Georgia-South Carolina may as well be called the "Annual Pull Your Hair Out and Bust Your TV Set" Game because that is precisely how nerve-wracking it is when these two teams come together.
It has never mattered who the better team is on paper. It has never made a difference where either is ranked in the polls. For whatever reason, never mind asking why, this game is just the Achilles' heel of both Georgia and South Carolina's SEC existence.
The winner gets a good start in SEC play, while the loser, on more than one occasion, has gone on to a mediocre season with the reward being an offseason trying to figure out, "What went wrong?"
So, as Saturday night brings us to yet another blood-curdling matchup with those Cocky sons of guns from the east, we go in knowing it will not be easy or pretty.
Georgia will win if...
The defensive line can contain the run
Brian Maddox had a field day against N.C. State. He only gained 66 yards on the ground, but his one-yard touchdown run turned out to be the only points the Gamecocks would need to seal the victory.
Maddox seemed to be very comfortable carrying the ball for the Gamecocks and will likely see more opportunities to do so because the passing game is not nearly as dangerous with Stephen Garcia calling the plays.
The defensive ends and linebackers can put pressure on Stephen Garcia
Garcia did not look impressive against N.C. State, but to his credit, he did make the big plays when they mattered.
However, he seemed uneasy with the ball for most of the game and was unable to complete many passes when under the slightest bit of pressure.
If Georgia can force him to make plays with his feet and not his arm, then he could be in for a long day, as he didn't look very adept as a runner either—despite his supposed scrambling ability.
The run game can get going early
South Carolina will get Clifton Geathers back and will likely be looking to exploit the loss of Trinton Sturdivant. However, unlike last season, Georgia is not going to be as worried about the loss of Sturdivant because he will have an able replacement in Vince Vance—Vance took over for Trinton last season and played very well for the Dawgs.
Richard Samuel will have to play better than he did last week if the Dawgs are to have a chance to get in scoring position. It would be a mistake to rely on the passing game to win this one, as the Gamecocks secondary may look young, but it's definitely not without talent.
If Samuel can run the ball hard and open up the passing game a little bit for A.J. Green and Mike Moore, then the Dawgs should be able to put Joe Cox into position to make some key plays to his talented receivers.
Georgia will lose if...
They rely too much on the passing game for points...
If Joe Cox showed anything last week, he showed he is not able to get the ball deep. He will be able to throw the ball eight to 10 yards easy, but beyond that his arm is a liability—despite praise of his accuracy.
South Carolina has young but extremely hungry defensive backs in their secondary who are looking to prove the loss of both Emanuel Cook and Captain Munnerlyn will not be a factor in defending the pass.
Against N.C. State, they held Russell Wilson to just 74 passing yards on 12 of 23 attempts. He was unable to make plays with either his arm or his legs, and credit goes to the Gamecocks for shutting the Wolfpack down.
They fail to give Steve Spurrier the benefit of the doubt...
Anyone who believes that Spurrier showed everything his offense had to give in that Thursday game is fooling themselves.
By my estimation, Spurrier had Garcia on a very short leash in his first start and likely only opened the playbook up to the "Table of Contents"—which is to say, it's doubtful that we saw more than 10 to 20 plays from South Carolina against N.C. State.
Spurrier may add in a few extra wrinkles this week as he looks to come in and sneak a win away from coach Mark Richt and Co.
There is chatter that Gray may find his way into the game a lot more this week as coach Mike Bobo tries to find a spark to get this offense moving in the right direction.
Gray adds a serious run threat that Cox simply doesn't offer, and that could be big for the Dawgs when trying to win the field position battle.
This year's game isn't likely to offer a blowout by either team, and it is likely that it will come down to the final quarter—yet again.
However, the Dawgs have more experience at key positions and should be able to pull this one out. Don't expect it to be pretty though.
Georgia, Joe Cox in particular, is looking for some redemption this week following a painful loss to Oklahoma State and is ready to prove the growing chorus of doubters wrong where his abilities as a starter are concerned.
Final Score: Georgia 17, South Carolina 13
For the South Carolina perspective, take a look at Tim Pollock's article here.