Georgia & South Carolina In Battle Of SEC Unbeatens
By: Michael Robinson
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
INJURY UPDATE: Georgia WR Michael Bennett tore his ACL in practice on Tuesday and is out for the season. Bennett was the team's leading receiver with 24 receptions for 345 yards and four touchdowns.
Coach Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks host the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday night in a game that could ultimately decide the SEC East champion.
The college football odds list South Carolina between a 1½ and 2½ point favorite. The total is a lofty 56½ and ESPN will broadcast from Williams-Brice Stadium at 7:00 p.m. (ET).
Georgia and South Carolina rank fifth and sixth respectively in the AP and Coaches Poll. Each is a perfect 5-0 straight up and 3-0 in the conference. SEC East Florida is also in the division mix at 3-0 in the conference.
The Gamecocks (4-1 against the spread) have covered their last four games, but it wasn’t easy last week. They trailed 17-7 at halftime at Kentucky before a 31-0 second-half whitewashing. The 38-17 final covered the 20-point spread by the slimmest of margins.
Spurrier is known for being extremely tough on quarterbacks going back to his Florida days. However, even he can’t complain about Connor Shaw the last two weeks. The junior was an incredible 35-of-39 (89.7 percent) passing with four TDs and no picks in those games, including a stretch of 20 consecutive completions in the win vs. Missouri.
Shaw only threw for 198.5 YPG the last two contests (31-10 home win vs. Missouri the first), but he added 117 more on the ground and Marcus Lattimore is still one of the nation’s best rushers even coming off knee surgery.
The Bulldogs (2-3 ATS) have an explosive offense with their 48.2 PPG ranked eighth in the country. The passing game was supposed to be good with junior quarterback Aaron Murray and that hasn’t disappointed at 285.6 YPG (29th nationally).
The running game has been the bigger surprise after the preseason dismissal of Isaiah Crowell. The freshman duo of Todd Gurley (536 yards) and Keith Marshall (428 yards) have more than compensated in leading the nation’s 11th-ranked attack (250.4 YPG).
Georgia’s defense has elite talent, but hasn’t matched the offense at 370.2 YPG (ranked 55th) and 22 PPG (tied-for-46th). The 4-game suspensions of All-American safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree hurt, but the two returned last week and the team still surrendered 44 points at home to Tennessee.
Better defensive continuity should be seen this week as the Bulldogs get used to their stars being back.
Note the ‘over’ is 5-0 in Georgia’s games this season and 7-0 in the last seven overall.
The Bulldogs' only road tilt this year was at Missouri on September 8th, a 41-20 win as 1-point favorites after scoring 24 unanswered points starting late third quarter. They’re 4-1 ATS in their last five true road games overall.
South Carolina has one of the stingiest defenses in the country at 11.2 PPG. Jadeveon Clowney is an elite pass rusher and the d-line in general is going to make life much harder for the frosh running backs. Murray is going to need to make a lot of plays in the passing game to warrant being under a 3-point ‘dog.
The Gamecocks have beaten Georgia the last two years (45-42, 17-6) and are 4-0-1 ATS in the last five. The ‘under’ is 8-0 in the last eight meetings between the teams in South Carolina.
This game is arguably more crucial for South Carolina as it has to play at SEC West power LSU next week. Georgia doesn’t face LSU this year, while Georgia and South Carolina both avoid No. 1 Alabama (also out of the SEC West).