By William Neilson Writer


South Carolina Pass vs. Georgia Pass Defense
Edge: Push
South Carolina's offense finally came alive against Virginia last week in a 31-7 win. Dondrial Pinkins wasn't spectacular but he got the job done going 9 for 24 with 162 yards passing and 1 TD through the air. The South Carolina offensive line has been much improved from last year and the running game is existent giving Pinkins a 2-dimensional offense to work with. Pinkins' 99 yard touchdown pass to Troy Williamson was not only a huge boost to the USC team for that week but a sign that Holtz isn't afraid to let this man throw the ball when the game is on the line. Pinkins options at WR aren't that great but they can get the job done. If Pinkins wants to beat the Georgia secondary this year, he will need to stay poised throughout the pocket.
On the other side, Georgia is coming off two rather good defensive games. UGA's lack of depth and experience sure didn't show against either Clemson or MTSU. Georgia's pass rush the last two games has been very good and David Pollack is still the main reason behind that. Expect Pollack to continue to be a nuisance to the South Carolina backfield on many occasions. Two big additions to the UGA D are returning to the team in Kentrell Curry at CB and Ken Veal to the already effective DT position. Both should have big impacts on the defensive side of the ball. Blitzing has also been very effective this year so expect different variations to be hitting a not-to-experienced QB in Pinkins. It worked against Clemson and could be effective against USC.

Georgia Pass vs. South Carolina Pass Defense
Edge: Georgia
David Greene hasn't seemed to lose a touch since last season. He looked very sharp against Clemson and MTSU. His stats aren't staggering (33/45 - 470 yards - 1 TD) but he gets the job done when it's needed. He doesn't make mistakes and can hurt anyone on the deep ball. Georgia will lose their best WR in Fred Gibson but still have PLENTY of options left at WR. Seniors Reggie Brown, Michael Johnson, Damian Gary, and true freshman Sean Baily are all possible play-makers. The new offensive line has lived up to it's billing by giving Greene all sorts of time and that will be needed against a USC defensive that hasn't allowed Georgia to score a touchdown in almost 3 games.
South Carolina is coming off a fantastic game against UVA where they dominated new starting QB Anthony Martinez by only allowing him throw for 52 yards and 2 interceptions. USC's new 4-3 defensive scheme seems to be working quite well so far but there are still some holes to fill with the inexperience in the secondary. Both games have seen USC face teams with no real quarterback and this will be the first test. The LB's have been much better then advertised and the DL play was the main reason for UVA's ineptitude behind the line. USC's blitz packages will have to be able to quickly get to Greene if they expect to win. Their LB's will need to play as well as they did against UVA if they expect to force Greene to make mistakes.

South Carolina Run vs. Georgia Run Defense
Slight Edge: Georgia
Daccus Thurman ran all over the Virginia defense last week with 126 yards on 18 carries. Helping him out was an Offensive Line that has been just dominate in the first two games. They have opened up all sorts of holes and allowed the young running backs to run for over 260 yards against UVA and 187 against ULL. Both Summers and Thurman saw some action last week but Thurman has thus far been more impressive AND Summers has been bothered by injuries. Pinkins isn't the type of QB that can win with a running game so Thurman or Summers stall against Georgia, it may be trouble for the entire team.
The Georgia DL has probably been the most impressive part of this team thus far this season. Against Clemson and MTSU, David Pollack and company were in the backfield just about every play causing chaos to the QB's and RB's. Not only has Pollack been impressive but the rest of the line is also stepping up. Geathers, Gant, Pollack, and Golston are all 4 capable defensive players who can quickly can off the line or clog up the middle. Georgia held Clemson to under 40 yards of rushing and MTSU to under 70 yards. If they can continue to scuffle the running game of USC's and make Pinkins beat them, the game may get ugly quite quick.

Georgia Run vs. South Carolina Run Defense
Edge: Georgia
Before the year started, Georgia's running game looked bleak as their best rusher (Musa Smith) had left for the NFL Draft. But now that the season has started, Michael Cooper, Tony Milton, and Ronnie Powell have all stepped up and performed quite well. Cooper has looked the best so far as he racked up over 90 yards against MTSU and a great 4th quarter against Clemson. Now, Tony Milton is bothered by small injuries right now so he status is uncertain at the moment and true freshman Kregg Lumpkin is also in the mix but his hamstring injuries are leaving him on the bench. Richt hasn't really let anyone know what his plans for USC's game are but my guess would be a 70/30 mix of Cooper/Powell.
USC's rush defense has been decent at best the last two weeks. I won't say either RB from ULL or UVA ran over the Gamecock D because they didn't but both had success all game. Smoothers from ULL ran for over 100+ yards and a TD while Pearman from UVA ran for 91 yards on 17 carries and a TD. If USC wants any chance of winning this game, the DL will need to step up and shut down the UGA OL. If Cooper or Powell can both get over the 110 yard mark combined, it will spell trouble for USC as Richt loves doing a 50/50 pass/rush plan that wears down the defenses.

Special Teams
Slight Edge: Georgia
Georgia has arguably one of the best kickers in the game in Billy Bennett. Last season saw him kick his way into the UGA kicking record book and this season already seems the same. Through two games he has already kicked six FG's and 5/5 XP's. Punting for UGA will be newcomer Gordon Ely-Kelso who struggled mightly in the first game against Clemson barely average 33 yards but increased that to 45 yards against MTSU. Punt returning duties are left to Damian Gary who has the talent to be one of the best in the SEC but has yet to really show it this season. Kickoff duties are usually left to Fred Gibson who will be out this weekend and that is quite a huge loss. The new KR should Decory Bryant. South Carolina new punter Josh Brown deserves a medal after the last two games. He has had to kick over 550 yards worth of punts and an average over 40+. USC's kicking game is still a little questionable as new kicker Daniel Weaver is only 1/1 (42 yards) and 6/6 at XP's. Troy Williamson is the main Kickoff Return man and Demetris Summers is the new Punt returner and both have solid speed and breakaway ability to surprise Georgia.

Final Thoughts
Throw out the records for this game. The last 3 years have specifically shown why this one of the most, if not THE MOST important game for both teams. Whoever losses this game starts off the year with a loss and a bit of criticism. If USC losses, it could be a repeat of last season. If UGA losses, the over-rated word may get called out to them. Whoever wins this game has got a step in the right direction. South Carolina has beaten Georgia two of the last three years and have dominated Georgia's offense continuously with defenses from Charlie Strong. Now that Strong is gone, it will be interested to see if USC can continue their success with such a young group of players. Georgia has obviously gotten better on the offensive side of the ball and Richt has stepped in as arguably one of the best coaches in the SEC. Holtz on the other hand is trying to reel from a horrendous 5 win season. But through that bad season came a close win to Georgia that was trashed when RB Andrew Pinnick fumbled the ball on the goal-line with only a few seconds left in the game.

This game should come down to experience and that is where I see Georgia pulling away. The offensive line has given reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year David Greene enough time this year to trounce on defenses and a running games is in place. Reigning SEC Player of the Year David Pollack seems in top form along with a young, talented team that is continually getting better. This is not to say USC doesn't have talent. They have a vast amount running up in Colombia but it's just not enough to over-come to Dawgs who have gotten progressively better since the 2000 game.

Neilson's Pick: Georgia 27, South Carolina 20