Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Pass, pass, pass

Thursday September 7, 2006

This could be a close game if South Carolina has its way. Without a flurry of defensive or special teams scores, the Gamecocks shouldn’t put up more than 20 points. South Carolina’s strategy should follow much like this: keep the game close, keep the clock moving to shorten the game, hang on to the ball, and get to a point in the fourth quarter where it’s anyone’s game. It’s a familiar underdog strategy and one we’ve seen before. Remember last year’s South Carolina game?

We can look at all sorts of matchups and fret over Spurrier’s bag of tricks, but the more I think about it, the game comes down to something in Georgia’s control.

It’s all on Georgia’s passing game.

Since 2002, Georgia has scored at least 20 points against the Gamecocks twice (2003, 2004).

In the two games (2002, 2005) where the Dawgs didn’t score 20, they averaged 140.5 yards of passing. In the two higher-scoring games, the Dawgs had over 200 yards passing in each. Rushing totals had a lot less correlation with scoring.

Last year Georgia was a pitiful 8-17 through the air for 112 yards. With Shockley. Those are JT3 vs. Florida numbers. I know…Ko Simpson, good secondary, etc, etc. Georgia’s inability (unwillingness?) to move the ball through the air kept that game within South Carolina’s reach.

When the Dawgs routed the Gamecocks in 2003, they "only" threw for 213 yards, but it was a somewhat efficient 17-29 58.6%. The Bulldogs were also able to run a lot after Reggie Brown put on a show to build an early lead. In the other three games with SC since 2002, the Dawgs have done no better than completing 50% of their passes.

There is less and less doubt in my mind that Georgia’s passing game is why we’d be looking at a close game on Saturday that plays into South Carolina’s preferred strategy.

Now that we know what the key to Georgia’s success is, the question becomes "can they muster a passing game?" That implies a few other questions:

  • Can a thinned-out offensive line without Daniel Inman hold back a South Carolina defense that showed a good ability to pressure the passer in their last game?
  • How much of a dropoff is there in the South Carolina secondary without Ko Simpson and Johnathan Joseph? Mississippi State didn’t have the talent to test the Gamecock secondary; the few deep passes they threw were 1) dropped or 2) wounded ducks that were intercepted.
  • Does Georgia have the personnel to execute this strategy? Shuffling the receiver depth chart and an uncertain quarterback rotation makes the issue questionable. We’ve yet to see a gameplan with Tereshinski where the strategy is to come out firing, and I believe we saw the upper limit on his range last weekend (around 30 yards). Is the answer more Stafford? That’s a lot to ask of a freshman in his first road game. Will the receivers even catch the ball?
  • How will the Georgia run and pass feed off of each other? If the running game is constantly stuffed, long-yardage passing situations will be much easier for South Carolina to defend.
  • Turnovers. South Carolina’s best offensive play in the past two games has been returning an interception for a touchdown. It’s a risk you take when you throw the ball, but it’s one that Georgia needs to take. Can the quarterback avoid making the disastrous mistake that Richt has talked about so much this preseason?

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