This game usually is played in the second weekend of the college football season but this year it has made its way to the halfway mark. Eight of the last 11 matchups between these two have been decided by seven points or less. Last year's game was a different story with the 45-42 shootout that ended in the Gamecocks favor. It was the highest scoring matchup in the series history between both teams eclipsing the 52-30 win for Georgia back in 1970.
Whether it's a low-scoring game, or a high-scoring game, the Gamecocks likely will rely on Marcus Lattimore to propel them to victory. The Gamecocks star running back has rushed for 358 yards on 64 rushes and three touchdowns in two games against Georgia. The key for Lattimore and the Gamecocks is when he rushes for 100 yards. The Gamecocks are undefeated when he reaches the century mark so this will certainly be something to keep an eye on.
On Georgia's side, there is the dynamic tailback duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Gurley has rushed for 554 yards with nine touchdowns while Marshall has added 428 yards and seven touchdowns. They've added another element to the strong passing game of Aaron Murray. Georgia's defense is led by the talented Jarvis Jones but has given up some points and yardage this year. Is it a product of scoring too quickly and the defense is on the field too long or is it something else?
With that in mind, let's take a look at this week's What To Watch For when the Gamecocks take on the Georgia Bulldogs.
Third times a charm for Lattimore?It was a sunny afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium a few short years ago. There was a highly-touted running back by the name of Marcus Lattimore playing for the Gamecocks. He was a bit unknown at the time but in the second game of his career, he faced off against the Georgia Bulldogs and the rest was history.
Lattimore ran for 182 yards on 37 carries and scored two touchdowns as USC defeated Georgia 17-6. Lattimore's name was etched in the minds of Gamecock fans everywhere. He was the real deal. He then went on to finish the season as one of the top running backs in college football. So surely the Bulldogs wouldn't let him repeat that kind of performance again, would they?
They did. Lattimore proceeded to run for 176 yards, including 94 in the fourth quarter, as the Gamecocks won a high-scoring battle 45-42. Lattimore has been at his best against the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter and has shown an ability to get stronger as the game goes on. He did it last week against Kentucky as he was a focal point of the offense, carrying the ball 18 times for 108 yards and two touchdowns in the second half, as the Gamecocks pulled away from Kentucky.
Some people are claiming Lattimore isn't quite healed from his knee injury last season. One person even claimed Lattimore looked like he was running in quick-sand. The Gamecocks have relied on Lattimore when they needed him the most: Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Look at the production against those teams. South Carolina will need a big game from their star running back this weekend and, based on his track record, it's hard to say that the Bulldogs will be able to contain Lattimore.
He's no longer wearing the knee brace. He's said himself that he's no longer thinking of the injury and feels good. This could spell bad news for the Bulldogs this weekend. You could almost think of this as an opportunity for Lattimore to "re-introduce" himself to the college football world.
High scoring affair or defensive battle?The matchup between these two teams is one that is usually a hard fought affair with minimal scoring. Last year's game was the complete opposite. South Carolina beat Georgia 45-42 in a shootout that saw USC get points off of specials teams and defense along with Lattimore's strong performance. Normally, the winning team in this series doesn't score more than 20 points based on the last six of eight matchups.
We've seen how many points the Georgia Bulldogs are scoring this year. They are averaging nearly 50 points a game thanks to their new running back duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Aaron Murray has continued to be one of the best passers in the SEC and has only thrown three interceptions with 12 touchdowns through the air.
For the Gamecocks, their defense has been lights out so far this season. They give up just 77 yards rushing a game while allowing just over 11 points per game. They have 22 sacks this season putting them in a tie for second in the nation. There's not much this USC defense can't do with the personnel they have on campus.
These two units will likely determine whether or not this game is a high-scoring affair or a defensive battle. Neither team has played a high level of competition so far this season but that's not to say either side isn't any good. They both have their strengths that make them great overall. Who shows up to play on Saturday will determine the outcome of the game. Will it be Georgia's offense or South Carolina's defense?
This should be an exciting matchup to watch this weekend.
Connor Shaw is the key for the GamecocksHere's a strong statistic when looking at the Gamecocks with Connor Shaw as the starting quarterback: 12-1.
That's the record that Shaw has as the Gamecocks' starting quarterback when taking over last year midway through the season. It's obvious that Connor Shaw brings a lot to the table. He's a proven winner with a gutsy mindset, a student of the game and a strong leader on and off the field.
The thing that makes Shaw successful the most is his running ability. The Gamecock coaches talked this week about his ability to save a play by being able to pick up the tough yardage with his legs. Shaw can outrun most defenders at this level as he has the vision to know when it's time to take off from the backfield. Now, Steve Spurrier would like for him to wait an extra second or two on occasion, but he'll even admit that the good that comes from Shaw's scrambling ability certainly outweighs the bad.
Shaw is normally the cool, calm and collected quarterback but with this being Georgia, and his first chance at playing time against the home state team, he's even fired up about the matchup.
South Carolina's quarterback has proven he can win. Now, how he plays this Saturday could be a big reason the Gamecocks take the next step forward to being an elite team in college football.
Can Jarvis Jones be contained?Jarvis Jones stepped onto the field last season for Georgia as a transfer from Southern Cal and immediately became one of the premier defensive players in the SEC. He's big, physical and fast and can bring a lot to the table in Georgia's 3-4 defense. He plays standing up or with his hand on the ground. It's really hard to keep him out of the backfield as he's already racked up 4.5 sacks and 8.0 tackles for loss this season. In every game, he's been able to have at least one sack and two tackles for loss except for one – Tennessee.
Jones is the best pass rusher for the Bulldogs and the Volunteers were able to neutralize him in last weekend's game. Tyler Bray has quick release and getting rid of the ball quickly is a way to limit Jones in the backfield. South Carolina should try to follow suit with a lot of three-step drops along with using the running backs to pick up the talented pass rusher. Lattimore is an excellent blocker in the backfield and could be a big savior for the Gamecocks in slowing down Jarvis Jones.
There's talk of Jones nursing a groin injury with Mark Richt saying the other day that he doesn't feel he's quite 100 percent yet. Regardless, he's someone the Gamecocks have to focus on and stop in order to be successful on offense this Saturday.
USC and Georgia will play at 7:00 this Saturday night on ESPN with Brent Musburger doing the play-by-play with Kirk Herbstreit along side for analysis and Heather Cox on the sideline.