South Carolina vs. Georgia: Scouting the Bulldogs

This week we are scouting the Georgia Bulldogs, the South Carolina Gamecocks’ opponent Saturday at 3:30pm at Williams-Brice Stadium–a nationally televised game.

When this season’s schedule was first released, most people who looked at it most likely immediately looked at this week’s game and thought right away how big this game could be.  Considering how the past few years have gone in this series and how the Bulldogs struggled last year, many Gamecock fans probably also thought this would be a good win to solidify the start to the season.

Fast forward to this week, though, and the stakes have changed substantially.

The Georgia Bulldogs are now ranked in the top 10 and even have a first place vote along with the leading Heisman candidate in Todd Gurley. The Gamecocks lost their opener to Texas A&M, then struggled a little against ECU, and now come in 1-1 hanging in the top 25 by a thin thread. So who exactly are these Bulldogs, and what should fans expect?

Series: Georgia leads the series  with a record of 47-17-2, although they are only lead 8-5 under their current head coach.

Head Coach: Mark Richt–127-45 in 13 seasons at Georgia after being an assistant coach at Florida State for 10 seasons

Offense: Senior quarterback Hutson Mason is starting this year; however, this is only the 4th start of his career and he only threw for 131 yards against Clemson.  Many analysts still feel Mason is a huge threat for UGA, and as soon a defense decides to do nothing other than stop the run, he is going to burn them. However, the Bulldogs are now missing three of their top receivers, and this could end up being a big factor into whether they can attempt to do something other than run the ball. The offensive line has a big group of players that could sub in and out to make things work and they looked pretty good against Clemson in week one.

Big Dawgs: The offense is clearly driven by not one or two, but five strong running backs. As if that wasn’t enough, the starting tailback, Todd Gurley is now considered the leading candidate early on for the Heisman. Gurley will most likely be limited in the first half, which could be deceiving to fans, but then come in fresh in the second half as he did against Clemson.  The other four backs are all very good, and Keith Marshall could probably start at half the schools in the country. In fact, the only thing that could stop Gurley from winning the Heisman is how good his other backs are and the time he shares with them in the backfield.

Defense: This year, the entire defensive coaching staff was changed, and that’s a big deal for any team and creates a lot of question marks throughout the season. It’s still too early to tell how well they’ll play as their only game was against a Clemson team two weeks ago who had lost several of its star players. There are a lot of young players not only starting, but all throughout the depth chart. Regardless of that or Clemson’s changes on offense, this defense did hold Clemson to one first down and only 15 yards the entire second half in week one. Either way, there’s no real way to know what to expect, and only having one real game behind them may leave a lot of questions still unanswered.

Intangibles: Athens is only 2-1/2 hours away from Columbia, so there will definitely be a big Bulldog contingent of fans at the game, but will it be enough to offset the frenzied Gamecocks fans? Coach Richt has apparently been trying to prepare his players for what to expect in Columbia. On a different note, the Bulldogs team and its fan base are not fans of Steve Spurrier, and for good reason: he is 15-5 against them as a head coach with an average margin of victory of more than 20 points.

Overall: This is the #6 team in the nation (even has one first place vote) and their running back, Todd Gurley, has the early season buzz for the Heisman Trophy, so it’s a team that can be dangerous and one that Gamecock fans are nervous about playing. However, over the last couple decades since entering the SEC, this game has gained a new level of importance, and every year the Gamecock players have found a way to rise to the occasion. Some of the biggest games and biggest moments in Gamecock history have happened against the Bulldogs–whether it was Brandon Bennett jumping the pile, Marcus Lattimore in his first SEC game, Melvin Ingram with two touchdowns, and of course the 35-7 victory two years ago in Columbia. It will take a great game to slow down this Bulldog offense and Todd Gurley, but the Gamecocks have done it before against this team.