Perhaps the biggest key Saturday is whether USC’s defense can keep Georgia running back Todd Gurley in check, but that’s not the only storyline. Here’s a look at what could make the difference when the No. 6 Gamecocks travel to Athens for a 4:30 p.m. kickoff against the No. 11 Bulldogs:
CLOWNEY VS. MURRAY
Theoretically, Georgia has a left tackle. His name is Kenarious Gates. He’ll be charged with the unenviable task of blocking Clowney. More than a couple times, he probably won’t. So forget about the middle man. This comes down to USC’s star defensive end against Georgia’s star quarterback. Can Murray get rid of the football fast enough to limit Clowney and USC’s pass rush? Can Clowney rebound from a disappointing opener? The answer dictates Saturday’s outcome.
CONNOR SHAW’S LEGS
The arm can win games. But the legs? They can be downright dynamic. That’s how it was last year for Shaw, who kept the chains moving against Georgia by running the football. He finished with 78 yards on 14 carries, including a 7-yard touchdown. He only threw 10 times. That hardly mattered, because just the threat of running the football opened things up in USC’s offense. If Georgia can’t make Shaw one-dimensional, its defense will have a long night.
MIKE DAVIS’ ENCORE
He elicited Marcus Lattimore comparisons. That alone is pretty remarkable for USC’s sophomore running back. But, of course, his 115 yards on 12 carries – including a 75-yard touchdown – against North Carolina was only one game. Georgia’s defense struggled last week defending Clemson’s rushing attack. Behind Davis and USC’s offensive line, ground and pound should be a significant advantage. Davis will need another big game, this time on the road.
It’s hard to know what to expect Saturday. Georgia’s loss to Clemson threw a wrench in the whole analysis. South Carolina seemed to have the magic formula last year at Williams-Brice Stadium, throttling an exceptionally good Georgia team 35-7. Was it a fluke? Do the Gamecocks truly have the Bulldogs’ number? Could it be a bit of both? With a shoddy offensive line and porous defense, Georgia seems to be an ideal matchup for USC. That said, how much does playing inside Sanford Stadium change that?
South Carolina 24, Georgia 21