South Carolina has held Georgia under 300 yards each of the last two years in taking two straight wins over the Bulldogs. For Georgia to end that streak, leadership will have to come from an all-senior offensive line that must block against the Gamecocks' defense, which may feature five linebackers or five defensive backs. Split tackle Jon Stinchcomb, a fourth-year starter and Lombardi Award candidate, spoke with correspondent Charles Odum about Saturday's challenge.
Question: As a veteran on this line, how does experience help in preparing for South Carolina's complex defense?
Stinchcomb: "I think it's definitely to our advantage that most of our guys have played against it. It's not your regular orthodox scheme or alignment, so any kind of familiarity is only to your advantage.''
Q: In playing against this defense, is the mental part of it - trying to figure out who is pass-rushing and who is not, seeing linemen drop back in pass coverage and dealing with zone blitzes - more difficult than just the physical battles? It's a different kind of test, right?
A: "Exactly. It's a very mentally challenging game. Two years ago we struggled against it with a lot of turnovers. Last year we struggled against it. We're going to try to prevent a repeat of that happening. They run that 3-5 defense and one guy can move over two or three steps and it's going to change the way we call the defense and block it. You really have to stay mentally in tune with the game.''
Q: What role does the hype from South Carolina coach Lou Holtz play with opposing players? When he says Georgia has the best offensive line in the nation, do you listen?
A: "I think for the past three years we have had the best offensive line in the nation, according to Coach Holtz. We're really flattered. We haven't practiced any this week because he said that. (Having just left the practice field, Stinchcomb laughs.)''
Q: Obviously you guys, with five starting seniors, want to be recognized as a strength of the team.
A: "Coach Holtz is a great coach and just to be recognized, that's rewarding in a way. But he is also pretty well known for his flattery of his opponents. I think we're going to take his words with a grain of salt.''
Q: Could this be Georgia's best offensive line of your four years?
A: "I hope so. We have a great deal of potential. I've been able to play with some great linemen. If we play up to our potential, we have a chance to be really special, but we all know about potential. If you don't produce, it's just speculation about how good you might be.''
Q: How would you rate the line's performance in the opener against Clemson? Coach Mark Richt noted that he was disappointed with the pass-blocking at times.
A: "We have some things to work on. Some players did better than others. For the first game, I thought, as unimportant as my opinion is, for the most part we did fairly well.
"Some of the pressure came from the failure to work well together. They beat us on a twist or two. We had some young guys in there and, you know, they played a quality opponent so they might have a little tough time one or two times. They ran one or two things our protection was not set up to take care of.
"It wasn't like there was one problem that they exploited. There were two or three things that contributed to the hits they got on the quarterback.''
Q: After losing two straight years to South Carolina, is there extra motivation, aside from the fact this is your Southeastern Conference opener?
A: "I'm probably supposed to say no. You look at the last couple of years and they beat us. We have a lot of respect for South Carolina and their program and what Coach Holtz has been able to do over there. That's in the back of your mind. You definitely have a little extra for losing the last couple of years.''
Q: Did the better team win the last two years?
A: "It depends on what you think the better team is. They beat us the past couple of years, so you can say what you like and you can say for the past couple of years we had more talent or whatever, but the bottom line is they beat us, you know? What is that saying, that we're underachievers? I really don't like to look at it that way. And I don't think we're underachievers.''