Anthem Roundtable: UGA Edition

Gamecock Anthem's Wes Mitchell and David Porter team with Gamecock bloggers Leftover Hot Dog and Life of a Gamecock to bring you a comprehensive take on South Carolina's SEC opener against Georgia. Look inside for this week's edition of the Anthem Roundtable.

The Anthem Roundtable is back as the Gamecocks get ready for their SEC opener against Georgia Saturday afternoon.

Today's roundtable features staff writer David Porter, Publisher Wes Mitchell and guest bloggers Leftover Hot Dog and Life of a Gamecock.

Please make sure you click their names and frequent their blogs too - you won't be disappointed.

Let's get down to it...



STRANGE FEELING AROUND THIS YEAR'S GAME – GEORGIA IS TRADITIONALLY FAVORED YET IT'S ALWAYS A CLOSE GAME. SEEMS LIKE NO ONE IS GIVING THE BULLDOGS A CHANCE – DOES THE TREND OF CLOSE, LOW-SCORING GAMES CONTINUE OR COULD SOUTH CAROLINA ACTUALLY WIN BIG?


PORTER: Since Mark Richt has been at Georgia, South Carolina has only scored more than 17 points once. Of course that was the 41-37 game two years ago that defied all logic. If one team did win big, it would certainly be South Carolina. Even though the Gamecocks put 56 points on the board last week, they didn't exactly march up and down the field on the Pirates. Don't expect UGA to turn it over 5 times. Because of that, I think the trend of low-scoring will continue.

MITCHELL: Teams rarely go into Athens favored but that's exactly the spot South Carolina is in right now. I still don't think this is a game that will be a blowout. But it is a game that South Carolina can score late in to put away. I see it being a game similar to last year just slightly more high-scoring.

LOHD: The USC-UGA game is always close as the last four games between the two schools has been decided by 11 points or less with both teams winning two games apiece. The last time between the hedges, the Gamecocks dropped a shootout losing 41-37 and have not won in Athens since 2007.

USC is favored by as much as three points in this game depending on the odds maker so most think the game will be close and most think USC will win. I tend to lean in agreement with this thinking concerning it being close as USC will try to manage the clock. The old saying is the best defense is a good offense and this should be seen in the USC approach to this game. Meaning, grind it out with Marcus Lattimore running the ball and moving the chains. Having said that, this game should be close as neither team will be doing a lot of risk taking.

LIFE: The Georgia game is always a close matchup between these two teams. I don't think we break the mold and see a big victory from either side. I think Georgia's playmakers are unproven outside of Aaron Murray and Orson Charles and will have a tough time matching up with the Gamecocks but there is enough talent on Georgia to give the Gamecocks a run for their money. I would love to see a big win but think the final score will be settled by 10 points or less.


STEPHEN GARCIA NAMED A CAPTAIN FOR THIS GAME FOR THIS FIRST TIME IN HIS CAREER – MORE SPURRIER MIND GAMES OR WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THAT?


PORTER: I think Spurrier has named Garcia a captain because he deserves it...and maybe because Spurrier realized his mistake last week. Spurrier has raved and raved all of fall camp about how Garcia really is a changed man and I think this is part of the reward for him.

MITCHELL: Compliments on Garcia from Spurrier have been hard to come by. But this may be one of the bigger ones he has paid his fifth-year senior quarterback. Garcia showed Spurrier that he can potentially be the leader of this team. I think Spurrier wants to see if Garcia can continue that over and consistently, truly be the leader of this team. Quite interesting that Spurrier picked this year to let the team vote on the captains at mid-season, too.

LOHD: About time is what I say as Stephen Garcia is the leader of this team. He deserves it and has done all the right things this off-season to get to this spot. Spurrier is doing the right thing in rewarding him and especially after the ECU game where you could see the team respond positively to having Garcia in the game.

LIFE: No head games from Coach Spurrier this week. Stephen Garcia earned the right to be named captain with his solid play and great leadership against ECU bringing the Gamecocks back from being down 17-0. Garcia was effective immediately with his running ability and has a calming presence on this offense with his experience and attitude. I definitely think Garcia earned his captain honors for this weekend.


ALL THE ANALYSTS ARE OBVIOUSLY GOING TO BE TALKING ABOUT THE GAMECOCKS BIG THREE ON OFFENSE – WHO'S THE PLAYER (OFFENSE OR DEFENSE) NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT THAT NEEDS TO HAVE A BIG GAME? WHO THAT FITS THE CRITERIA DOES HAVE A BIG GAME?


PORTER: For me it's TJ Johnson. Johnson had a huge game last season in the zone read. Though Georgia doesn't run the typical 3-4 with the noseguard over the ball, the key to the zone read is always the center. Marcus Lattimore complimented Johnson after the game for moving the noseguard. If Johnson can have a similar day this season, Lattimore will have a big day and the chances for a Gamecock win is higher.

MITCHELL: Ace Sanders was open a ton against East Carolina but the quarterbacks rarely looked towards him. With the attention Georgia will show the Gamecocks "name" weapons, this could be the day Sanders breaks out in a big way. The sophomore receiver is poised to be the Gamecocks No. 2 receiver this season, just needs the opportunity to show what he can do.

LOHD: Devin Taylor at defensive end. He needs to have a coming out party in this game. Many will be talking about Jadeveon Clowney and UGa will be watching him so it is prime time for Devin Taylor to be the disruptor we all know he can be. One of the keys to this game is getting penetration upfront for the USC defensive line and it starts with Devin Taylor.

LIFE:I haven't heard his name much but I really think Ace Sanders could have a big game this week and not just on special teams. He caught Garcia's touchdown pass last week but I think he can be effective against this Georgia defense. Their goal is to slow down Marcus Lattimore by stacking the box against the run and I think a speedster like Sanders could be utilized in the short passing game. You get the ball in your playmakers hands and let them do the work. Ace Sanders looks like he's faster and more comfortable in this offense and I'm thinking he could have a big impact this weekend. As far as the big three, I really think Alshon Jeffery will be key for the Gamecocks. Georgia's defense looks primed to keep Lattimore out of this ball game and with them attacking the run, Jeffery's play could be crucial for USC. If he's able to produce in the passing game early for the Gamecocks then look for UGA to back off on defense and that could enable the running game to be controlled by Marcus Lattimore.


STEPHEN GARCIA PROVIDED AN OBVIOUS SPARK TO THE TEAM OFF THE BENCH AGAINST ECU – BUT HE STILL NEEDS TO BE BETTER IN THE PASSING GAME. WHAT DO YOU EXPECT OUT OF GARCIA SATURDAY?


PORTER: A lot of that depends on how the game is going. If South Carolina comes out and plays well to build a lead, they will likely rely on the legs of Lattimore. If it turns into a shootout Garcia may have to have a big game. I think he will have a similar day to the day he had last year, going 12-of-17 for 165 yards. I do expect him to improve on the four sacks last year.

MITCHELL: There's something about the Georgia game that gets Steve Spurrier going every year. And you can bet he'll have a great game plan for Garcia and the offense to run. Boise State torched Georgia with the short passing game last week and I expect Garcia to complete a ton of those Saturday. If he can do that to take some pressure off Lattimore, it will mean big things for the Gamecocks' offense.

LOHD: Stephen Garcia knows this game means a lot and he should do exactly what is expected. Which in my view is managing the offense, good reads on the defense, moving the chains, controlling the clock and lastly, but most important, is spreading the ball around to receivers. Garcia should walk away from this game with at least one touchdown throw and 200+ yards passing.

LIFE: My expectations for Stephen Garcia this week are really high. I think he's focused and under control and expect him to have a much better game than he did against ECU. I think he'll be more accurate on the deep ball and will be able to use the zone-read option play to get some much needed rushing yards. USC may need to attack through the air early in this one and I think Garcia will play a big role for the Gamecocks this Saturday.


WHAT'S THE ONE THING NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT THAT WILL PLAY A BIG FACTOR IN THIS GAME?


PORTER: Georgia's offensive line. Georgia wants to get Isaiah Crowell involved in the game and needs an effective running game to set up the play-action pass it thrives off of. They face a tough task of blocking the South Carolina defensive line that has plenty of depth. If the Dawgs aren't able to run the ball, it could be a long day for Georgia.

MITCHELL: The kicking game. Everyone has talked about the other special teams units. But very little of kicker Jay Wooten has been mentioned. Wooten had a great fall camp. But he'll need to get confidence early by hitting any opportunities he has in what will be a hostile environment.

LOHD: I've said it for a week now and that is USC must match the intensity of UGa. The Bulldogs are going to come out hard and ready. The ‘Dawgs are playing to protect their coach, protect their turf and get back into the SEC discussion. USC cannot come out flat as they must respond with just as much intensity.

LIFE: Offensive line play will be a big factor for both teams this Saturday. Georgia's offensive line struggled against Boise State and Aaron Murray was knocked down several times by the Broncos. USC's defensive line has all the talent in the world and the speed off the edge from Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor could really create some havoc in the Bulldogs backfield. This could be Clowney's coming out party to the college football world. USC will have to be better in pass protection than they were last week against ECU. Things settled down as the game went on but they can't allow UGA to bring that pressure. Garcia will need time to read through his progressions and find an open receiver and he can't do that with constant pressure. They also will be challenged in creating running room for Lattimore and Georgia will try and have as many guys possible at the line of scrimmage waiting. If they can give Lattimore a little room to get to the next level, he can do the rest. They just have to open things up for the star running back to work his magic.


PREDICTION?


PORTER: I know there's a lot of people predicting blowout and South Carolina scoring 30-40 points. I just don't see that happening. I see the trend of low-scoring games continuing. I think Carolina gets out to an early lead like last year and ride the legs of Lattimore. I think Carolina will break the 20- point mark, Georgia won't. South Carolina wins 24-13.

MITCHELL: Close game throughout but South Carolina seals it with a late touchdown. Gamecocks win 24-14.

LOHD: USC wins 20-16.

LIFE: I'm leaning towards the Gamecocks winning this game with a score a 24-14. I just think USC has the playmakers on both sides of the ball and will be effective with the passing game early giving way to Lattimore to control the game in the late quarters. Defense will play well and come up with some big plays on Murray and the Bulldogs will play from behind all game long. A solid victory, 2-0 record, and 1-0 in the SEC is a beautiful thing.


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