Week 3 Preview: (6) Georgia at (24) South Carolina

The (24) South Carolina Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1 SEC) will take on their toughest challenge of the young season on Saturday when the (6) Georgia Bulldogs (1-0, 0-0 SEC) come to Williams-Brice Stadium. The game has huge implications on the SEC East race. Georgia comes into the game well rested, after having a bye week following their beat-down of (16) Clemson, 45-21.

The Gamecocks have not had the best start to the season. Their home winning streak was snapped when Texas A&M came to town, stomping the Gamecocks in week one. Last week, ECU fell short of the upset bid after coming out strong and taking an early lead. If the Gamecocks hope to have any meaningful postseason play, they must handle Georgia on Saturday.

South Carolina’s offense has been confusing, at best. In week one, the running game was nonexistent. The only big plays came on long passes to Nick Jones and Damiere Byrd. Dylan Thompson only completed 50 percent of his passes, but he did throw for 366 yards and four touchdowns. In week two, things got a little better for the offense. Mike Davis had a breakout game, rushing for 101 yards and two touchdowns. Shaq Roland played one of his better games in a Gamecock uniform, hauling in seven passes for 94 yards. He is Carolina’s tallest threat on the outside, and must get open on Saturday. If the Gamecocks hope to have success over a very talented Georgia team, they must have a complete offensive game. They must establish the run early to set up the deep threat to their speedy receivers.

One of the potential indicators of success for South Carolina is Georgia’s weaker secondary. Thompson and his receivers need to take advantage of that early, and stretch the Dawgs’ defensive backfield. That will allow the running game to open up, developing a balanced offense that can score points.

Defense is the biggest question mark for this team. Their front seven is talented, but they have yet to show it this year. They are dead last in the SEC, giving up 566 yards a game. That ranks them 123 out of 127. Not a good sign when a very balanced Georgia team comes to town, featuring Heisman favorite Todd Gurley. But that could also be an advantage for Spurrier’s defense. The first two games of the season, the offenses that have come in have been “air-raid” style offenses. They have been able to pick apart the Gamecocks secondary to the tune of 416 passing yards a game.

Georgia will be a forced to be reckoned with on Saturday. Gurley may be the most explosive player in the country. There is already a lot of early talk of him being the top Heisman choice. He mixes speed and strength in a way that is near impossible to stop, as he showed against Clemson. He is also a home run threat in the return game, an area in which the Gamecocks have a reputation of stinking.

Hutson Mason is a talented quarterback, who can hit open receivers. He is not as much of a threat as Aaron Murray was passing the ball, but the way the Gamecocks secondary has looked, he could be.

Leonard Floyd is going to be a man the Gamecocks have to contain if they hope to have any offensive productivity. Against Clemson, Floyd had two sacks and six quarterback hurries. That is not what the Gamecocks will need if they hope to keep their postseason dreams alive.

I believe we are in for a shootout in this game. If South Carolina can live up to their preseason hype, this game could be very interesting. If not, this game could be over early. Hopefully the Willy B faithful will bring the noise, and the Gamecocks can salvage their season.

You can find the game on CBS at 3:30 PM this Saturday, September 13.

 

*Section Photo credit to Mike Zarrilli, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Rainier Ehrhardt, Associated Press

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