KICKOFF: Saturday, 12 ET
SERIES: Georgia leads 46-14-2.
POLLS: Georgia (22 AP, 19 USA Today), South Carolina (24 AP, 25 USA Today.)
PREDICTION: South Carolina 31-28
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- Georgia's defense will get its first big test of the season after limiting Louisiana-Lafayette to just 128 yards of offense in the season-opener. South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia is coming off one of the best games of his career, finishing 16-for-23 for 193 yards against Southern Miss. Georgia's smaller starting cornerbacks (5-10 Brandon Boykin and 5-11 Branden Smith) will need to find a way to contain South Carolina 6-4 star receiver Alshon Jeffery, who had seven catches for 104 yards in the season-opener. On offense, expect Georgia to keep the playbook simple in quarterback Aaron Murray's first SEC start in an effort to limit mistakes. He won't have stud WR A.J. Green, who is suspended for the second game -- and two more -- for selling a jersey.
-- South Carolina finished last in the SEC in rushing the last two seasons, but must continue to the run the ball the way they did against Southern Mississippi. Rookie RB Marcus Lattimore and redshirt sophomore Kenny Miles give the team a one-two threat running they haven't had during Steve Spurrier's tenure. The offensive line, under first-year coach Shawn Elliott, must prove it can handle the pressure that Georgia's front four will put on it.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
Georgia wasn't overly impressive running the football, which Mark Richt attributed to injuries offensive linemen sustained during fall camp. Though all five projected starters played against Louisiana-Lafayette, the injuries affected the continuity of the line. Richt said that star receiver A.J. Green will work with the first team in practice even though he's out. The Bulldogs' defense was impressive in its season debut, holding Louisiana-Lafayette to 114 yards passing and 14 yards rushing. Tackling was crisp throughout the game. The secondary played well other than one breakdown from safety Bacarri Rambo on deep coverage. Georgia can't afford to have too many of those coverage breakdowns against South Carolina.
After starting slowly on its first possession, South Carolina was off and running offensively behind the direction of Stephen Garcia. With Coach Steve Spurrier again calling the plays this season, the Gamecocks were extremely balanced, rushing for 224 yards and passing for 225. Garcia completed 16 of 23 passes for 193 yards, while rushing five times for 38 yards and two scores, including a sensational 22-yard run. USC also employed the Wild Cock formation with sophomore Stephon Gilmore at quarterback. Spurrier expects to employ the formation again on Saturday. Rookie RB Marcus Lattimore was impressive, rushing 14 times for 54 yards and two touchdowns, while catching two passes for 21 yards. Sophomore WR Alshon Jeffery was unguardable, catching seven passes for 105 yards. The team is hoping for the return of senior T Jarriel King who was held out of the opener by the NCAA. The Gamecock defense bent but didn't break against Southern Mississippi as the only touchdown was scored in the fourth quarter against the reserves. Sophomore CB Stephon Gilmore was sensational, shutting down USM star receiver Deandre Brown.
Bulldogs: Under Mark Richt, Georgia owns a 33-6 record in an opponent's stadium including 4-0 in Columbia ...South Carolina has been Georgia's first Southeastern Conference opponent since the Gamecocks joined the league in 1992. This streak will continue on Saturday. The Bulldogs are 13-5 in these games including 7-2 under Richt. Seven of the nine games between these teams under Richt have been decided by seven points or less with Georgia winning six of them ... For the first time since 1994, Georgia had seven different players score a touchdown in the Bulldogs' 55-7 triumph over Louisiana ... Richt plans to script as many plays as possible to help QB Aaron Murray become better acclimated for his first SEC road game ... Unlike last season, turnovers and penalties were held in check in the Bulldogs' opener. The Bulldogs had one turnover, forced three turnovers and were flagged for only five penalties including none on offense.
Gamecocks: The Bulldogs have won the last two games against South Carolina and seven of the last eight games in the series. South Carolina's most recent victory over the Bulldogs came in 2007 in Athens. Their most recent victory over the Bulldogs in Columbia came in 2000. South Carolina's 62 previous games with Georgia make it the second-most frequent rival for the Gamecocks, trailing only Clemson (107). South Carolina is 7-11 in league openers since joining the SEC in 1992. Coach Steve Spurrier has won nine of his last 10 home games, dating to a victory over Tennessee on Nov. 1, 2008. South Carolina is 7-15 against ranked opponents in the Spurrier era, including a 2-3 record last season ... Spurrier is 12-5 against Georgia in his coaching career, including an 11-1 record while at Florida ... If South Carolina can win Saturday, Spurrier would notch his 106th conference victory, placing him in a tie with former Mississippi coach John Vaught and behind only Paul "Bear" Bryant. Spurrier is currently tied for third with former Georgia coach Vince Dooley.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Aaron Murray -- Murray had a fine debut for the Bulldogs, throwing three TD passes and rushing for a score, but what will he do for an encore in his first game on the road and his first game against an SEC opponent? Georgia coach Mark Richt said he doesn't want Murray to be a "robot" in the pocket, but he doesn't want Murray to tuck the ball away and run too much, either. Richt's fear is that if Murray takes too many shots against SEC defenders he will eventually get injured.
WR Tavarres King -- Suspended for the season-opener against Louisiana-Lafayette, King is expected to return for South Carolina. With the status of receiver A.J. Green uncertain for Saturday, King could emerge as quarterback Aaron Murray's top option downfield. Georgia coach Mark Richt said King had an excellent fall camp, "He'll definitely have an impact on this game," Richt said.
NT DeAngelo Tyson -- Tyson had a solid first game at nose tackle with two tackles, including half a tackle for loss. If Georgia is to stop South Carolina's running game, it will begin with Tyson's ability to occupy blockers up front.
LB Akeem Dent -- Dent adapted to Georgia's new 3-4 scheme nicely with six tackles, one sack and an interception against Louisiana-Lafayette. Georgia will be counting on more big plays from Dent and the rest of the defense against South Carolina.
QB Stephen Garcia -- The junior did virtually everything Steve Spurrier wanted in the opener. Things will reach a new level against the Bulldogs, however, as their new 3-4 scheme under first-year defensive coordinator Todd Grantham can present problems. Garcia needs to continue to keep his head and find a way to get the ball to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.
DE Cliff Matthews -- Although he did not get a sack against Southern Miss, the senior will have to turn up the jets this week. The team's most talented performer up front, he needs to put pressure on first-year Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murphy. That could cause mistakes from the inexperienced performer.
CB Stephon Gilmore -- The talented sophomore won't have to deal with A.J. Green, but is still left on an island in one-on-one coverage often. If he can shut down his side, it would go a long way for the Gamecocks. Gilmore will also get playing time as quarterback in the Gamecocks "Wild Cock" formation. He also is a big play threat as a punt returner.
WR A.J. Green (suspension, out), S Alec Ogletree (suspension, probable), C Chris Burnette (head, questionable), LB Richard Samuel (leg, questionable), LB Dexter Morant (shoulder, questionable), T Trinton Sturdivant (stomach, probable).