The University of South Carolina Gamecocks welcome the University of Georgia Bulldogs to Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC for a 7:30 pm kickoff.
Last week the Gamecocks fell to the Missouri Tigers by a score of 17-10 in a game that saw starting QB Collin Hill benched at halftime in favor of true freshman QB Luke Doty. Hill started the game and was 6/10 for 39 yards in the first half which saw the Gamecock offense go 3 and out on the first two possessions and not mounting a serious scoring threat the entire half. Doty came in to start the second half and was able to generate some positive yardage mainly with his feet finishing with 11 carries for 59 yards. The defense hasn’t had much success either ranking 12th in points, 11th in rushing defense, 11th in passing defense, and 11th in total defense. The raw numbers against Missouri were better than previous games but that was more due to Missouri’s poor play and drive-killing penalties than an actual improvement of the Gamecock Defense.
What to expect when South Carolina is on offense:
This really comes down to who is playing QB. With Collin Hill at QB, the Gamecock offense is virtually identical to the UGA offenses of 2012-2014 in play design.
USC primarily lines up in 21 (two TE and one RB) or 22 (two TE and two RB) personnel and run toss sweeps, inside zone, and throw off of play-action. Hill’s ball fake looks identical to Aaron Murry and Hutson Mason. The Mizzou defense countered these groupings with a 3-4 or 3-3-5 look on defense generally lining 5 up on the line of scrimmage with 7 or 8 in the box and a single high safety.
With Doty in the lineup at QB, the offense is a bit more open due to the true freshman’s running ability. Initially, they lined up in 13 personnel (one RB/3 WR) with all 3 WR on the field side and the TE inline or flexed out to the boundary. The Gamecocks showed this look on three consecutive plays to start the second half. All three plays were the same concept where Doty had a zone-read option to the boundary side with a bubble screen to the middle WR on the field side (this is a true RPO). On the first play Doty gives to the RB Harris for a 1 yard gain, second down was a play-action pass to the slot WR which was overthrown, third down was a back-shoulder fade/hitch for 9 and a first down. Curiously Bobo didn’t go back to this look/concept until much later in the game. For the remainder of the game, Doty was given easy high/low reads on pass plays most off of play-action.
South Carolina’s lone scoring drive was assisted by 2 Missouri Pass Interference penalties and a questionable targeting call on 3rd down which kept the drive alive. On 1st and goal from the 3-yard line, the Gamecocks lined up in a formation that I’m sure caused Mark Richt to shed a tear and unbalanced line to the right with 2 TE and a fullback leading the way for Harris to score.
I look for the UGA defense to play a similar game plan to that of Missouri using a 3 or 4 man line with 7 or 8 in the box and a single high safety. South Carolina’s offensive line had a hard time with delayed blitzes and twists/stunts by the Missouri defensive front. The Tigers also lined up with 5 or 6 on the line of scrimmage and dropped one or two out in order to confuse the blocking scheme. With WR Shai Smith doubtful for the game on Saturday, the Gamecocks don’t have anyone on the outside that scares you in man coverage not to mention both QB’s struggle throwing a catchable ball in those situations. TE Nick Muse, WR Trey Adkins, and WR Jaylen Brooks were the most targeted receivers last week, however, most of their receptions were short hitches or intermediate in-cut routes.
What to expect when UGA has the ball:
The Gamecock defense is in big trouble from several perspectives. The opt-out of CB’s Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu along with Safety/LB RJ Roderick have left the defensive backfield thin, injuries and illness have further depleted the defense to sixteen scholarship athletes available for this week. Against Missouri, the defense played a lot of man coverage with 2 deep safeties over the top (4-3, 4-2-5, 3-2-6) which led to two interceptions. The first was an underthrown ball in the red zone and the second was a tipped ball off of a Missouri WR. Against the run, the defensive line was stout at the beginning of the game but ran out of gas as the game went on. With the emergence of UGA QB JT Daniels last week against Mississippi State the Gamecock defense will have to respect the pass and not sell out against the run. This should lead to the UGA RB’s having a much better day running the ball than this past Saturday. Daniels should also have plenty of time to push the ball downfield as the Gamecock pass rush is below average.
What I expect to happen:
UGA is coming off of arguably its best passing performance in seven years against a wounded and depleted Gamecock defense. Conversely, the UGA defense is coming off of two of its worst performances versus the pass in recent memory against a Gamecock offense that can’t seem to get out of its own way. Neither QB scares you throwing the football so expect the UGA defense to feast against a sub-par Gamecock offensive line while the Dawgs run for 200 and pass for 250+ against a depleted defense.
Final Score UGA-38 South Carolina-10.