I got together with Dawg Sports's Mr. Sanchez to chat about this weekend's SEC Eastern Division tilt between UGA and USC. Questions are in bold. Be sure to visit Dawg Sports soon to see my answers to his questions. Many thanks to Mr. Sanchez for participating in this tete-a-tete.
1. What was UGA's biggest flaw that was exposed against Clemson? Can UGA fix the problem, or will it hurt them again against South Carolina?
Their play up front on both sides of the ball was the biggest flaw exposed. We saw Aaron Murray make unacceptable mistakes in terms of the play clock, and give the ball away again at critical times as he's done so many times, but that's not really getting exposed since it's the same Murray we saw last year, and the year before. He's been making those same mistakes for so long, I can't imagine they'll be fixed soon.
And to be honest, the same goes for the line play. We've had problems with edge rushers and tackle play for years. Clemson has a great DL, but so does South Carolina. Arguably a good bit better of a DL than Clemson has, so the OL needs to step up. David Andrews had a bad game, as did Gates, Houston, and Theus at OT. You expect some rust on Kolton Houston after years in NCAA purgatory. But Theus and Gates need to play better. Our OL returning so much experience was supposed to be a strength, and to avoid the demolition of last year, they have got to improve Saturday evening.
The defensive front got run on pretty well too. We didn't get good pressure on Boyd, didn't bring him down on the occasions we got pressure in his face, and gave up some big plays in the running game. I'm hoping that bigger DL like Chris Mayes and John Taylor were schemed out from Clemson's up tempo style, and they'll play more this week adding a more physical element than I saw in the Upstate. But South Carolina, imo, has the better OL than the Tigers. They are more physical, and Shaw is just as effective with his legs as Boyd. We saw what a physical OL can do against Georgia in the SEC Championship, and if South Carolina is what I think they are offensively, that's a very problematic style for Georgia right now.
2. How costly is the injury to Malcolm Mitchell? Do the Dawgs have any other serious injuries coming into the USC game?
Mitchell hurts a decent bit. He's a good playmaker, and his speed forces teams to respect the deep ball or get burned. Clemson stacked the box a lot, and we couldn't back them off without Mitchell. But then, Chris Conley has plenty of speed, and freshman Reggie Davis was talked about all camp as the fastest player on the team. We've got enough weapons offensively that losing Mitchell shouldn't hurt much.
Gurley missed a bit of time, but should be fine. DBs Corey Moore and Shaq Fluker should be available, and Josh Harvey-Clemons should be back from suspension. K Marshall Morgan is still out. But that seems about it.
3. Other than Clowney, name one USC player you'd really like to have. Why?
Brandon Shell or Corey Robinson. I mentioned our OL problems above, those two are excellent OTs that we desperately need. And on the subject, can I take Shawn Elliott with them?
I'd also consider Connor Shaw to be honest. Murray is more talented, and puts up better numbers, but Shaw just doesn't make mistakes. Murray does, and that costs us games. I recall a quote Mark Richt had several years back, "A QB can't win you a game, but they can lose it." Shaw doesn't lose games, and Murray in spite of all his good qualities, still makes those mistakes that lead to Ls.
4. After losing three straight to USC for the first time in series history, how much does UGA want this game? Obviously, it's a key divisional tilt, but is the game more pressing to UGA fans given the recent events in the series?
We want it bad. Losing to Clemson, you want to rebound with a victory. It is critical to SEC success as you mention (although not that critical if the last two years are any indication). But to end that streak, to beat Spurrier, to win the SEC opener, to not start a season 0-2, to not lose at home, and on and on and on. There are numerous reasons this game is a "must win" type affair for the Dawgs.
5. Score prediction?
I'm already on record with the Half-Cocked Podcast at 38-31 Georgia. So I probably should stick with that. But Saturday's performances by Georgia's lines has me concerned. South Carolina has been a very physical team of late, and we're not dealing well with that on either side of the ball. My heart still wants to say 38-31 for the Dawgs, but my head is laughing at it, and predicts 34-24 for the Gamecocks.
Bonus: Is USC-UGA a rivalry yet?
Damn right it is, but I've thought that for a while. And most Georgia fans who dismiss it as not a rivalry are just doing so to get a rise out of South Carolina supporters.