South Carolina - UGA Notebook

The South Carolina Gamecocks and the Georgia Bulldogs are all set to square off tomorrow at high noon in the first SEC matchup of the year for both teams. It will be highly competitive as the Gamecocks look to avenge last year's heartbreaking 41-37 loss in Athens. Georgia will be trying to come into Williams-Brice and win on the strength of redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray.

Georgia Storylines

How the loss of A.J. Green affects the UGA offense

No team wants to be without their best playmaker on offense and arguably the most talented player on their team, but that's exactly what the Bulldogs will face on Saturday. Green was suspended for four games by the NCAA after an investigative committee determined that Green sold a game jersey for $1,000, constituting an extra benefit.

Earlier in the week Spurrier addressed the potential loss of Green and the always dangerous Georgia offense, saying, "But other than (Green), we've got to stop their run game. We've got to stop – they've got some other good receivers there. He's not he only one they've got. We got to go out and play football and play as hard as we can with very few mistakes. That's what we need to worry about. We don't need to worry about their receiver or left guard or defensive tackle. Some guy could get hurt in practice this week on either team. That's something you can't control and you can't concern yourself about that."

Kris Durham was Georgia's leading receiver against Louisiana-Lafayette, hauling in five catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. Georgia will also get a boost in the running game as RB Washaun Ealey returns after a suspension for disciplinary reasons. Either way, facing a tough defense on the road will be a tall task for Murray, made even more difficult by the loss of Green.

Georgia's transition to a 3-4 defense under new coordinator Todd Grantham

Georgia is also under a major defensive transition under Grantham, who came to UGA after serving previously as the defensive line coach for the Dallas Cowboys. Grantham brings a philosophical change to the Bulldogs, transitioning to a defense that features three down linemen instead of the more traditional four.

"I think even Coach Grantham will tell you the players are going to make all of us look good or bad, whoever I'm coaching, whoever he's coaching," said Spurrier. "But he has got a little different scheme of things, a little bit different kind of scheme than a lot of people. Hopefully we'll have a little different kind of scheme than maybe the NFL has seen in the last several years and so forth as far as the spread and stuff like that. (Grantham came from the NFL). But, yeah, it's a challenge, it's a good challenge. But again, the players you have, that's what makes you a real good coach or not, usually. He's got a lot of good athletes on his defense right now. A lot of them at all of the positions. They're quick and strong and all of that so yeah it's a challenge."

But for those looking for a completely different defense, Spurrier said that Grantham will mix it up in an effort to keep the Gamecock offense off balance all afternoon.

"It is a little bit of a 3-4, but it's a four down-linemen a lot also," added Spurrier. "I think even their defensive coach will tell you it's not a big deal whether three guys got their hand on the ground or four. It's how they play and play their assignments and all that. So, they're very active. Their defensive ends are extremely fast around the edges. And they're a pressure defense and by that I mean almost all the guys are rushing – they're not sitting back reading zone blocks or anything, they're coming. But we need to block, and obviously need to run the ball to give ourselves a better chance this week."

South Carolina Storylines

Culliver ready to go, King still in limbo

While the NCAA did not give Georgia the news it wanted regarding the status of A.J. Green, it was good news for the Gamecocks Thursday as word came down that cornerback Chris Culliver had been cleared by collegiate athletics governing body.

Culliver has made the transition during the offseason to corner, and is looking to contribute there against the Bulldogs.

The Gamecocks are still awaiting a decision on offensive lineman Jarriel King, who looks to be out this weekend as well as he waits for his ruling.

Spurrier commented on the possibility of Culliver playing Saturday as well as King on Tuesday.

"We just prepare as if he (Culliver) may play. We think he's going to play, but we don't know for sure. In fact we don't know if Jarriel King is going to play for sure either. So those are the two that are doubt – or in question – I should say. But again, we've got back-up players – they all take snaps and away we go. So, the NCAA will tell us what the deal is prior to the game and both teams will abide by it and away we'll go."

Carolina defense against Aaron Murray

There is no doubt that Ellis Johnson's Carolina defense is excited about the possibility of welcoming a young quarterback to SEC competition in Columbia. But after a redshirt year learning under departed senior Joe Cox, Murray will look to display the poise and talent that made him a highly recruited player out of the Tampa, Florida area in high school.

Coach Spurrier said that although the media guide will show Murray as a freshman, they expect him to play like a veteran on Saturday.

"Well he's been there a while," noted Spurrier. "Yeah, he's been there longer than Connor Shaw has been here. So, he's been there long enough not to really sort of be a freshman type guy. He's been through probably a couple of spring practices and so forth. And he's ready to play; he's a good player. Yeah, we watched him on tape there. Aaron Murray, a very good player – he can run around some –and he knows what he's doing. He's been there enough to know exactly what they're doing. And he's got a lot of good players around him – that's what helps all quarterbacks: have a lot of good players around you."

Breaking Georgia's string of success

Every Carolina fan knows that the last decade of the USC-UGA series has been highly competitive.

But they also know that Georgia has found a way to be very successful as of late, winning seven out of the past eight in the series.

Last season was especially difficult for the Gamecocks as they came up short on a late trip inside the red zone, and a Stephen Garcia fourth down pass was knocked by Rennie Curran to seal the victory and preserve a 41-37 score.

Although some people might look at Georgia's momentum in the series as a negative coming into this game, Spurrier cautioned against that thinking with the old adage that every game and every year are different. When the Gamecocks and Bulldogs square off tomorrow afternoon, it will be a whole new ballgame.

"No, you know, rehashing those games doesn't do any good. But we've not been successful – we know that. But we know a lot of other games we have been successful in games that come down to the wire. So, we're not going to dwell on that this week. If we play well and play our best, we know we can play with Georgia. That's all we know is we can play with them, that's all. But certainly to beat them we've got to play better. We can't have touchdowns called back. We can't hopefully have those mistakes that have cost us in prior games. So, we're going to just try to play the game. Play the game and concentrate on what we need to do so much, and hopefully that'll give us the best chance to compete at the highest level, the best chance to win the game. ‘Cause we've just got to go play. The prior games have no bearing on this one. The team that wins it, the team that prepared the best through the week, and played the best on game day – got to go make plays. So, we're going to try to make more plays than Georgia here Saturday."
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