3. Stephen Garcia. For the first time in his career, Garcia is a captain in this game. His play will go a long way to determining how many points Carolina scores. UGA actually defended the run quite well last weekend, not surprising considering the presence of John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers on their defensive front. I think the Dawgs are likely to hold Marcus Lattimore in check, at least early in the game; they'll want to make Garcia beat us, and they've proven they're good enough to do that, last year's performance against Lattimore aside. Garcia will thus have to be on point and make good decisions. Although Alshon Jeffery will certainly get his looks, I look for Garcia to distribute the ball to guys like Ace Sanders a bit more this weekend, as well as to get Lattimore the ball on TB screens and wheel routes.
2. Psychology. Usually, I don't go in for the psychology angle, which I view as more of a narrative-making device for ESPN than a reliable predictor of what will happen in a game. However, considering the amount of fire, fury, and wackiness that's been coming out of Athens this week, you have to think that atmosphere and psychology are going to play some kind of role in this game. You get the feeling that the Dawgs will either come out fighting or be dead out of the gate; personally, I think what we'll see is that UGA will respond well if it gets on top early, but that it may fold quickly if Carolina draws first blood. As for Carolina, I think we're going to come out very confident. The national media's discussion of Carolina has focused a lot on the 0-17 deficit, but what the players likely remember most is that they smoked ECU in the next three quarters. The game ended on a high note, and that's where we're coming from.
1. South Carolina's Pass Rush. Georgia's offensive line looked extremely shaky last weekend against Boise St.'s top-flight defensive line. Carolina has a chance to do more damage in this matchup. Boise's DL is good, but it's not as talented as Carolina's. I look for Carolina to wreak total havoc on Aaron Murray in this game, and that may be the deciding factor in the outcome.
What It Means
What doesn't it mean? Firstly, Mark Richt's career is likely on the line. Secondly, this is Steve Spurrier's chance to administer a real knockout punch to the team he hates the most. Most importantly, an SEC tie-breaker between the two teams universally predicted to contend for the division crown is on the line. Yeah, this is a huge game for Carolina and UGA.
A lot of us have expressed doubts about how the Gamecocks are going to perform when the expectation is that we'll beat a team that's generally owned us, at least in the W-L column, which is the only category that counts. However, I'm going to follow what The Feathered Warrior said in the comments the other day. Carolina is the better team, we have several strategic matchup advantages, and we have momentum while the Dawgs are drowning in a sea of pressure. We should win this game; if we don't, it will be a major upset. I expect Carolina to control this one from start to finish. Watch for our DL to camp out in UGA's backfield, for Garcia to play well in his first game as a team captain, and for Lattimore to take over as the game wears on. The final score may not reach blowout proportions, but the outcome will never be in doubt. 27-13 Carolina.