is not yet completely comfortable with the entire offense. Look for Bobo to try to get him the ball on simple plays, like quick slants and wide receiver screens.
True freshman Isaiah Crowell had a decent first showing with 60 yards, and Crowell ran best out of the I-formation. He displayed good vision and patience when he hit the holes, and was physical, getting yards after contact. If Georgia can establish a running game out of the I, it will open up the play-action pass for Murray to go downfield.
Crowell still needs work on pass-blocking assignments and will have to protect his quarterback better against South Carolina than he did against Boise.
Junior Carlton Thomas will return this week after serving a one-game suspension for a team rules violation. Look for Thomas to get plenty of touches after Richard Samuel’s lack of production against Boise. Samuel rushed for only 12 yards on seven carries in the season-opener.
Last year in Columbia, Marcus Lattimore diced the Georgia defense for 182 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries. Look for Steve Spurrier and South Carolina to give the Georgia defense a heavy dose of Lattimore until they prove they can stop him.
After not starting the season-opener, Garcia played well enough against East Carolina to win back his starting job. Going 7-of-15 for 110 yards and one touchdown through the air, Garcia also ran for 56 yards and two more touchdowns.
Against Georgia, Garcia will need to be a good game manager and get the ball into the hands of his playmakers, Marcus Lattimore and Alson Jeffrey.
South Carolina turned the ball over five times against East Carolina, four of which were lost fumbles.
It will be rare to see an SEC conference game where a winning team has five turnovers. The Gamecocks must do a better job of taking care of the football this week against the Bulldogs.
Replacing Alec Ogletree
Inside linebacker Alec Ogletree suffered a broken bone in his right foot during Georgia’s season-opener and will be sidelined 4-6 weeks. The Bulldogs are very thin at the inside linebacker position, and with Marcus Lattimore on his way to Athens, this injury could not have come at a worse time for Georgia.
Competing to replace Ogletree are junior Michael Gilliard, walk-on Jeremy Sulek and true freshman Amarlo Herrera.
Slow Down Marcus Lattimore
Georgia’s defensive line is going to have to really step up and clog up the running lanes to give the linebackers time to come help bring down Marcus Lattimore. Lattimore is an extremely strong runner and shakes off tackles with relative ease. Georgia’s front line must do their best to keep him from getting to the second level of the defense, especially with the issues at inside linebacker.
The Georgia defense is going to be concentrating a lot of effort on stopping Marcus Lattimore, and that is going to give standout wide receiver Alshon Jeffery some one-on-one coverage.
Brandon Boykin is going to have to stay on Jeffrey and prevent the big strike downfield.
Pass-Rushing Aaron Murray
South Carolina needs to put pressure on Aaron Murray and force him to throw before he is ready. Boise gave Murray fits in the backfield, sacking him six times. Pressure also forced Murray into some bad throws, including one interception.
Without a proven running game, look for South Carolina to dial up the pressure until Georgia proves they can beat them on the ground.
South Carolina gave up some big plays through the air against East Carolina. Although safety Antonio Allen had a big game—16 tackles, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two passes broken up—Stephen Gilmore struggled. Look for Georgia to target Gilmore early.
South Carolina also returns junior DeVonte Holloman after a one-game suspension resulting from a DUI arrest. Holloman will provide some depth in the Gamecock secondary.
Disrupting Georgia Receivers
Georgia’s receiving corps could not get anything going in their season-opener.
Look for South Carolina to be up on the line bumping Georgia receivers and trying to disrupt their routes. Until Aaron Murray gets into a rhythm with someone other than Orson Charles, South Carolina will be staying up on and pressuring the Bulldog receivers.
Orson Charles led Georgia in receiving against Boise State with six catches for 109 yards and a score. In fact, Charles was the only receiver Murray looked comfortable throwing to downfield.
Georgia’s big tight end should have a big game against the Gamecocks because of the matchup problems that his size and speed present for defenses. A good example of how Bobo can take advantage of Charles was one particular play against Boise.
Out of the shotgun formation with Crowell in the backfield, Crowell goes out into the flat and draws corner Grant Hedrick just long enough to leave Charles alone downfield against undersized safety Jeremy Ioane. Charles is an easy target for Aaron Murray, and the play nets 19 yards.
As mentioned, Georgia will be paying so much attention to stopping Marcus Lattimore, it will open up play-action for Garcia to find Jeffery down the field.
For Georgia, it is going to be pick your poison. If they try to bottle up Lattimore, Garcia will look for Jeffery.
If they drop into coverage, Lattimore could slash up the Bulldogs for the second-straight year.
Georgia is going to have their hands full for the second week in a row. The Bulldogs have a lot of areas they need to improve upon, judging from last week’s performance.
South Carolina looked sloppy in their first game, but still good enough to win comfortably against a good East Carolina team.
You can bank Steve Spurrier is going to address South Carolina’s sloppiness over the week of preparation and sort that out. The real question of this game will be if Georgia can make the adjustments and come out better prepared to face South Carolina than they did against Boise.
If not, it could be another long day for the Dawgs.