South Carolina was off Saturday while two future opponents battled each other. The Gamecocks likely took the opportunity to do advance scouting, which could come in handy in two weeks.
What USC might have seen from Georgia, its Sept. 13 opponent, on Saturday in a 45-21 win against Clemson:
It worked when Georgia gave the ball to its best player, Todd Gurley. He had two touchdowns in the first half, which wasn’t surprising, but he touched the ball six times. The Bulldogs seemed to be saving him for the fourth quarter on a muggy night, but he was moving the Bulldogs downfield while Keith Marshall wasn’t.
After being held on its first drive, Georgia began attacking the edges of Clemson’s defense. Left tackle John Theus did a marvelous job on Tigers sack-master Vic Beasley, pushing him back and keeping quarterback Hutson Mason clean. With Gurley able to collect yards any time he wanted and Mason finding Michael Bennett alone or one-on-one with Clemson’s secondary, Georgia didn’t miss injured/suspended receivers Malcolm Mitchell or Justin Scott-Wesley.
It didn’t work when the Bulldogs didn’t take advantage of their momentum. Aaron Davis jumped a route and made a fingertip interception of the Tigers’ Cole Stoudt, and Georgia decided to rest Gurley, which resulted in a three-and-out in a tie game.
USC’s concern is stopping Gurley. If he returns kicks as he did against Clemson, Joe Robinson would be advised to tell Landon Ard to kick out of bounds. Don’t give that guy extra chances. The middle of the field that was so wide open for Texas A&M wasn’t used much by Georgia, but if Mitchell (not likely) or Scott-Wesley (maybe) can suit up, the Bulldogs are that much more dangerous.
The Gamecocks had no pass rush against the Aggies’ offensive front, and while Georgia’s line isn’t as beefy, it’s experienced. Theus squashed Beasley; what could he do against ends that don’t have Beasley’s accolades?
It worked by forcing third downs. The Bulldogs weren’t burned many times and mostly had Clemson’s offense working side-to-side, without a lot of deep shots downfield. It also helped when Clemson dropped three early passes, two where Georgia’s defenders met the receiver and jarred the ball loose.
It didn’t work on third-and-short. Georgia forced the situations but couldn’t take advantage. The Tigers picked up two fourth downs inside the 5-yard-line. The Bulldogs gave up seven third downs in their first 12 tries but settled down in the second half.
USC might have seen weaknesses in the middle of Georgia’s line. The Tigers had running backs exploiting them and Clemson’s backs, while talented, aren’t like USC’s stable. If the Gamecocks can establish an early run game against Georgia, perhaps Mike Davis enters Marcus Lattimore territory when it comes to playing the Bulldogs.
Stoudt, who isn’t given enough credit for his mobility, was also able to pick up quick blitzes and move past them. That favors USC, not so much for Dylan Thompson, but for Pharoh Cooper. The Bulldogs also proved susceptible to the deep ball, something Thompson does well and on which he scored two touchdowns against A&M.