Jeff Dantzler’s South Carolina vs Georgia Preview

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Jeff Dantzler’s South Carolina vs Georgia Preview

South Carolina versus Georgia graphic. [Edit by bob Miller]
Graphic edit by Bob Miller
[su_spacer size=”40″] Georgia and South Carolina are in desperation mode Saturday night between the Hedges. The Bulldogs overcame numerous self-inflicted wounds to escape Nashville with a 31-14 victory over Vanderbilt to improve to 2-0 and 1-0 in Southeastern Conference play. The Gamecocks meanwhile, on the heels of an emotional victory over North Carolina in Charlotte to open the season, lost a heart-breaker to Kentucky in Columbia to fall to 1-1 and 0-1.
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Since Steve Spurrier’s arrival in Columbia a decade ago, the Gamecocks five wins over Georgia are the second most by any school with the exception of Florida, which has six over the Bulldogs the past ten seasons.
[su_spacer size=”40″] South Carolina is just one season removed from an impressive three year run of 11-2, top ten seasons. Spurrier is confident in his team, which was a preseason pick to finish anywhere from third to fifth in the Southeastern Conference’s East Division. Georgia is the consensus favorite to go to Atlanta, and the Bulldogs come in ranked in the top ten.
[su_spacer size=”40″] This is an essential Saturday for the Bulldogs for three reasons:
[su_spacer size=”20″] 1) For realistic championship and superb season hopes, with the difficulty of the looming schedule, this is a game Georgia must win.
[su_spacer size=”20″] 2) The Bulldogs have dominated the all-time series, but the Gamecocks have won four of the last five meetings.
[su_spacer size=”20″] 3) Traditionally, this game has meant more to South Carolina, as the Bulldogs are viewed as their second biggest rival, whereas the Gamecocks fall somewhere below the traditional “big three” of Tech, Florida and Auburn for Georgia. Well Spurrier’s arrival and his subsequent success in Columbia have dialed that up. Losing to the Gamecocks puts a stench on the season that the Bulldogs would like to get back to avoiding. And beating Spurrier is extra sweet for Bulldog fans.
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The Match-ups

[su_spacer size=”40″] The coordinators and play-callers will have a big hand in this one. Spurrier is one of the best there has ever been. His “ball plays” have riddled and befuddled many a fine defense and coordinator. It is up to Georgia’s outstanding young second year coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to dial up the game plan, and perhaps more importantly, make the adjustments for the Bulldogs to win.
[su_spacer size=”40″] On the other side, first year Bulldogs offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who played for Spurrier at Florida, is in for a big test against a strong and opportunistic Gamecock defense. South Carolina’s first year coordinator Jon Hoke is one of the best around, and there will be some serious matching of the wits between these two, just as will be the case on the other side of the ball. Hoke’s defense saved the day in the season-opener. South Carolina’s three interceptions of heralded North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams made the difference.
[su_spacer size=”40″] If it is tight, the special teams could make the difference. Georgia had too many miscues in Columbia a year ago, and it proved costly. Plus, with Spurrier, the Bulldogs have to be on red alert for trick plays out of the kicking game, like Melvin Ingram’s 70-yard touchdown run on a fake punt in 2011 that caught the Bulldogs with their pants around their ankles. Despite a punt return for a touchdown by sensational sophomore Isaiah McKenzie in Nashville, the Bulldogs were plagued by several breakdowns in the kicking game. Those kinds of breakdowns could be lethal against a South Carolina squad that has superior athletes to the Commodores.
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Gamecocks to Watch

[su_spacer size=”40″] Offensively, the Gamecocks have weapons for quarterbacks Connor Mitch and Perry Orth to distribute the football to. Pharoh Cooper is a dynamite play-maker who can catch it, run it and throw it. The Gamecocks may put in behind center, in the shotgun, run misdirection with him and send him deep. South Carolina can play the power game behind a physical offensive line with tailback Brandon Wilds. Georgia had a devil of a time stopping in on crucial short yardage situations a year ago. He is strong and powerful. When Wilds is running good, the offense opens up a great deal. Running back Shon Carson showed big play ability with a 48-yard touchdown dash in the Gamecocks season-opening 17-13 victory over North Carolina. When Cooper, Wilds and Carson are on the field together, the Gamecocks have a world of options.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Defensively, the Gamecocks have one of the country’s best through two games in Skai Moore. The South Carolina linebacker had arguably the finest defensive performance of any player in the country on the opening weekend of the season, with two interceptions and a team leading 11 tackles against North Carolina. He earned SEC Player-of-the-Week honors and is justifying his billing as the Gamecocks best defender since All-American Jadaveon Clowney.
[su_spacer size=”40″] On special teams, Elliot Fry is one of the top kickers in the SEC. He has a strong and accurate leg, giving Spurrier a big weapon in the kicking game.
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[su_spacer size=”40″] On this, the 35-year anniversary of the Bulldogs run to the National Championship and SEC Title with a perfect 12-0 record, we go back to November 1, 1980. It was the most highly anticipated meeting ever between the two schools. Undefeated Georgia edged once-beaten South Carolina 13-10, and freshman sensation Herschel Walker outrushed fellow All-American George Rogers, highlighted by an incredible 76-yard touchdown run down the North sidelines towards the West Sanford Stadium end zone. Four Gamecock defenders appeared to have the angle on Walker, but the greatest college football player ever kicked in the afterburners and sent Sanford Stadium into a frenzy. The run, which he has called his greatest at Georgia, and the ensuing Point After Touchdown from Rex Robinson gave the Bulldogs a 10-0 lead.
[su_spacer size=”40″] South Carolina made a charge back, but Tim Parks recovered a Rogers fumble, and Georgia was able to drive deep into Gamecock territory before the defense put the game away. The Bulldogs could have won by a more substantial margin, but three red zone trips amounted to no points.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Seven days later “The Miracle on Duval Street” had Georgia bound for destiny.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Rogers would win the Heisman, with Walker placing third, the highest ever for a freshman. But Walker would earn the big prize, the national championship ring and was Sugar Bowl Most Valuable Player of the Bulldogs 17-10 triumph over Notre Dame.
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