Columbia, SC (Sports Network) - A top-10 showdown is on tap in Columbia thisweekend, as the fifth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs take on the sixth-ranked SouthCarolina Gamecocks in a key SEC East matchup at William-Brice Stadium.
Mark Richt's Bulldogs were the favorite to win the SEC East prior to the startof the season and the team has certainly lived up to the hype thus far, going5-0 in the month of September, including outlasting a tough Tennessee squadlast week in a shootout, 51-44 to move to 2-0 in SEC play. With the win,Georgia has now won 15 straight regular-season games, the second longestactive streak in the nation (LSU - 18).
Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks are on a similar path to start the season, alsositting at 5-0, although the team is already 3-0 in-conference. Last weekend,South Carolina posted a 38-17 road win at Kentucky to remain undefeated on theyear. South Carolina is seeking its first 6-0 start since the 1988 season andhas won 11 straight games against SEC East opponents. Spurrier is in search ofhis 250th career coaching win, amassing 202 at the collegiate level and 47 atthe pro level thus far.
For the first time in this series both teams are ranked in the top-10.
The Bulldogs hold a 46-16-2 series advantage, including a 19-8-2 edge inColumbia. However, South Carolina has won each of the last two meetings.
It was a balanced attack that proved to be the difference for Georgia againstTennessee last week, as the team amassed 568 yards of total offense, getting282 yards on the ground and another 286 through the air. Quarterback AaronMurray was 19-of-25 passing, for 278 yards and two TDs, while tailbacks ToddGurley and Keith Marshall combined for 294 yards rushing and five TDs.
Offensive balance has been the key in Athens this season, with Georgiaaveraging 48.2 ppg, on 536.0 ypg. The team has the ability to move the chainsboth rushing (250.4 ypg) and passing (285.6 ypg).
Murray has been consistent under center, completing just under 70 percent ofhis passes (.682), for 1,370 yards with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions.Murray has a number of viable options in the passing game, headlined byMichael Bennett (24 receptions, 345 yards, four TDs), Tavarres King (16receptions, 307 yards, three TDs) and Marlon Brown (16 receptions, 264 yards,three TDs).
Gurley has made an immediate impact and is one of the nation's top freshmen,leading the SEC in rushing (107.2 ypg), averaging 7.9 yards per carry, withnine touchdowns. Marshall, also a freshman, has shared the workload and beenproductive himself, averaging 85.6 yards per game on 8.2 ypc, with five TDs.
The Georgia defense has played second-fiddle to the offense this season,despite plenty of star power. The team has shown some chinks in the armor andshowed several flaws last week against Tennessee, but the Bulldogs have beenactive getting upfield, with 35 TFLs and eight sacks thus far.
The undeniable star on the defensive side of the ball for Georgia is All-American linebacker Jarvis Jones. The 6-foot-3, 241-pound junior is regardedas one of the nation's finest defenders. He currently ranks third on the teamin tackles (32), while leading Georgia in TFLs (8.0) and sacks (4.5).Sophomore LB Amarlo Herrera has had a strong start to his year as well,leading the way in tackles (36).
Spurrier knows a thing or two about moving the football and his 2012 Gamecocksare getting it done with balance as well. The team is averaging just over 400yards per game (409.0), getting a good mix of the run (171.8 ypg) and the pass(237.2 ypg).
It starts with All-American candidate Marcus Lattimore in the backfield. Thejunior tailback has returned from a knee injury that cost him half of 2011 andhas looked solid thus far, averaging 4.8 yards per carry and leading USC with446 yards and eight TDs. Lattimore is also a viable option coming out of thebackfield with a team-high 16 receptions.
Spurrier needs Lattimore to be a factor in this game.
"Two years ago he broke a bunch of tackles. It was one of the most amazingdays I've ever seen a running back have," said Spurrier at his weekly pressconference. "Last year we had holes for him. He broke a few here and there,especially in the second half. It wasn't as many broken tackles last year asit was the first year. He has played very well against them. If we're to winhe probably needs to have another big day."
Both Connor Shaw (571 yards, five TDs) and Dylan Thompson (510 yards, fiveTDs) have seen time under center. Top receiving threats not named Lattimore,include Bruce Ellington (12 receptions, 207 yards), Ace Sanders (12receptions, 110 yards, three TDs) and Damiere Byrd (nine receptions, 246yards, two TDs).
The Gamecocks are getting it done defensively as well this season, limitingfoes to a mere 11.2 ppg (sixth nationally) and just 288.8 yards per outing(13th nationally). Running the football against USC is an act of futility,ranking seventh nationally at a meager 77.6 ypg.
Senior linebackers Quin Smith (26 tackles, two TFLs, one sack) and Shaq Wilson(25 tackles, two INTs) lead the team in tackles, but the playmaker that NFLbrass is salivating over is sophomore rush end Jadeveon Clowney. The 6-foot-6,256-pounder has 21 stops on the year, with nearly half of those coming behindthe line of scrimmage (9.5), with a team-high 5.5 sacks.
It is sure to be an electric atmosphere in Columbia, as both teams look tomove forward in the SEC.
"Normally when we play South Carolina, both teams are undefeated in leagueplay because it's always been the first one," Richt said in Tuesday's pressconference. "This year, both teams have found a way to stay undefeated. So Iknow it's definitely an exciting time for their program and for our program."