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South Carolina vs. No. 1 Georgia: Three keys

Another early challenge for the Gamecocks.

South Carolina v Arkansas

It’s only Week 3 of this young college football season, but the South Carolina Gamecocks are already staring down their toughest game on the schedule: a visit from the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs. While the Gamecocks have bagged surprising upsets of UGA in the not-so-distant past, these Bulldogs are reigning national champions and look to be contenders for the crown once again. With that in mind, here are a few things I’ll be looking for:

Get off to a good start. I know I mentioned this last week, but seriously — this is something South Carolina needs to figure out, and quickly. No matter who coaches the Gamecocks, it seems, USC struggles coming out of the gate, which is frustrating against inferior competition and frequently fatal against anything else. With a couple games under his belt now — and one of them coming on the road — hopefully Spencer Rattler is a little more settled in, and the offense can start to gel. I still have my doubts about Marcus Satterfield’s approach to playcalling, and the Gamecocks are in dire need of some scripted drives to start a game on the right foot.

Find a way to force turnovers. Easier said than done, I know, but if there’s one thing this defense hasn’t done very well so far this year — aside from the glaring deficiencies in defending the ground game — it’s play opportunistic football. The Gamecocks have just a single interception to their credit, a pick by Marcellas Dial against Georgia State when the game had long been decided, and haven’t really sniffed a turnover since. Georgia is playing at an extremely high level right now, so South Carolina can’t bank on sloppy play from the Bulldogs, but they’ll nevertheless need to hunt for some chances here if they want to hang around.

Beamer Ball needs to make an appearance. I wrote about this last week against Arkansas also, which was another uphill battle against what is now a top-10 opponent, but it remains no less true that big plays on special teams are often what gives David the edge against Goliath in an upset. Every week can’t be like Week 1’s explosive performance against Georgia State — and I’d never expect as much — but blocking a punt or nailing an extra-long field goal would go a long way toward keeping the Gamecocks competitive in this one, if nothing else.