This week’s edition of X’s and O’s takes a look at the Top 10 Matchup between #5 Georgia and #6 South Carolina.
In arguably the biggest match-up in the SEC so far this year the #5 Georgia Bulldogs will travel to rival #6 South Carolina for an epic showdown Saturday night. This game has huge implications for the SEC East division title. The winner will be the favorite to represent the East division in the SEC championship game. It is sure to be a major slugfest Saturday night in Columbia. Both South Carolina and Georgia have NFL talent all over the field, and each team boast talented QB’s at the helm of their respective offenses. Both squads also feature elite defensive talent, which could be the key to the game. Big players make plays in big games, and that’s why Saturday night in Columbia has the possibility of being one of the most exciting match-ups of the year. There is a bevy of story lines to this game, and a slew of interesting match-ups to note. Let’s take a look at the X’s and O’s.
South Carolina Offense vs. Georgia Defense
South Carolina features a balanced attack on offense. QB Connor Shaw (571 passing yards, 78%) can get it done with both his arm and legs. South Carolina’s offense also features one of the best RBs in the country Marcus Lattimore (440 rushing yards and 8 TDs), who looks great coming off an ACL injury that sidelined him last season. South Carolina features a balanced attack with personnel packages that can operate out of both the shotgun and pro-style formations. For example South Carolina can come out with a 113 (1 RB, 1 TE, 3WR) personnel grouping and use an under the center pro-style approach, and then turn around and get into the shotgun and give opponents zone read option or pure spread type of looks. This can certainly give opposing defenses both matchup problems, and a lot to prepare for on defense. And we can be sure Steve Spurrier will throw everything but the kitchen sink at the talented Georgia defense. We at The Daily Handoff feel that this is the most dangerous thing about the South Carolina offense. Especially considering the fact that Connor Shaw is a more than capable runner, and zone-read plays with Shaw and Lattimore have the possibility to be largely successful against undisciplined teams. But, if anyone in the country is capable of containing this talented and diverse South Carolina attack it is the Georgia defense. Georgia runs a traditional 3-4 defense. The 3-4 is a style of defense that is often used by NFL teams. It can be effective against both the pass and the run, and has been implemented more around the country in both college and the NFL to defend pro-style attacks. The 3-4 is great for disguising defensive coverage’s which should be an advantage for Georgia. The biggest potential weakness for any 3-4 defense is the defensive lineman. They need to be absolute beasts inside and absorb double teams to allow the linebackers to flow, and make plays against the run game. If the front 3 does not play well the 3-4 as a defense’s ability for success decreases exponentially. If the Georgia defensive line gets pushed around, and cannot get pressure on the talented QB Connor Shaw… expect it to be a long night for the Bulldogs. If Georgia can fly around, get pressure on South Carolina, and make them a one dimensional, the Bulldogs will have a chance. However, if the South Carolina offense lead by Shaw and Lattimore can keep the Bulldog defense off-balance it should be enough for SC to come away with a victory at home. South Carolina has a solid offense, and I expect them to be able to effectively move the ball through the air and on the ground. In a match-up like this the key will be big stops on third down and turnovers. I feel that the only way Georgia is going to win this game is to make some big stops on third down, or force some turnovers. There is too much firepower on this SC offense for Georgia to go score for score with them.
Advantage: South Carolina
Georgia Offense vs. South Carolina Defense
Georgia features a solid NFL quarterback prospect in Aaron Murray (1,370 passing yards and 12 TDs). However, Georgia also lost its top receiver Michael Bennett (345 receiving yards and 4 TDs) this week to a season ending ACL injury. This will put a lot of pressure on Murray to find another playmaker on the outside, and a young Georgia corps of running backs to try and get a ground game established to boost the effectiveness of the pass game. Especially considering that the South Carolina defense has one of the most explosive defensive linemen in the country Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney was named SEC defensive lineman of the week after South Carolinas victory Kentucky last week, and is an effective player against both the run and pass. The best way to slow Clowney down or any great defensive lineman is to confuse them. Mix up the run, the pass, and throw screens to slow him down. I also expect Georgia to double team Clowney in the run game, and leave an running back in to chip him and slow his pass rush down when Georgia throws the ball. The worst thing that Georgia can do against a lineman of Clowney’s caliber is to get into obvious passing situations. South Carolina runs a 4-2-5 base defense which is designed to stop the pass, and relies on great play from the defense line to neutralize the run game, and to pressure the QB is passing situations. This is why is will be very important for Georgia to establish a run game early. If they can’t the Dawgs could be in for a very long and rough evening. It’s also important to note that the South Carolina secondary hasn’t yet been tested by a QB as talented as Aaron Murray yet. And despite the loss of Bennett at WR the Bulldogs do have other talent at that position such as Tavares King who lead the Bulldogs in receiving last season. We will certainly see how good this secondary is for South Carolina this Saturday. In terms of offensive strategy Georgia will utilize many multiple tight end and running back formations. It’s more or less a pro-style attack. Georgia attempts to stay balanced but with a QB like Murray expect them to be a little more pass heavy than they normally are against an unproven secondary. My only concern with Georgia is their lack of an established running back. With the loss of Isaiah Crowell the leading running back from Georgia last year the other Bulldog running backs will have to step up. It’s been running back by committee featuring some young RB’s for Georgia. The running game has been fairly effective so far for Georgia, but they have yet to be tested by an elite front 7 the likes of which they will see Saturday at SC. I believe Georgia will continue to run by committee until a permanent starter is established. I would expect Georgia to run a lot of 113 (1 RB, 1TE, 3WR) personal packages early, and utilize zone blocking schemes. If the run game can be established to at least a respectable fashion, expect Aaron Murray to have a great day passing to both wide receiver’s and tight ends off of play action, and probably a bit out of shotgun as well. If their running game is not effective I still expect Georgia to be able to move the ball through the air, but certainly not as effectively as it would be with a running game to back it up.
A video of all South Carolina’s sacks versus Kentucky this year…
This is probably one of our toughest selections this year. I’m going to step out of the box on this pick. We at The Daily Handoff realize that X’s and O’s are a big part of the game, but they are not everything when it comes to the game of football. There are certain unquantifiable intangibles that make football both beautiful and completely unpredictable sometimes. South Carolina is certainly the favorite going into this match up. If you consider the way the way SC has been playing, and how poorly Georgia looked on both the offensive line and defense last week against Tennessee it is hard to picture them walking into Columbia and stealing a win. However, SC has failed to win the big games in the recent past. Steve Spurrier has had elite talent for several years now, but has failed to bring home an SEC Championship, or a major bowl victory. At some point you have to ask if the game has passed him by. Spurrier is a great coach, but is he still an elite coach? Mark Richt has been on and off the hot seat basically his entire career at Georgia, but that comes with the territory. Can he capture a marquee win for the program in a hostile environment? Georgia was supposed to have an elite defense this year, but it has failed to live up that billing so far. South Carolina’s defense against the Georgia offense will be the key match-up in this game. Will Georgia be able to get by the loss of its top WR? Will the young RB’s of Georgia be able move the ball on this elite South Carolina defensive front? These are the kind of questions that make this game of football beautiful to watch. You will have to tune in Saturday night at 7 P.M on ESPN to know for sure. But, we at The Daily Handoff are going to go with the underdog in this one. SC has failed in the past to rise to the occasion in critical games in the past. They were absolutely manhandled in their only SEC Championship appearance, and I won’t be a believer in Spurrier at SC until he can win a game that really matters. And this game really matters.
Interview and highlights with the talented Freshmen RB Todd Gurley…