South Carolina Football Three Keys: Georgia

Three-keys-USC

South Carolina faces Georgia on Saturday in Athens. Here are your three keys to a South Carolina win over Georgia.

By Matt Zemek

The South Carolina Gamecocks will naturally find it hard to beat the Georgia Bulldogs Between the Hedges this Saturday. Georgia is a national championship contender. The Gamecocks don’t have a Cadillac offense with Jake Bentley out of the lineup. Yet, as grim as things seem for Will Muschamp’s team, it’s not as though there is a complete absence of hope for South Carolina. There is a path to victory – not high-percentage, but visible.

The first key is the main path to victory. The other two keys will try to supplement and reinforce it:

Key 1 – Go long

Something weird happened to Georgia in the first half of last week’s game against Tennessee: It played bad defense, particularly against a vertical passing game. Tennessee showed more deep-ball prowess in one quarter than Notre Dame did against Georgia in four quarters in September. It was unexpected, but it happened. Georgia safeties were caught looking into the backfield instead of maintaining their downfield assignments. Tennessee receivers got open for huge gains, and for one half, the Vols played Georgia on relatively even terms before UGA pulled away.

Let’s not kid ourselves: While it would obviously be great if South Carolina could march 80 yards on 12 plays in 7 minutes, that is not a reasonable expectation. Big underdogs can generally take one of two basic approaches to a game on the offensive side of the ball: Try to play keep-away (as the Indianapolis Colts did against the Kansas City Chiefs) or go for broke and try to score as much as possible. South Carolina should clearly choose the latter option, trying to score in the 30s and finish big plays which weren’t quite finished against Alabama. South Carolina could have scored 38 points that day if it had finished every big play which was there for the taking. Georgia’s defense is weak enough that South Carolina can exploit UGA’s back four. The Gamecocks should give it a try and see.

Key 2 – Red-zone defense

Georgia is supremely equipped to produce a 12-play, 80-yard, 7-minute drive. If the Bulldogs want to play that way, fine… as long as the possession starts at Georgia’s 15.

If South Carolina can make several red-zone stands, a brilliant day from the offense will be able to stand up. Georgia will move the ball all day. South Carolina can’t expect dominance; it must aim for damage control and containment.

Key 3 – Know when to take a risk, and when not to

First and 10 in the red zone: Don’t risk a 50-50 throw.

Third and 8 at midfield: Yes, take a chance on a pass into traffic.

4th and 1 at South Carolina’s own 40 in the first quarter: go for it.

4th and 3 at South Carolina’s 30 with 25 seconds left before halftime: punt and don’t let Georgia tack on points.

There is a time to pursue opportunity and a time to be cautious, whether for quarterbacks or coaching staffs. South Carolina needs to live on the fine line between smart risk-taking and total recklessness.

Saturday‘s game kicks off at 11:00 AM CT (12:00 PM ET). Watch on the ESPN Network.

This Week’s SEC Football News and Analysis

GameFirst Looks3 Keys
Game
Preview
HighlightsFinal Stats
South Carolina vs. GeorgiaUSC / UGAUSC / UGAPreviewUSC 20, UGA 17Stats
Arkansas vs. KentuckyArky / KentuckyArky / KentuckyPreviewUK 24, Arky 17Stats
Florida vs. LSUFlorida / LSULSU / FloridaPreviewLSU 42, Florida 28Stats
Ole Miss vs. MissouriOle Miss / MizzouOle Miss / MizzouPreviewMizzou 38, Ole Miss 27Stats
Mississippi State vs. TennesseeTennessee / MSUMSU / TennesseePreviewTennessee 20, MSU 10Stats
Alabama vs. Texas A&MBama / A&MA&M / BamaPreviewBama 47, A&M 28Stats
UNLV vs. VanderbiltUNLVVandyPreviewUNLV 34, Vandy 10Stats
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