The fifth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs (5-0, 3-0 SEC) travel to Columbia, SC this Saturday to take on the sixth-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks in Williams-Brice Stadium. Both teams are a week removed from Southeastern Conference wins. Georgia is coming off a nail-biter 51-44 win over Tennessee, while South Carolina coasted last week in a 38-17 win over Kentucky.
The game is scheduled to kickoff at 7 p.m. and is ESPN Gameday’s featured game of the week.
It has been weekly routine to mention that Georgia has scored over 40 points in each of its first five games, and this week is no different. The high-powered Bulldogs offense — averaging 48.2 points per contest — will be anchored on Saturday by the freshman running back tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, but much of the focus will be on quarterback Aaron Murray, who ranks second in the SEC in passing yards. Murray earns most of his criticism from his tendency to turn the ball over in big games, and this weekend will be a big test, a test that became even tougher with the season-ending injury to wide receiver Michael Bennett. Look for Murray to break out of his shell on Saturday. For South Carolina, its offense is highlighted by star running back Marcus Lattimore, who in two career games against Georgia has rushed for 358 yards and three touchdowns. The running combination of Lattimore and Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw to give Georgia’s defense some early troubles. With that said, look for “Gurshall” to have impressive games, as well.
SLIGHT EDGE: Georgia
Two strong defenses will be on the field in Saturday’s contest. The Bulldogs haven’t played up to their potential yet this season, particularly last week when they gave up 44 points to Tennessee. Nonetheless, the talent on Georgia’s defensive side of the ball will prove worthy despite some of their mishaps thus far. South Carolina comes into this game ranked sixth in the nation in opponents’ points per game (11.2). The forefront of their defense is their defensive lineman corps that includes Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney, who made life miserable for Murray in last year’s matchup in Athens. South Carolina senior safety D.J. Swearinger also has big-play ability in the Gamecock secondary. Look for this game to have some big defensive plays from both sides.
Georgia and South Carolina struggled in the punting game this season, as both rank in the bottom half in the nation in that category. The field goal department has been relatively even this year; both teams have only missed one, but neither team has kicked more than field goals. A discomforting statistic for the Bulldogs, however, is their three missed field goals thus far. In a game that has the potential to be decided by a couple of points, every extra point will be key. Additionally, Ace Sanders is a dangerous punt returner that can score any time the ball is kicked his way.
SLIGHT EDGE: South Carolina
Since Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier took over in Columbia in 2005, the Georgia-South Carolina matchup has been as even as it has ever been. Mark Richt holds a 4-3 record over Spurrier since the former Florida coach came back to the SEC. Both coaches have impressive résumés, and Saturday’s game could come down to play calling.