By now, South Carolina’s offense knows what it must do to be successful against Georgia on Saturday. The question is, can the Gamecocks do it well enough against the No. 2 Bulldogs.
South Carolina is averaging 184.3 rushing yards in its four SEC wins this year. It is averaging 40 rushing yards in its two conference losses. Which of those numbers it is closest to against Georgia will determine whether or not USC can pull off the upset, and that’s the Big Deal about Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. game
“In the last three weeks against SEC teams, we’ve done a nice job of running the football, and that’s what we need to continue to do to create efficiency in the passing game,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said.
The Bulldogs will make that more difficult. Georgia is second in the SEC and sixth in the nation in rushing defense, allowing 94.8 yards per game on the ground. The four SEC teams South Carolina has rushed for more than 150 yards on this season rank 10th (Missouri), 11th (Arkansas), 12th (Vanderbilt) and 13th (Tennessee) in rushing defense.
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“They are really good up front,” Muschamp said of the Bulldogs. “The thing that jumps out at you is the veteran experience they have. We need to find some ways to run the football and be creative.”
Overall, the Gamecocks are 12th in the SEC in rushing with 123.5 yards per game.
“If we can control the line of scrimmage, get people on their guys, I feel like we can run against any team,” sophomore running back A.J. Turner said.
Turner believes the momentum South Carolina’s running game now has will help against the Bulldogs.
“I feel like now we have a lot more confidence because we are getting a lot more run calls,” he said. “I feel like earlier in the season we didn’t really run the ball like that because we didn’t really get it called.”
The 5-foot-10, 184-pound Turner has emerged as South Carolina’s go-to running back, starting two of the past three games and posting a career-high 121 yards on 15 carries against Vanderbilt last week. He is the team’s second-leading rusher with 267 yards on 49 carries.
“He runs so hard, just so physical, small guy but really puts all his effort and energy into every single run,” quarterback Jake Bentley said.
While Bentley might be the best future pro prospect on the Gamecocks roster, the team has performed better when he has been leaned on the least. In conference games, USC is 0-2 when he throws for more than 200 yards and 4-0 when he throws for fewer than 200 yards in a game.
“We have to be able to run the ball between the tackles and stay balanced,” Bentley said.