Know, Think and Don't Know: Carolina Game

ATHENS - Dean Legge’s list of what we know, what we think we know, and what we know we do not know.

You can review last week’s full article here… but we will check off what what we knew, what we thought we knew, and what we know after Georgia’s off week.

What We Know:

Todd Gurley is the best college football player in the country. - Nothing happened over the weekend to change that.

Hutson Mason didn’t go down the field much. - Mike Bobo isn’t a big fan of throwing short passes all of the time. “I expect a big improvement this week because we’ve got to get better at throwing the ball downfield,” offensive coordinator Bobo said last Tuesday.

What We Don’t Know

Was this a one-week wonder? We won’t know the answer to that question until about 7:45 on Saturday night, but it seems that this isn’t a one-hit wonder.

What We Don’t Know

Is South Carolina really as bad as they looked? They looked better, but not so much that anything has really changed. This, quite frankly, looks like the South Carolina we’ve all grown to know through its history outside of the last four seasons. What does that mean? A program that has a big first contest that it loses and then it holds on to beat teams like East Carolina.

On to this week:

What We Know

Mark Richt’s record after an off week is 16-4. He’s yet to have a road loss after a bye week (2001 vs. Auburn, 2005 vs. Auburn, 2008 vs. Georgia Tech and 2009 vs. Florida). All came either in Sanford Stadium or the one in Jacksonville. That’s a significant mark.

What We Know

Georgia is a 6-point favorite on the road. Mark Richt’s teams are 20-2 straight up as 6-point or more road favorites since 2001. Those two losses? 2006 at Kentucky (24-21) and 2013 at Vanderbilt (31-27). This is the first time Georgia has been this significant a favorite on the road against a ranked foe since the Georgia Tech game in 2011 - 31-17 Georgia win. The Dawgs were a four-point favorite over No. 25 Tech.

What We Think We Know

Florida looks better than they did. The Gators got up 30-0 before cruising to a 65- win over Eastern Michigan (a team that had to hold on for a three-point win over hapless Morgan State in week one). Say what you want about playing a directional school - when you win by a lopsided score and throw a shutout you’ve done something right. Florida is better, but the Gators couldn’t have been much worse last season. The real and obvious test for the Gators comes at Alabama in two weeks.

What We Think We Know

Dylan Thompson is wild at times. He played much better against an East Carolina secondary that was really not that bad. Steve Spurrier went to the quick pass game, which saw a fair amount of side-to-side throws. That settled Thompson down some after East Carolina grabbed the lead early in the game. But Carolina went to its run game, and that changed the trajectory of the contest.

Thompson isn’t Connor Shaw. The threat of the run is not there from the quarterback spot, and that’s going to be one less thing for Jeremy Pruitt and company to worry about. But it seems the simple, basic throws are ones that Thompson struggles to hit. He’s too high often, which can lead to interceptions. He can throw the deep ball well - particularly when he’s given time. Also, South Carolina is going to have to have a healthy Mike Davis to beat the Dawgs. Thompson can not do it by himself.

What We Think We Know

As “great” as the Carolina fans are, this is the game of the season for the Cocks. The fans at Williams-Brice are always emotional when the Dawgs come to town, but this time it might not be in a good way. Carolina’s backs are against the wall. Everyone knows that this game determines the fate of the season for the Cocks, and Georgia, too. But Georgia hasn’t already lost a conference game. South Carolina pretty much has to win this game - the likelihood of recovering to win the East (with road games at Florida and Auburn as well as home games vs. Tennessee and Missouri) seems like way, way too much to ask.

What we don’t know is what Williams-Brice will be like if Georgia gets a lead - particularly a double-digit lead - going into the half. This is a young Cock defense. They stuck in there against East Carolina last weekend, but Georgia ain’t East Carolina. Playing at home is great when you have momentum. Georgia needs to do the opposite of what happened last season at Tech - they need to jump Carolina and strangle them to death.

What We Don’t Know

If Mike Davis is healthy enough to run effectively for four quarters. It might be a great thing for Columbia to be unseasonably cool on Saturday. Davis is going to have to get the job done for the Cocks to win this game. He played great in Athens last season - he averaged 9.3 yards per carry, had a 75-yard run and a touchdown. He was tough to deal with. But he’s been banged up. He’s chirping on Twitter about his health. He seems to be Steve Spurrier’s favorite will-he-won’t-he-play-this-week target.

South Carolina can win this game if the old Mike Davis is running around in the backfield. The Cocks can win this game if Davis can explode a few times. But if he’s not himself, Brandon Wilds can’t possibly be expected to give Carolina the same sort of threat as Davis. The betting line on this game is Georgia giving six right now. My guess is that it would jump up to Georgia -7.5 if Davis can’t go. With that said, Spurrier said on Sunday that he expects Davis to start against Georgia.

What We Don’t Know

If either team will score in Columbia. Mark Richt made it out to seem that if the Bulldogs got first downs on Saturday it should be celebrated. He made playing in Columbia out to be one of the most difficult things that happens every other year for the Dawgs. And make no mistake - playing in the Cockroach is difficult. But it is hardly impossible to get a win at Williams-Brice Stadium. Josh Kendall, former Dawg Post contributor and questionable AP voter, sent out a stat over Twitter that is pretty amazing. In the last 20 years (ten contests) Georgia has not scored more than 20 points in Columbia. In reality Josh was a little off - the Dawgs beat South Carolina 24-21 in 1994, which was 20 years ago. But, look, Fannin County only has a few learning books to go around, so let’s give Josh a break on math. Actually, Josh said that “it has been 20 years since,” but we have to give Josh a knife twist every now and then.

That’s right - Georgia hasn’t score 21 points in Columbia since 1996. Why? Couple of things - South Carolina gets up for Georgia. The Cocks hate the Dawgs more than anyone other than their friends in orange. For 82,000 people, Williams-Brice makes a lot of noise for the home team. But this is the important part - Georgia’s first road contest is almost always at South Carolina. Mark Richt even suggested that as a major reason for the struggles on the road.

With all of that said - Georgia has still won half of the last ten games in Columbia… even while scoring 20 points or fewer each time. Think about that. What’s that say for South Carolina in those losses? Since 1994 Georgia is 6-4 over that time period. Even without the lopsided 35-7 win over No. 5 Georgia in 2012, South Carolina has managed only 15 points per game on the Dawgs in the last 20 years in Columbia. That’s pretty bad. Four times in the last 20 years the Cocks have failed to score more than 10 points vs. the Dawgs in Columbia.

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