With the loss to Kentucky at least somewhat behind us, the South Carolina Gamecocks continue to prep for a Saturday evening date in Athens. So as the players and coaches game plan against Nick Chubb and Co., here's some more insight into this year's Georgia Bulldogs for the fans.
1. Much like USC, UGA entered 2015 with some uncertainty at QB. What've you liked from Greysen Lambert thus far? Do you think he's settled into the role or will we see some jitters from him this weekend?
He looked jittery last week when he failed to complete a pass in the first half. Lambert settled in some of late, but I've seen some things I liked (big arm, and decent mobility for a guy his size), and some things I didn't (a lot of fade away passes off his back foot, and multiple that should have been picked by Vanderbilt). I'm hoping he either cleans up some issues and steps up big this week, or that Brice Ramsey is ready to replace him. Ramsey was the starter at the end of last season and has a huge arm. He sometimes gets overconfident in that arm, but I'd like to be able to complete some passes so the Gamecocks can't key all 11 on the run. Whether it's Lambert or Ramsey getting the ball out to Malcolm Mitchell and friends, I don't care. But if this team is going to compete for titles, they'll need to throw the ball not terribly.
2. Once again UGA is stacked with running backs with Chubb, Michel and Marshall leading the way. Behind Chubb, who do you think the Gamecocks need to have an eye on most? Or is it just an attack by committee kind of thing?
Sony Michel. Don't get me wrong, Keith Marshall looks like he's getting back to good health, and guys like Quayvon Hicks and Brendan Douglas can make big plays when given the chance, but Michel is the most dangerous of the bunch. Michel is not as physical a runner as Chubb, but he doesn't go down easy, and has an extra gear when he wants to go. Richt and Schottenheimer are also getting them both on the field, with Chubb lined up at the tailback and Michel in motion or out wide at times. His versatility is an advantage, as he's a good route runner and receiver with the speed to make big plays in both roles.
3. What've you liked from the defense so far, and what player/unit is the anchor on that side of the ball for the Bulldogs?
The front seven is easily the strong part of the defense. They've played well in the secondary, but have had some tackling issues and left a few gaps in coverage that are a bit frightening with Steve Spurrier coming to town. But the front seven has been dominant, with several players stepping up. Leonard Floyd is well known, and he's looked good at ILB in a move designed to get the most talent on the field. That leaves Jordan Jenkins and Lorenzo Carter to work off the edge, as well as emerging sophomore Davin Bellamy. Chris Mayes and Sterling Bailey have looked strong on the interior DL. They've looked much improved as a unit defending the run, and have some elite athletes to collapse a pocket helping our young and vulnerable secondary have reduced exposure.
4. A lot of eyes are going to be honed in on Georgia's backfield and slowing down the running game, what Bulldog receiver is most capable of getting behind the secondary and serving as downfield threat for Lambert?
Malcolm Mitchell. Isaiah McKenzie can fly, as can Terry Godwin and Reggie Davis. So Georgia has no shortage of burners out wide who can stretch a defense if the ball can be put out there for them. But the most capable threat is easily Mitchell, as the senior has thankfully been able to remain healthy so far, and looks like the same play maker we've come to know over the past few years. He's not the biggest, but he's got elite speed and a good sense of getting that little separation late to get the ball and bring it down.
5. The Gamecocks biggest win of 2014 came against UGA. Is there a sense of redemption around the fan base or team after coming up inches short in Columbia last year?
Yes. South Carolina has won four of the last five, after Georgia took four of the first five when Spurrier took over. If a Georgia fan says this game isn't a rivalry, just smile and laugh, cause it is now. Georgia fans get a bit tired of being everybody's rival (Florida, Auburn, Tech, South Carolina, Tennessee, Clemson, we get a lot of hate), but this game has been growing in importance significantly over the last decade, and with Spurrier entering the last few seasons of his career, getting some wins on the old man while we still can would mean a lot to plenty of fans.
6. The early line for the game favors the Bulldogs by 16 points. Given the fact these games are usually back and forth, do you think the Bulldogs will come into this game expecting to win by two touchdowns?
Yes and no. Based on history, both with South Carolina and Steve Spurrier vs. suspect secondaries, this game should be highly competitive and likely close late. But if you look at the match-ups, it's hard to see the game going that way on paper. Georgia's running game vs. a defense that has given up over 200 yards on the ground to both teams they've played, and almost 6 yards per carry. And then offensively, going with a walk-on injury replacement and what seem like few weapons that can do damage if a game plan can keep Pharoh Cooper in check. Add on top of that what should be a good crowd, hyped thanks to the nature of the game and the early evening kickoff time. Georgia always struggles against the spread, but that's generally falling a field goal or so short in heart breaking fashion.
7. Is there any chance we'll catch y'all looking ahead to your matchup against Alabama in two weeks? (Please say yes.)
Nope, see the nice combination of factors mentioned above in #5 of last year's loss, the memorable nature of other recent losses like 2012's whipping and 2011's special teams nightmare, and that man with the visor, and Georgia should be very focused in on this one.
And of course a prediction:
Anywhere from a 27-7 Georgia win to a 49-48 South Carolina victory. I could see this game going any number of ways, so there's really no telling right now. Especially with the unknown of how Spurrier handles the QB situation between Orth and dual-threat, Atlanta native Lorenzo Nunez.