This post continues our series previewing this weekend's Georgia game. Yesterday, we looked at the matchups between our offense and UGA's defense; today, we're looking at our defense against UGA's offense.
Our pass rush should impact this game in a big way. Last year, UGA often proved very vulnerable to a good pass rush; Carolina itself registered several against the Dawgs. UGA hoped that it would improve in this regard in 2011, but based on last weekend's performance against Boise St.--in which the Dawgs gave up six sacks and many hurries and allowed talented QB Aaron Murray to get banged up and rattled a bit--that improvement doesn't appear to have arrived. Boise has an excellent, well-coached defensive line, but it's hardly up to SEC standards in terms of size, strength, and speed. Carolina's is, with many prognosticators suggesting that we have one of the best in the nation. Although ECU's offensive style precludes registering many sacks, I was impressed by how good our line looked. Jadeveon Clowney, Devin Taylor, and Melvin Ingram were in the backfield on nearly every play, and Travian Robertson was dominant in the middle, often battling through double-teams with ease. Against a pro-style offense that requires time for its plays to develop, I really, really like our chances of getting to Murray early and often in this game, and thus disrupting UGA's offense before it gets started. It should also be noted that, although he had some good completions down field, Murray looked strikingly less dangerous without A.J. Green and Kris Durham to pull down slightly mis-thrown balls, even when Murray did have time to get a clean throw off.
The renaissance of the Georgia running game has yet to arrive--and I don't think it will this weekend, either. If not for an 80-yard end-around by Brandon Boykin, Georgia would have tallied only 90 yards rushing on the evening against Boise. Isaiah Crowell looked pretty good, but he was not quite a gamebreaker. Granted, Marcus Lattimore didn't have a breakout performance against Southern Miss. last year, and perhaps Crowell, too, will find his groove in the second week. However, there is a big differences between the two situations: Carolina didn't need Lattimore to do anything particularly special against USM. After his first-half performance, I remember thinking that Lattimore could have had a big second half if the coaches had fed him the ball frequently. However, up with a comfortable lead and wanting to get a good look at the QBs, they chose to milk the passing game instead, and by the final quarter, most of the backups were in. Georgia, on the other hand, needed Crowell to play big against Boise; if you didn't see it in that matchup, why do you expect anything different this week? All of that said, I do expect Crowell to get more touches this week. It sounds like Richard Samuel is on his way out at tailback for the Dawgs, who needs Samuel at linebacker and should be giving his touches to Crowell, regardless. Crowell may have a nice game against Carolina. Based on what I saw from him last week, though, and based on how well our defensive interior played, I like Carolina to keep him from having a serious impact on the game.
Keep reading after the jump.
Georgia running the hurry-up? Mike Bobo is now playing some no-huddle. Considering that this guy has always struck me as being a bit out of his depth as the OC at a major program like UGA, I consider any attempts at innovation on his part to be a plus for Carolina. As you'll see from his presser, it's unclear exactly what his driving idea behind the decision exactly is, which is about par for the course with this guy.
The cavalry is here to help out our secondary. After a game in which our safeties' tackling abilities were exposed and Stephon Gilmore struggled to shut down his man, Gamecocks fans are happy to know that we get a few players back this week who can help us in these areas. Akeem Auguste is slated to at least see a fair number of plays, Martay Mattox will take over as Gilmore's backup, and DeVonte Holloman is back. Getting Auguste and Mattox back is great news for our depth at CB; C.C. Whitlock and Gilmore played nearly every significant down last week, and it showed on Gilmore's play, as it often did last year. Holloman is one of our better secondary players. He'll likely see time at multiple positions. He was originally slated as our starting spur, but after Antonio Allen's masterful performance last week, I expect Allen will see most of the playing time at that position, particularly as the coaches have alluded to moving Holloman around a bit between linebacker, spur, and safety. Allen and Holloman will probably be on the field together quite often.
As with our offense against UGA's defense, I like the matchups in this one quite a bit. Murray has the tools to test our secondary more than a bit, but calling our defensive front a mismatch for UGA's offensive line might be the understatement of the year, and if we have Murray shaking in his shoes by the third quarter, this game could get ugly really quickly.