FanPost

USC-Georgia advanced statistics-based preview

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It's time for the Gamecock's season to get serious. The run of "warm-up" games is complete and now the big guns are coming into a town for the first of a series of games that will decide the SEC East.

This year's Georgia Bulldogs team plays quite differently from the team that USC beat 45-42 last year in a thriller in Athens. The Bulldogs have become much more proficient on offense, boasting highly rated rushing and passing offenses. As you know, the "Gurhsall" pair has been outstanding at breaking long, explosive runs. However, they are also consistent at getting positive yardage-the Bulldogs are 21st in the nation in successful rushes.

One key question is what has happened to Georgia's defense? This planned strength has turned into the team's weakness. The talent should certainly be there. Three Bulldog defenders rank in Mel Kiper's top 25 prospects: #1 Jarvis Jones, #7 Jonathan Jenkins, and #10 Alec Ogletree. But Georgia has been mediocre against both the pass and the run. The Gamecocks absolutely need to take advantage of Georgia's underperforming defense if they are to win this game.

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Here are my key questions for the game.

1) Will the Gamecock offense take advantage of the Georgia defense?

I think the formula to winning this game is for Lattimore to have consistent, positive runs and for the passing game to hit a couple long touchdowns.

I have read a lot of stories claiming that the Bulldogs defense had an off day because they played a deep cover-two to limit Tennessee's passing offense. Well, South Carolina's passing offense has actually been better than Tennessee's so far, even when including the Vanderbilt debacle. If Georgia brings their safeties up into the box (and I think they will due to Marcus Lattimore's past success on them), then the Connor Shaw and company will have to hit some big plays to take advantage of this. I would love to see some smart playaction passes on first down and running downs for this reason.

2) Will Georgia consistently try to run on first down and will they be successful?

Georgia has been quite successful running on first down to set up their passing game so far this season. However, they have not faced a run defense near the level of South Carolina's. If Georgia can run effectively on first down and give Aaron Murray manageable 2nd and 3rd downs then it could be a bad day for the Gamecocks.

USC must step up against Georgia's running game and put Murray in 3rd and long situations. Aaron Murray is a great quarterback when he has time to throw and is not under pressure from great defenses. But get him in a third and long with pressure in his face and he'll be more likely to make a mistake.

One other key is for the Gamecocks defense to limit successful Georgia runs to 5 or 10 yards by good tackling. Tennessee did a terrible job with this and allowed good run blocking to result in long touchdowns instead of 10 yard gains. The Gamecocks have tackled well so far this year and will need to keep this up.

3) Which team's pass offense will fare better?

I have covered this one in the first two questions, but I think this is the key to the game. Both teams have pass offenses that should be able to take advantage of the other team's secondary. The team that does a better job here is the team that I think wins the game.

As I note above, I think the Gamecocks will be able to get some big plays in the passing game and then use Marcus Lattimore to control the ball in the second half. One of the new sayings in football is that you pass to score and run to win. Let's hope the Gamecocks do exactly that tomorrow.

My prediction is a close 29-27 Gamecock win.

Below you can see that each team owns an advantage in the passing offense. The Gamecocks also need to limit how explosive the Georgia running game is.

South Carolina offense versus Georgia defense

South Carolina Offense



Georgia Defense


Overall Offense

108.9 (34)

102.7 (48)

Overall Defense

S&P+

Pass offense

133.9 (16)

100.7 (58)

Pass Defense

S&P+

Run offense

106.0 (62)

109.5 (46)

Run Defense

S&P+

Adj. Points per pass play

0.156

0.003

Adj. Points per pass play


Adj. Points per run play

-0.43

-0.042

Adj. Points per run play


Successful pass (%)

48% (30)

46% (77)

Successful pass (%)


Successful runs (%)

41% (65)

38% (32)

Successful runs (%)


Pass percentage (1D)

36%

38%

Pass percentage (1D)


Run percentage (1D)

64%

62%

Run percentage (1D)


Georgia offense versus South Carolina defense

Georgia Offense



South Carolina Defense


Overall Offense

141.9 (2)

125.2 (14)

Overall Defense

S&P+

Pass offense

162.1 (7)

114.9 (44)

Pass Defense

S&P+

Run offense

142.8 (6)

137.1 (11)

Run Defense

S&P+

Adj. Points per pass play

0.175

-0.089

Adj. Points per pass play


Adj. Points per run play

0.115

-0.129

Adj. Points per run play


Successful pass (%)

52% (9)

45% (68)

Successful pass (%)


Successful runs (%)

47% (21)

35% (20)

Successful runs (%)


Pass percentage (1D)

38%

45%

Pass percentage (1D)


Run percentage (1D)

62%

55%

Run percentage (1D)


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