It seems as if it would be absolutely ridiculous to say that the SEC East will be decided in the second week of the season. That being said—the SEC East will be decided in the second week of the season. The Ol’ Ball Coach leads his defending East champs into Athens to take on Aaron Murray and the Bulldogs. Georgia will be coming off what will be a make-or-break opening weekend game against Boise State. Whether they’re coming off a hard-fought victory, or a disappointing defeat, will they have enough left in the tank for the following Saturday against a high-powered South Carolina offense that features some of the best skill players in the conference? However, you can’t afford to put the words “high-powered offense” and “South Carolina” in the same sentence unless you have Stephen Garcia somewhere in the equation. The offseason has once again been filled with question marks as to whether or not Garcia will even be a part of Spurrier’s squad in September.
From a match-up standpoint, this game will feature two of the most exciting young running backs in the league. South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore returns from a phenomenal freshman campaign in which he was second in rushing yards among running backs, as well as the overall league-leader in yards from scrimmage. If you’re playing for Steve Spurrier and have the skill that Lattimore touts, he’s going to find ways to get you the ball in space. What will trouble the Bulldogs is, when Garcia gets tired of handing the ball off to Lattimore, he has a 6’4” freak on the outside in Alshon Jeffrey, who was second in the league in yards from scrimmage. Georgia will have to find a way to contain these two future NFL talents, or it could be a long day for the Dawgs. However, incoming true freshman Isaiah Crowell could be what Mark Richt needs to save his job. With Caleb King and Washaun Ealey banished from Athens, Crowell now becomes the featured back for the Bulldogs. Having a tough, poised sophomore quarterback who threw for 3,000 yards in his freshman season might help a little, too. Aaron Murray showed the SEC last fall that he has what it takes to play in this league, and with a year of experience under his belt he will be looking to keep his offense on the field as long as possible in this game.
Neither teams’ defense had much to write home about last season. Both squads gave up an average of around three touchdowns per game. While the Gamecocks were actually built to outscore their opponents, Georgia often had to rely on their offense to keep them in games. The Dawgs hope that Bacarri Rambo will provide more highlights from the safety spot this year, with Brandon Boykin returning as the top cornerback for Richt’s defense. The Gamecocks will field a veteran defensive squad this year, with the free safety position being the only spot not filled by a junior or senior. Georgia could be at a great disadvantage here thanks to their aforementioned opening day battle with Boise State. The Bulldogs defense will have to pull out all the stops and show everything they have in the playbook to keep Kellen Moore in check. South Carolina opens with a neutral site non-conference clash of their own, facing an East Carolina team that replaces four starters on the offensive line. The Gamecock defense should have no trouble with the Pirates, and could possibly rest their starters for most of the second half.
This game will set the tone for the SEC East’s march to Atlanta. If Garcia suits up, I think this will be one of the more exciting games of the SEC schedule to watch. If not, the Dawgs may come out of the game having made a huge step towards the SEC East title, and Mark Richt’s job a little more secure.