Saturday's game between No. 5 Georgia and No. 6 South Carolina will test the old theory that offense wins games, but defense wins championships. Georgia brings in one of the nation's best offenses five games into the season while Carolina brings in one of the best defenses. The Georgia offense is putting up 536 yards per game this season. How do you stop their potent attack? Well, Carolina will be the sixth team to try to do that after the first five have failed.
"That's a good question," defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. "They lead the league in a lot of statistical categories. We just have to play defense. The bottom line is getting lined up and executing what we've got called on defense."
Georgia has not seen a defense like Carolina's this season. The Gamecocks are giving up 289 yards this season, but only allowing 11 points. On the other hand, Carolina hasn't faced a quarterback like Aaron Murray so far either.
"He's the smartest, most experienced quarterback we've faced this year," Ward said. "He does a great job of seeing what you line up in and does a good job of getting the ball out of his hand. They've only given up seven sacks in five games so that's telling you that, even though they have some youth on the offensive line, he's getting ball out in a hurry."
With a quarterback as talented and experienced as Murray, some defensive coordinators will try and disguise coverages and blitzes to try and confuse the quarterback. Carolina will certainly try and do that, but they won't do anything against Murray that they wouldn't do against any other quarterback.
"We're going to be aggressive," Ward said. "That isn't going to change. We don't care who we're going to play."
Georgia also has two talented freshmen at running back. Todd Gurley leads the SEC in rushing yards and Keith Marshall is just behind Carolina's Marcus Lattimore on the list. While they are both very talented, the Georgia coaches have done a great job of giving them the ball in situations where they can succeed the most.
"They've been in situations where they've been one-on-one with people in the perimeter and they made them miss," Ward said. "When they make them miss they have the speed to take it to the house. They're both track guys at running back, so if you get them the ball in space they're going to make plays."
One thing Carolina must do better than they did last week against Kentucky is tackling. Last week they looked more like Georgia trying to tackle Marcus Lattimore than one of the premiere defenses in the conference.
"There was one play where we missed seven tackles when the young man went down the sidelines," Ward said. "It's technique and fundamentals and that's what we went back to in the second half and that's why we played better. We have to be sound because they have guys that can take it the distance if we miss tackles."
One player Carolina won't be facing is Georgia receiver Michael Bennett, who tore his ACL earlier this week in practice. Bennett leads the team in every receiver statistic, but Georgia has plenty of other weapons. Ward's defense does not prepare for players, they prepare for teams so nothing will change this week.
"We didn't do anything special," Ward said. "Michael was a great player for them. I think him and Aaron had a relationship going for them, and he could move the sticks on third down. I'm sure now they'll probably find another good receiver and put him in that spot. We never prepared for one particular receiver."
All season Georgia has been almost flawless in audibles on offense. Once they find out what the defense is going to do, they will audible to a play that is designed to exploit that defense. If Ward's guys do what they are supposed to do there will be nothing to worry about.
"I don't care what defense you play or what offensive formation they're in; if you fit the defense correctly there is no play that's going to make you susceptible as a defense," Ward said. "It comes down to 11-on-11. If I take care of my assignment then I have a chance to stop the play. If I don't they have a chance for a big play."
The battle is set. Strength against strength and it will all play out with the entire nation watching the week's premiere game.
"We're going to line up and do what we do on defense," Ward said. "I'm sure Georgia is going to do what they do on offense. We'll see what the end result will be."
Most of the national pundits have been taking Georgia throughout the week. They are the flashy, high-powered team that people love to watch. However, defense wins championships.
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