Kickoff: 5:45 p.m. (TV: ESPN2, Radio: 940-AM)
Stadium: Sanford Stadium (92,746)
Kickoff weather: High of 96, low of 69; 10 percent chance of rain
Series: Georgia leads 44-13-2
Last meeting: Georgia won 18-0 in Columbia, S.C., last season
Odds: Georgia favored by 5.5
Injuries: Georgia: Out: RB Kregg Lumpkin (thumb). South Carolina: Probable: LB Jasper Brinkley (ankle), Questionable: LB Melvin Ingram (ankle), LB Cody Wells (leg); Doubtful: QB Chris Smelley (shoulder); Out: OG Kevin Young (ankle), S Emanuel Cook (appendectomy), LB Yvan Banag (knee).
Georgia's three-headed tailback is now two-headed thanks to an injury to senior Kregg Lumpkin, but it's unlikely to hurt the Bulldogs' production. Starter Thomas Brown and redshirt freshman Knowshon Moreno combined for 118 yards on 32 carries last week. The Bulldogs' run blocking will need to improve against a South Carolina front seven that is a big improvement over what Oklahoma State had last weekend. The Gamecocks also have a two-headed tailback rotation. Cory Boyd is the projected starter, but Mike Davis had 94 yards on 15 carries last week. "I think Coach (Steve) Spurrier sometimes gets a reputation for wanting to chunk the ball all the time, but if you study them over the years, he loves a real strong running game," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "That hasn't changed at all."
Georgia may take more shots throwing the ball down the field this week, and then again, it may not. Only a handful of Matthew Stafford's throws in the first week traveled more than 5 yards down field. Instead, he dumped the ball off to running backs and receivers on screen passes. "It was just what the defense was giving us," he said. "We did a good job of staying patient. I had fun watching those guys run with it." However, Stafford's skills are best suited for a downfield passing game so expect that at some point this year, as soon as the offensive line can block well enough to give Stafford time. South Carolina's passing game will improve with the return of starting quarterback Blake Mitchell, who returns from a one-game suspension. Super-receiver Sidney Rice is gone, leaving Kenny McKinley as the top target. Only one other receiver caught more than one pass last week.
Georgia's defense swarmed Oklahoma State mainly because it overwhelmed the Cowboys on the line of scrimmage. It expects South Carolina to be more solid up front, but the Gamecocks had problems last week on their interior line. That should be good news for Georgia considering how well the Bulldogs' defensive tackles played last week. Expect another big day from them this week. South Carolina is led by a pair of GMC transfers, linebackers and brothers Jasper and Casper Brinkley. Jasper led the Gamecocks with eight tackles last week, and Casper followed with eight. Defensive linemen Eric Norwood, an end, and Marque Hall, a tackle, probably got goose bumps watching all the mistakes Georgia's young offensive line made last week.
The Bulldogs take great pride in their special teams, but it didn't show last week, when they had problems virtually across the board. They gave up a long kickoff return, had multiple issues getting lined up for punt return and had protection issues on their extra point team. Richt promised to get things cleaned up this week even if it meant making personnel changes. The bright spots were the return men. Mikey Henderson averaged an SEC-best 22.3 yards per punt return, and Thomas Brown averaged 26.7 yards per kickoff return. Place-kicker Brandon Coutu hasn't attempted a field goal yet this season. The Gamecocks also have a standout kicker in place-kicker/punter Ryan Succop. Despite the new rule move kickoffs back 5 yards, Succop still forced four touchbacks on five tries against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Edge: South Carolina
Georgia has more talent and more depth; Georgia played much better last week, and Georgia is playing at home. South Carolina, though, still has Steve Spurrier, and that counts for something. Richt suspects Spurrier held something back to spring on the Bulldogs this week, and history suggests that's a good guess. Spurrier will score some points because he's Spurrier (last year being the notable exception), but Georgia has a much better combination of offense and defense. If the Gamecocks don't hit too many big plays on offense and special teams, the Bulldogs will win without having to go down to the final play.