What a start to the season for the Georgia Bulldogs! The then 12th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs hosted the #16 Clemson Tigers in Athens, GA. Many expected (including me) this would be a close game, but thanks to 298 all-purpose yards by Junior running back Todd Gurley, who showed that he is in serious contention to bring home the Heisman Trophy this year, the Bulldogs had their way with Clemson, 45-20. Although UGA lost an all-time great quarterback in Aaron Murray, their offense didn't see very much drop-off in 2014 in part because of a strong offensive line and a tough running game. The Bulldogs revamped defensive unit led by Jeremy Pruitt played extremely well and played hard and disciplined for most of the game. After a bye week for the Dawgs, all eyes are focused on Georgia's first SEC game against South Carolina in Columbia. Let's take a look at the key players in this game.
Georgia-RB Todd Gurley: Amassed almost 300 total yards in the opening game against Clemson including a 100 yard kickoff return. He is the best running back in the nation and a threat to do something special every time he touches the ball. He has a great chance of being one of the Heisman finalists later this year.
Georgia-OLB Leonard Floyd: Had a breakout freshman season and coaches and teammates have been all over him this offseason. Floyd had 7 tackles and 2 sacks against Clemson two Saturdays ago. He's an All-American in the making and will be pivotal for Georgia to get Dylan Thompson's jersey dirty on Saturday afternoon.
Georgia-ILB Amarlo Herrera/Ramik Wilson: The two interior linebackers will be important in this game. They will not only pressure the quarterback but also will be called upon to stuff the South Carolina Gamecock's run game. Herrera led UGA in tackles against Clemson with 12 total and 2 sacks. Wilson played a nice role in the clash with the Tigers, but he was limited in his playing time. Wilson was the leading tackler in the SEC a year ago.
South Carolina-RB Mike Davis: Davis is the leader of Gamecock offense. He is also one of the top backs in college football. He was limited by an injury in the Gamecock's first game, but looks to be back to normal. The Atlanta, GA, native had over 1,100 yards on the ground in 2013 and saw some success against UGA last year. Look for Steve Spurrier to rely heavily on the feats of his premier tailback on Saturday.
South Carolina-LB Skai Moore: Moore had a great season in 2013 in which he led his Gamecocks in tackles with 58 and also garnered Freshman All-SEC honors. He should be relied on even more heavily by South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward to fill the large hole left by the NFL's #1 pick in DE Jadeveon Clowney.
South Carolina-QB Dylan Thompson: Gone is Connor Shaw. Here comes veteran Dylan Thompson to the plate. He is a talented passer and showed that at times in back up roles over the past several seasons. The one thing he has to work on is his consistency. Overall, he can be a weapon for the Gamecocks.
Game Preview: The #6 Bulldogs enter Columbia flying high after a statement win against Clemson and a nice bye to rest. The #24 Gamecocks were completely embarrassed on their home turf in Week 1 when Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies dominated Carolina. Then in Week 2, South Carolina squeaked by the East Carolina Pirates thanks to several field goals from Elliot Fry.
A lot of people have counted the Gamecocks out in the SEC East race and have looked on to others. Spurrier and his Gamecocks will be fighting mad when Georgia comes calling and hope to see the same result as they did the last time the Dawgs came to Columbia. That was in 2012, and Georgia was shellacked by the Cocks by a score of 35-7.
This game will be UGA's first SEC game of 2014 and should be a factor in the quest to reach Atlanta. This is a must-win for the Gamecocks, and the Bulldogs would love to be undefeated after two back-to-back tough matchups. For the Georgia offense, look for offensive coordinator Mike Bobo to try to establish the run early in the game behind the likes of Preseason All-American Todd Gurley, fellow junior Keith Marshall, and two impressive freshman backs in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. At the quarterback position is 5th-year senior Hutson Mason. Mason will look to feed off a strong running game to take the pressure off of him and light up the the less-than-stellar Gamecock secondary through the air. Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will look to build on a strong defensive start and attempt to limit Mike Davis and put pressure on Dylan Thompson.
On the opposite sideline stands the Ol' Ball Coach Steve Spurrier. First of all, let's stop to praise Spurrier on his job at South Carolina. He has taken an a perennial cellar-dweller in the SEC and taken them to 3-straight double-digit win seasons for the first time in school history. The Cock's offense is lead by veteran QB Dylan Thompson, star RB Mike Davis, as well as a receiving corps led by Nick Jones, Damiere Byrd, Shaq Roland, and Pharoh Cooper. South Carolina lost a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball in 2013 including All-American DE Jadeveon Clowney. The Cocks top returnees are LB Skai Moore, SPUR Sharrod Golightly, and DT J.T. Surratt.
Overall, look for Mike Davis to have a little success against the Bulldogs on the ground but for the Georgia defense to still be pretty solid. Georgia's running game led by Todd Gurley and the play-action passing of Hutson Mason will prove to be too much for a reeling Gamecocks team.