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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Behind Enemy Lines: South Carolina

Georgia takes on South Carolina at 7 p.m. Saturday, but thanks to The State's Seth Emerson, you can get a taste of what the Gamecocks will bring to Athens now.

David Hale: Fans are up in arms around here after Georgia mustered just 10 points last week. Is the tone any different in Columbia after South Carolina scored just seven, but managed to win? And how is Steve Spurrier planning to get the offense going again?

Seth Emerson:
I really get the sense that people were just happy to get a win, no matter how ugly it was. Maybe that's the hunger for a winner, or that they've gotten used to good defense/bad offense. Spurrier is talking about opening up the offense, and throwing downfield - it clearly irks him not to be able to win shootouts like he did at Florida. But it'll be interesting to see just how much he'll open up the playbook. I mean, they DID win at NC State with a ball-control offense, and this defense looks like it can carry them.

DH: There was some talk after the game debating how much control Stephen Garcia should have of the offense with regard to changing plays at the line of scrimmage, etc. What's Spurrier's take on that, and how ready is Garcia to handle a bigger role?

Spurrier has said that Garcia had the power to call audibles, but that the coaches "didn't have him prepared as" they needed to in order to do that. In fact Garcia made a few run-call audibles, including one that resulted in a loss, as Spurrier pointed out this week. (Laughing as he said it). Garcia has the kind of personality where you expect him to be able to handle a bigger role, and the big-game atmosphere. I think that's why so many fans embraced him last year, rather than the more sedate Chris Smelley. But will he manage the game well, rather than try too many ill-advised throws or panicky scrambles? We still don't know yet.

DH: Clifton Geathers returns from a suspension this week, but Devin Taylor looked dominant against NC State. How are you expecting that position to shake out this week?

Devin Taylor's giong to start. I mean he has to, after having the best defensive debut in recent memory for a Gamecock - he literally forced a fumble, what turned out to be the game's most important play, on his first play as a college football player. Then he blocked a punt, had a sack, two more tackles for loss. It was incredible. That said, Geathers is a talent, and has two years of experience so the missed practice might not hold him back too much. I expect Taylor to start but Geathers to see some time.

DH: Rodney Paulk went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 1, so who the heck is Shaq Wilson, and what will the injury mean to South Carolina's defense?

Shaq Wilson is an undersized linebacker who will be making his first start on Saturday. The good news for him is he's surrounded by so much talent, and has Eric Norwood next to him, so the pressure's not as much as it would be for other middle linebackers making their starting debut. Plus he played all of the second half at N.C. State. Paulk was a guy with a nose for the ball, but he wasn't the world's fastest or biggest player either. I'm not sure there will be a huge drop-off from him to Wilson.

DH: This game is historically a defensive battle regardless, but after Georgia and USC combined for just 17 points in their openers, what are the odds that this one turns out to be anything but a "first team to 14 wins" scenario?

The over-under is 38.5, at least on one gambling site I saw. (And gambling is evil, kids, remember that). But if I were a gambler, I'd put my life savings on the under. Not only is it historically low-scoring, but like you said both offenses stunk it up in the opener - or at least Georgia's did, and USC played it tight. ... Having said all that, there's two ways this could really open up: Georgia's struggles turn out to just be because of playing at a top 10 team, and they get it going, and/or Spurrier opens it up for USC, which either produces the desired results or has Garcia turning it over left and right.

Be sure to check out Seth's coverage of South Carolina at The State's Web site HERE or on his blog HERE.