Next up: Georgia

Georgia head coach Mark Richt held his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss Saturday's highly-anticipated game between No. 5 Georgia and No. 6 South Carolina. Richt hopes his offensive line will be ready to face Carolina's talented defensive line, and that his defense will finally be able to stop Marcus Lattimore.

A top ten match-up is nothing new for fifth-ranked Georgia. They have had their fair share of top ten battles over the course of their history, so Saturday night's contest at sixth-ranked South Carolina is not as big a deal for them as it is for Carolina. However, that does not mean that Georgia coach Mark Richt doesn't appreciate that all eyes will be on Columbia Saturday night.

"It's fun, it's exciting," Richt said at his weekly press conference Tuesday. "It's nice to be in the middle of the college football world. A couple of years ago when we were 6-7 it wasn't very long into that season where no one really cared what Georgia did on any given Saturday. It's not a lot of fun, it's not where you want to be. Last year we kind of got enough rolling where we got a chance to play in some big games and we got to start playing sometime other than noon and that was nice. Now we are in position where everybody is going to know what goes on this weekend. Everybody is kind of curious. Everybody is talking about it. That's good. We can't focus on it, but that's a good place to be."

South Carolina will be putting their two game winning streak over Georgia on the line and are looking to beat the Bulldogs for a third time in a row for the first time in series history. Carolina will also be going for its tenth win in a row dating back to last season for the first time, as well as extend a twelve game winning streak in SEC East play. The Gamecocks have not lost an SEC East game since a 31-28 loss at Kentucky in 2010.

"A lot of people are going to be watching and are going to be very interested in what happens, so we obviously have a lot of respect for South Carolina," Richt said. "They've beaten us the past two seasons, and of course they finished either in the top five or top ten last year. They've had some really outstanding years and breaking records left and right. I don't think they've lost an SEC Eastern Division game for quite some time, so they're used to winning and winning in this league. I'm very impressed with what they're doing."

One of the main storylines in Saturday's game will be the match-up between the high octane Georgia offense and the lockdown defense of South Carolina. Georgia's offense line is inexperienced, but has played well through the first five games as the Bulldogs lead the conference in rushing yards per game. They will get a huge test when they face a South Carolina defense that is third in the conference in yards allowed and second in rushing yards allowed.

"This game will definitely be the best gauge," Richt said. "South Carolina's defense is playing great. They are kind of used to playing great. They were pretty darn good last year and the year before and the year before that. They've just got a tradition now that has built up over time that they believe. It's obvious that they believe, and they should.

The South Carolina defensive front leads the defense. Carolina has four players in the top 16 in sacks in the conference, led by defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney is second in the SEC with 5.5 sacks, and Chaz Sutton is not far behind with three sacks. Kelcy Quarles and Aldrick Fordham each have 2.5 sacks.

"They are really good at what they do, so our guys will be challenged with the edge players, the rush. They are also very physical against the run. Their inside guys are physical and their outside guys are physical and their linebackers are big, strong and experienced. Then you have a guy like (D.J.) Swearinger, who is a big hitter at safety, so without a doubt this is the biggest test for our offensive line."

On the other side of the ball, Georgia knows they have to stop Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore. Two of Lattimore's best games have come against the Bulldogs. In just his second game as a college player, Lattimore broke 29 tackles against Georgia in 2010 en route to 182 yards rushing on 37 carries and scored both of the touchdowns in the 17-6 win. In 2011 Lattimore ran for 176 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Lattimore has rushed for 358 yards against Georgia in two games, more than any other opponent in his first two years. As games progress, Lattimore appears to get even stronger.

"I was watching last year's game, and his biggest runs came in the fourth quarter," Richt said. "He had more than 100 yards rushing in the fourth quarter. They were quite frankly able to run the ball when everybody knew all they were going to do was run the ball. That was a little bit of a problem. A lot of it has to do with their blocking, a lot of it has to do with his ability to find it and break tackles and have enough endurance to be even more effective in the fourth quarter than the first quarter. As everybody else is giving way a little bit, he's still going strong."

That was the case last week when Lattimore carried the ball 18 times for 118 yards and two scores in the second half against Kentucky after carrying it just five times for 12 yards in the first half.

It is also no big surprise that in Carolina's biggest games this season Lattimore has seen an increase in carries and yards. Lattimore has carried the ball 20 or more times in three of the five games this season, all against SEC competition. He had 23 carries in the two closest games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky and 21 against Missouri. Against ECU and UAB, he had 13 and 12, respectively. Georgia will get a healthy dose of Lattimore, who appears to be 100 percent both physically and mentally.

"I think the closer the game the more you're going to see Lattimore," Richt said. "They've had some games where some were close, but they ran away in a lot of the games. I don't think they felt like they had the need to do that. I'm sure coming off the injury they wanted to take their time and be wise. From what I've seen just from the first game to this past game, I think he's gaining confidence in himself and they're gaining confidence in him that he's well and back to 100 percent. Sometimes when guys rehab they work harder than they do if they don't have an injury. I think his conditioning is tremendous, and it always was good."

The fact that Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier has a back like Lattimore and is willing to run it much more than he throws it is something rarely seen while he was at Florida. Spurrier was known as a coach that loved to "pitch it around" each game, and use the run just to keep defenses honest. Over his career at South Carolina, Spurrier has been willing to change his philosophies to match the strengths of his team. He is not afraid to use Lattimore and the running abilities of Connor Shaw, who will be making his first appearance against his home state university. Richt, who goes back well into Spurrier's Florida days as the offensive coordinator at Florida State, has had to do the same thing at Georgia.

"When I was at Florida State we were doing things a little bit differently too," Richt said. "We came to this league and tried to do certain things as far as no-huddle, some pace stuff, some spread stuff. We found out that first of all I don't think the league was interested in going fast back then. Another thing was when it came to matchups there weren't a lot of times we were outmatching people with our skill people versus their defensive skill people. I learned in a hurry that style points don't really mean much. Winning and losing is what means the most in this league, and I think our fans appreciate a good three-point victory as much as a 20-point victory. I think Coach Spurrier is doing what good coaches do and that is take your personnel, find out what they do best and give you the best chance of winning regardless of what you might think is a fun and exciting thing to do. Winning is more exciting than chunking the ball around the yard if you are not getting the victories."


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