1 – Handle the Gamecocks Front – South Carolina has an outstanding defensive line, led by Zacch Pickens, Rick Standidge – both of whom were heavily recruited by all of the elite programs. Linebacker Ernest Jones is a run stuffer and the leader of the defense. A native of Waycross, Georgia, and all-state performer at Ware County High School, this one means extra for Jones. Matt Luke’s offensive line has done a terrific job this season, and the position has a bright future. It will be tough and physical up front. To win Saturday, this is the battle the Bulldogs must win.
2 – Good quarterback play – South Carolina’s terrific cornerbacks Jaycee Horn (son of the New Orleans Saints great Joe Horn) and Israel Mukuamu – a name that gives Bulldogs fans, Jake Fromm and Georgia’s returning receivers nightmares – have quit for the rest of the season. Mukuamu had three interceptions against the Bulldogs a year ago, including the pick six at the end of the first half that turned the game the Gamecocks way. Georgia’s receivers must get separation, and J.T. Daniels needs to be on the mark for a second straight game. He had a tremendous debut in the Bulldogs 31-24 victory over Mississippi State, throwing for four touchdowns and no interceptions. If South Carolina sells out to stop the run, the throws downfield should be there. Can the Dogs make the plays like last week, which included touchdown tosses of 48 and 40 yards?
3 – Outside the Box Play – There is a lot of familiarity with these two staffs, even with Will Muschamp’s departure. There aren’t many secrets. The yards are hard to come by. So who can make that big play on the perimeter? Last season it was Mukuamu and Bryan Edwards, who had the long touchdown catch in Athens. The year before, DeAndre Baker had the pick which he returned to the one then dropped the ball in a premature celebration. Juwan Taylor was there to scoop it up. Then in the third quarter when Georgia broke open a 41-17 win, it was Mecole Hardman on the long ball. A play like that could make all the difference Saturday.
4 – Win the Kicking Game – Going back to last year, South Carolina blocked a Georgia field goal at the end of the first half, and the Bulldogs lost in overtime on a game-tying field goal attempt that was no good. In 2018, Rodrigo Blankenship hit a field goal at the end of the first half to stretch the lead to 20-10. In 2017, Georgia tried an onsides kick and South Carolina ran a fake kick. Like making those plays downfield, the kicking game is the area where one of these teams could grab the game.
5 – Turnovers – It’s the name of the game. Georgia’s three woes this year – injuries, inconsistency at quarterback and turnovers. The final two of those going hand in hand. The Bulldogs have given the ball away too often, including a series of multi-interception games. Three interceptions and a fumble in Gamecocks territory, along with the two field goals that weren’t made, well it was the Bulldogs undoing against South Carolina a year ago. Georgia is so beaten up, a game-swinging turnover would get the defense off the field, give the offense a lift, and put some wind in the Bulldogs’ sails.