Three Keys to a Win
3. NCAA Investigations and Such
Both South Carolina and Georgia have been dealing with NCAA investigations and will have players sitting this one out. I'm not sure I think that the suspended players will be a huge issue. Certainly, we'd like to have Jarriel King, and Georgia would love to have A.J. Green in a game where their freshman QB will likely be tested. But considering that both teams are sitting key players, that issue kindof cancels itself out. However, what's not so certain to me is how each team will deal with the distractions this has caused. Both teams did OK in that regard last week, particularly Carolina, considering that we had to weather potentially not having half our starters against a somewhat dangerous opponent. This week's game is different, though. It's a game that has major conference-race implications, and the pressure is on both teams to win. That combined with the investigations could cause a team and coaching staff to crack. Let's hope that's not the case for us.
2. Special Teams Play
Last year, Georgia rode a big-time special teams performance to victory, and they still have some dangerous return men. We can't let them beat us here again. You simply can't give up huge returns to a team like Georgia and expect to win--the margin of error is just too thin.
1. The Running Game
I've said before how I think it's really key for us to stop the run in this game. I expect us to stack the box, and if Georgia can run the ball against us when we do that, we're going to be in trouble defensively. Conversely, our ability to run the ball is going to be really important. Georgia is going to want to get us in a situation where we're in long-yardage passing downs, in which case they can tee off on Stephen Garcia and hope he reverts to his old form. They won't be able to do that, though, if Marcus Lattimore / Kenny Miles are picking up 3-4 ypc or more. That's give our offense a chance to remain balanced.
By the way, I expect we'll see more Miles than last week (not to see we won't see plenty of Lattimore), and I also expect we'll see a bit more Wildcat.
What This Game Means
I don't think a loss here would mean our season is shot, as some do. I do, however, think we need this game if we're going to make it to Atlanta for the first time. Considering how hard our schedule is compared to Georgia's, I have a hard time believing that we can finish ahead of the Dawgs in the standings without a head-to-head victory.
I've predicted close losses for us in this game the past two years, and that's what happened. This year will be different. I'm definitely anxious about this game, but I'm probably about as confident as I've felt about any big game we've played over the past two years. It's no coincidence that Vegas and all the pundits are picking us to win this one; for the first time in a really long time, we appear to stack up to the Dawgs pretty well. I'm going with a 27-17 Carolina victory.