Georgia received unwelcome news on Wednesday when the NCAA suspended preseason All-SEC WR A.J. Green for 4 games. The Bulldogs will travel to Columbia on Saturday to face Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks who is sleeping a little bit better knowing Green won’t play. Green is Georgia’s only experienced deep threat receiver who at times commands double-teaming in which opens up Georgia’s running game. Georgia did not have Green last week vs. Louisiana-Lafayette and still scored 55 points. They also get back two players who were suspended from last week’s game - WR Tavarres King and RB Wayshaun Ealey to take pressure off redshirt freshman QB Aaron Murray.
Georgia’s defense will need to step it up and continue their aggressive play under new defense coordinator Todd Grantham. South Carolina’s offensive line will be challenged and need to protect QB Stephen Garcia better. The Bulldogs must account for freshman phenom RB Marcus Lattimore. Last week, USC ran the ball quite impressively for 225 yards on the ground and Lattimore put on a show with two rushing touchdowns. This game will also be a match-up of speed as UGA secondary counters against USC receivers of WRs Alshon Jeffery and Ace Sanders.
While Garcia was impressive in USC’s opening game, Aaron Murray looked just as confident. For sure, USC defense coordinator Ellis Johnson will throw different looks at the young quarterback. Murray must use his athletic skills and minimize any mistakes before a hostile crowd at William-Brice Stadium. He does have an experience offensive line who will help the running game and buy time for Murray to make accurate throws.
The game on Saturday is shaping up to be an epic match-up of two field general’s chessboard-type decision making - Spurrier’s allusive offense and Grantham’s unknown, but much anticipated schematic of pressuring the opposing QB while ensuring Safety and DB coverage is stellar. A difficult balance against such a lightning fast core of Gamecock receivers.
Spurrier might have dominated the Bulldogs when he was the head coach at Florida, but he is 1-4 against Mark Richt. The Bulldogs must established the run early and control time of possession. Even without Green, the Bulldogs are going in with a ton of confidence especially on defense. Throw in the best kicker/punter combination in the country and Georgia can compete and win all three phases of the game.
Prediction: Georgia wins 23-20
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Written by Bob Ballard