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Bulldogs vs. South Carolina Gamecocks Pick
No. 12 South Carolina Gamecocks (1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS) at Georgia Bulldogs (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS), Saturday September 10th, 2011. 4:45PM EST, College Football Week 2
Sanford Stadium Athens, G.A.
By Jay Horne, College Football Handicapper of Predictem.com
Point Spread: USC -3/UGA +3
The most interesting game in the 2nd week of the College Football season may very well reside in Athens, Georgia this Saturday when the Georgia Bulldogs host the no. 12 ranked South Carolina Gamecocks. Historically, this border rivalry has become an indicator to which team will prevail and go on to have a successful season. This year this rivalry perhaps reaches new heights as both South Carolina and Georgia are expected to be frontrunners for the SEC East crown.
Also, additional headlines have thrown more fuel on this heated rivalry. Georgia coach Mark Richt is widely viewed to be on the coaching hot seat after a few mediocre seasons over the last few years. The Bulldogs were taken down last week by no. 5 Boise State 35-21 at home. Therefore, the possible thought of losing two straight games at home has the Georgia faithful on alert since that is something out of the norm for the folks from Athens. The Bulldogs will not only be fighting for a chance to get a huge jump in the race for the SEC East this Saturday, like that is not big enough, but also possibly to keep coach Mark Richt at the helm.
The Bulldogs opponent will be an emerging power by way of the no. 12 South Carolina Gamecocks. The Gamecocks reached the SEC Championship last season, but a blowout loss to Auburn in the SEC Championship Game left nothing but bitterness in the minds of the garnet and black. This season the Gamecocks have more talent on both sides of the ball and appear to be on the path for vengeance in the SEC. The Gamecocks got off to a slow start last week against East Carolina trailing by as much as 17-0 in the first quarter. However, 5th year senior Stephen Garcia came off to bench providing the leadership and confidence to right the Gamecocks ship. The result equaled the Gamecocks rallying for 42 points in the 2nd half alone to take down the Pirates 56-37.
Now that the rust has been shaken, the Gamecocks appear as talented as any team in the country. Garcia completed 64% passing for 3,059 yards with 20 touchdowns and 14 picks last season. Garcias main problems have come from off the field issues during his tenure in Columbia, but many overlook the fact that he has actually played very well while on the field. Garcias biggest problem on the field has been making bad decisions and forcing throws, but Coach Spurrier hopes that his 5th year senior avoids mistakes of the past. Garcias supporting cast is the best 1-2 combination in America. WR Alshon Jeffery was a Biletnikoff Award Finalist last season given each year to the nations best receiver. Jeffery caught 88 passes for an SEC best 1,517 yards with 9 touchdowns while proving countless times that he is an uncover able phenomena.
Running back Marcus Lattimore was the consensus Freshman of the Year in 2010 after posting nearly 1,200 rushing yards and a school record 17 rushing touchdowns. Lattimore is a big back that is extremely tough between the tackles. Of course you do not have to tell Georgia fans who Marcus Lattimore is. Lattimore made his national debut last year against Georgia by breaking 29 tackles in route to 182 yards and 2 touchdowns in what turned out to be a 17-6 win in favor of South Carolina. Therefore, its easy to say that the Georgia defense will be eager to redeem their selves from becoming a Marcus Lattimore highlight real again this year. However, that remains to be proven possible.
On the other side of the field, the Georgia offense does not necessarily lack playmakers. QB Aaron Murray may just be the best quarterback in the conference. Murray posted solid numbers in his freshman season completing 61% passing for 3,049 yards with 24 touchdowns and 8 picks. Last week Murray completed 16 of 29 passing for 236 yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 picks in the Bulldogs loss to Boise State.
The biggest difference for Murray this season is searching for a big time playmaker on the outside. That was easy last season when Murray looked to A.J Green who was among the best receivers in the entire nation. However, this season there is not any go to threats that have emerged from the receiving core. In fact, tight end Orson Charles led the offense in receiving last week with 6 catches for 109 yards. Charles will be a big factor in the offense this season, but the Bulldogs will still need to find a deep ball threat as well on the outside if the passing offense is going to fire on all cylinders.
In the running game, the Bulldogs are extremely thin at the tailback position. Georgia lost their top two rushers over the off-season. Freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell has received the starting nod in the backfield. Crowell was a highly touted recruit for the Bulldogs and he is a guy that definitely has a lot of upside. Georgia would love to see Crowell have the Lattimore affect for the Bulldogs offense, but that may be asking too much. Crowell carried the ball 15 times for 60 yards last week against Boise State and he will be an interesting to guy to keep your eyes on this season to see how far along he progresses throughout the year.
Jays Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I guaranteed South Carolina would win this game by double figures last year and delivered. This year this game will be won by the South Carolina defense. Yes, South Carolina has concerns in their secondary. However, to exploit that secondary you have to spread the ball around and get the ball out of the quarterbacks hands quickly. Georgias passing offense takes more time to develop and they will not be able to handle the South Carolina defensive line which is ridiculously talented. South Carolinas defensive line will be the story of the game. Mark it down; South Carolina brings out the curtain call for the Richt era in Athens.
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