I'm not going to mince words here. The boys from the Palmetto State are in a whole lotta trouble this Saturday when South Carolina ventures into Sanford Stadium to face Georgia.
The Cocks are put in the unenviable position of sporting a fair-to-middlin' offense set to face a Terminator-like Bulldogs defense that is incapable of showing pity or remorse. Ugh.
To clarify, the Junkyard Dogs have yet to give up a touchdown in eight quarters of play — four of those coming against perennial powerhouse Clemson — and the Gamecocks have a less-than-impressive offense to throw at them this weekend. What does that mean? More than likely, it means the second-ranked Bulldogs will turn the Gamecocks into fried chicken and speed their way to an SEC East divisional win on Saturday.
I'm so confident of this, I'm willing to make a bet on it. Any takers?
South Carolina at Georgia
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Georgia -31
When South Carolina Has the Ball
Oof, this does NOT look good. The Gamecocks had to rely on a last-play field goal to beat an East Carolina team that went 3-6 last year and most are projecting to finish somewhere in the middle to the bottom of the AAC this year. The Gamecock offense managed just one touchdown drive the entire game (their other TD was on an interception return), averaged just 2.5 yards per carry, and converted just two of their 12 third-down chances. Again, this came against a team that won three games last season and got handled pretty easily by Appalachian State in Week 1. It is imperative for the Gamecocks to establish some kind of running game to help control the clock and to give their defense a rest.
The Great Zebulon, Zeb Noland that is, has been quite the big story nationally, and rightfully so. He is the most famous graduate assistant in the FBS. But the former FCS North Dakota State starter last spring will have his work cut out for him against that nasty Dawg D. The Silver Britches have accumulated an incredible 34 QB hurries in their first two games alone. If you don't think that's a lot, consider that South Carolina managed just 12 QB hurries in 10 games last year. Look for quick drops and quick releases, or this will be a quick game.
Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield has the brightest spotlight on him this week. He said that it's been the little things that have kept his offense at bay, "Not sustaining a block here, a misstep there, a quarterback's path pulled back too tight. There are just a bunch of little things that we need to continue to get ironed out." We'll see if the Cocks can get a rhythm on offense this week.
When Georgia Has the Ball
After the offense got shut down by Clemson, it was a relief for Bulldog fans to see them score on their second play from scrimmage against UAB, a 73-yard bomb from Stetson Bennett to Jermaine Burton. In fact, in the first 16 minutes of the game, the Bulldogs produced three plays of 60-plus yards when you add Brock Bowers' 89-yard catch-and-run and Arian Smith's 61-yard touchdown. Whether it is Bennett again or if JT Daniels returns from an oblique injury, look for this passing attack to continue with its long-distance phone calls. Georgia is going to be itching to prove its offense can be elite against an SEC defense.
The Bulldog running game has been pretty quiet thus far, totaling 284 yards. In fact, only one running play has gone for more than 13 yards (Zamir White's 22-yard scoot vs. Clemson). Look for the offensive coordinator Todd Monken to hit the ground running this Saturday. (I'm looking your direction, Zamir). After all, this offense has proven it can fling it through the air with anyone.
To South Carolina's defense, there is that defense. The Gamecocks showed some resiliency against ECU. The Pirates got three turnovers in the first half and were able to score just seven points off of them. On top of that, South Carolina held the Pirates to just 268 total yards and a paltry 2-for-16 on third down. If the Gamecocks have any inkling of staying in this game, it'll be by making this a defensive struggle like Clemson did.
Georgia's outright dominance might be clouding my view here. And who can blame me? It might be early in the season, but as ESPN analyst Robert Griffin III pointed out in the broadcast of the UAB game last Saturday, it looks like it might be Alabama, Georgia, and the rest of the country in this year's pecking order. The Bulldogs have played that well on defense.
But let's give the Gamecocks some brash praise here as well. While the Junkyard Dogs hog the headlines so far, the Fire Ant defense (that's an old-school reference there, kiddos) have been pretty impressive as well, giving up just 377 total yards in their two games. And the Bulldogs have proven they can have their offense shut down (even if South Carolina isn't exactly the same par as Clemson's D).
Still, this one's an easy pick.
Prediction: Georgia 27, South Carolina 3
Podcast: Complete Week 3 Preview and Predictions + Picks Against the Spread
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.