The second week of the 2011 college football season features several intriguing SEC matchups, as intra-conference play begins across the Deep South. Maybe the best of the lot is the SEC East matchup featuring the 12th ranked South Carolina Gamecocks (1-0) traveling to Athens, GA to take on the Georgia Bulldogs (0-1) this Saturday (4:30pm ET). The Gamecocks opened their season last week at home with a 56-37 romp over East Carolina, failing to cover the 21 point line. The Bulldogs opened with a tough Boise St. team in the Georgia Dome, dropping the contest by a score of 35-21 to the Broncos.
South Carolina got off to a rocky start last week, falling behind 17-0 to ECU before they rallied to the win led by senior QB Stephen Garcia who replaced sophomore Connor Shaw after the Gamecocks fell behind early. Garica will start against the Bulldogs, but SC will have to throw the ball more effectively than the 10 for 25 for 131 yards lien they posted last week. A Steve Spurrier coached team that has All-American wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey as their main weapon should be capable of a much better performance. Jeffrey will probably see double teams against the Bulldogs as he did last week, so Garica may have to look to other targets and rely on RB Marcus Lattimore and the ground game. Ends Devin Taylor, Melvin Ingram and freshman Jadeveon Clowney must pressure Georgia QB Aaron Murray to take pressure off of a suspect secondary. For Georgia this game is a must-win if they have any aspirations of making it to a BCS bowl game. Quarterback Aaron Murray will look to bounce back from a mediocre performance against Boise St., where he went 16-29 for 236 yards and 2 TDs. Murray will look to throw to true freshman receiver Malcolm Mitchell who had three catches for 64 yards and a TD last week. Cornerback Brandon Boykin could see more touches this week on offense after he ran for an 80-yard TD against Boise. The offensive line is a concern after experiencing breakdowns in protection last week, and the Bulldogs do not have veteran playmakers on offense after the loss of AJ Green to the NFL.
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South Carolina vs. Georgia Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
South Carolina Gamecocks -3
@ Georgia Bulldogs +3
Over 51.5 (-110)
Under 51.5 (-110)
South Carolina vs. Georgia Pick
The Gamecocks prevailed by a score of 17-6 in last year’s meeting in Columbia. The over is 6-2 in their last 8 SEC games, 8-3 in their last 11 games on grass and 9-4 in their last 13 games overall. The over is 10-4 in Georgia’s last 14 games as an underdog, and the under is 13-1 in the last 14 head-to-head meetings between the two teams. Seven of the last ten meetings between the two teams have been decided by a touchdown or less.
In last year’s game running back Marcus Lattimore ran for 182 yards on 37 carries, scoring both of South Carolinas TDs. He will be a key again in this game, as will the SC pass rush, which sacked Murray three times in last year’s game. The Gamecock defensive line, led by DT Travian Robinson, is outstanding against the run as well, holding ECU to only 85 yards on 28 carries. They match up well against a Georgia running game that will rotate Richard Samuel and true freshman Isaiah Crowell in this game. The Gamecock defensive line should be able to get to Murray against a suspect Bulldog offensive line that allowed six sacks against Boise St. Georgia does not have the playmakers on offense to keep pace in a high-scoring game, and their defense could not stop Lattimore last year. The Gamecocks are stronger on both sides of the ball, and although this will be a hard-fought SEC –style game, they should prevail on the road in this one.