Georgia-South Carolina: Bulldogs' OL Must Improve
The dust has settled and now Georgia fans can turn their focus to South Carolina after sulking for a few days.
While the loss to Clemson does leave a bad taste in their mouths, the real season gets underway Saturday as Georgia will take on South Carolina at Sanford Stadium.
South Carolina is coming off a 27-10 win over North Carolina as the Gamecocks' defense controlled the entire game. Last year, the Gamecocks stomped the Bulldogs, 35-7, but Georgia came back to win the SEC East.
So, what are the keys this year?
1. Georgia OL Must Improve
The Bulldogs will be facing perhaps the best pass rusher in college football history on Saturday in Jadeveon Clowney. He had four tackles and one sack in last year's game and is looking to create even more havoc. Many rated his performance last week against the Tar Heels as a little sluggish, which could play into the Bulldogs' favor if that happens again.
The offensive line is going to have to step up to keep him from getting to quarterback Aaron Murray. Last week, Murray was sacked four times by pass-rushers who were just as quick (but not as powerful) as Clowney. It's time for them to show their experience when protecting their quarterback.
On a side note, the line did perform well in helping the Bulldogs get 545 yards of total offense, but they still have to be better.
2. No Celebratory Jumps
I think it goes without saying after Malcolm Mitchell was lost for the season. Mitchell hurt himself jumping in celebration of a touchdown. No players (especially wide receivers) need to do the same the rest of the season.
Losing Mitchell had an obvious affect on the Bulldogs and they can ill-afford another injury like that.
Expect the Bulldogs to run and congratulate each other after a touchdown, but no jumping in the air is allowed.
3. Key On Connor Shaw
Shaw is a three-year starter at South Carolina and is a dual threat. However, he's not going to kill you with his arm. Instead he'll look to the read-option to make some headway.
Shaw will look to take advantage of Georgia's inexperience facing that type of system. The old saying, "stay in your gaps," will be important this week as one wrong move will result in Shaw running for a long time.
For the secondary, Shaw doesn't have the tightest spiral, so there will be opportunities to make interceptions. But again, the secondary is young and Shaw is going to look to pick on them.
4. Rush For 200 Yards
If the Bulldogs can rush for 200 yards, then they should have no problem winning the game. While they do have Murray in the backfield, Georgia needs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall to set the tone early.
Plus, if they can get past Clowney a few times, that may cause the South Carolina defense to bring up an extra defender (or two) into the box, opening up areas of the field for the passing game.
Mark it down: 200 yards rushing as a team all but guarantees a Bulldogs victory.
5. Control Special Teams
Last year we saw how a great special teams play by South Carolina helped the game get out of hand. This year, there has to be more of an emphasis on special teams and not allowing the Gamecocks to make the big play.
Kicker Marshall Morgan will be out once again on suspension after a BUI during the summer. That could hurt as the Bulldogs again will rely on walk-on kicker Patrick Beless.
Hopefully, it won't come down to another snap and hold this week.