What now appears right and wrong about our preseason look at a critical game.
A couple of weeks ago, we previewed Ten Games That Will Shape the SEC, including this weekend's matchup between South Carolina and Georgia in Athens. So what did we say then, and how does that look now?
The winner of this game will likely have proved itself capable of at least getting through the SEC schedule with just one non-Florida loss, meaning a victory over the Gators could derail their title hopes and send the Gamecocks or, far more likely, the Dawgs to Atlanta instead.
Please. No, really, please stop laughing. This is basically all wrong. Either one of these teams get through the SEC schedule with just one non-Florida loss? Not with those offenses. A victory over the Gators? At this point, both Georgia and South Carolina are hoping to look better than Charleston Southern did Saturday night.
What Will Decide the Game This Year: Who has broken in their inexperienced but hyped quarterback. Gamecock fans have been waiting for years to see evidence that Stephen Garcia is managing to keep his wits about him off the field, something he appears to have succeeded at so far this year. And while many Georgia fans have kept level expectations for Joe Cox, there are already some breaking out the D.J. Shockley comparisons. That said, neither of these players has to live up to their fan bases' lofty expectations. Each has to avoid making the kind of critical mistake that would give the other team control of the game.
Half-right. Neither team "has broken in their inexperienced but hyped quarterback," given the results on the field last week.
|vs Oklahoma St. / 9.5.09||Passing||Rushing|
|vs N.C. State / 9.3.09||Passing||Rushing|
Really, don't spend too much time trying to choose which quarterback you'd rather have start for you; it is most likely an exercise that will end with you running from the room screaming "Rosebud!"
So it's good that Cox and Garcia don't have to live up to fans' expectations to win this game -- because neither of them is likely to. That said, "avoid making the kind of critical mistake that would give the other team control of the game" is probably entry no. 1 on each team's game plan.
South Carolina Will Probably Win If ... Georgia scores fewer than 13 points.
Forget historical precedent -- this looks dodgy at best. Even if the Dawgs somehow managed to score 12 points, it seems unlikely that South Carolina would be able to keep up. That said, even projecting Georgia to score 12 points against any SEC team appears wildly optimistic at this point, but it might not take a dozen to defeat the Gamecocks.
Georgia Will Probably Win If ... The script stays the same. ... Georgia's front seven is good enough to keep Garcia from having much time in the pocket. South Carolina fans will concede that would be less than optimal for the Gamecocks.
Garcia's performance against N.C. State showed that he is easy to fluster. But as far as Georgia's front seven? It depends on how good you believe Oklahoma State's offensive line is. The Cowboys' 3.7 ypc average wasn't great, a positive for the Dawgs, but Georgia also failed to sack Zac Robinson and is credited with two quarterback hurries. So if Georgia can pressure Garcia, they'll have a good chance of shutting down what little remains of the South Carolina offense. But that's an "if" that's difficult to figure right now.
Go ahead and pencil it into the record book: Georgia will once again win one of the most closely-fought games of the season. There's more reason at this point to believe the Dawgs will have a stronger defensive effort, a better offensive line and a more productive rushing attack.
No reason yet to doubt that Georgia will win or, rather, that South Carolina will lose. Both of these teams had a good showing on defense last week, though the Dawgs likely faced the better offense. But "closely-fought"? Given that either of these teams is going to be doing good to score more than twice, that seems like a pretty safe bet.