When Georgia torched Louisiana-Lafayette for 55 points in the season opener without the services of All-America receiver A.J. Green, a few eyes opened in Columbia.
USC safety Akeem Auguste said the Bulldogs might have scored two more touchdowns with Green in the lineup. And although Green's status remains uncertain until the NCAA rules on his status, the Gamecocks are preparing for big No. 8, a junior from Summerville.
"Most definitely," Auguste said. "We're going in knowing he's going to play. Even if he doesn't, we're still thinking that he is."
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore is preparing for the challenge of lining up against Green.
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"We're calling all our coverages as if he was playing. You just prepare for the offense as a whole," Gilmore said. "I'm looking forward to playing against him. He's a big-time receiver. I'll be ready to see what he's got."
But the USC defenders know the Georgia offense isn't a one-man band, citing an experienced offensive line and solid running game. Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward noted the solid play of freshman quarterback Aaron Murray, who completed 17-of-26 passes for 160 yards and three touchdowns, as well as 42 rushing yards and another touchdown.
"He's real athletic. He can make a lot of plays with his feet," Ward said. "They're trying to keep it simple for him in his reads, but he's kind of dangerous with scrambling and getting out of the pocket and making big plays. The receivers do a good job of moving around when he does scramble."
Auguste, who posted a team-high eight tackles in the 41-13 win against Southern Miss, is pumped about the key SEC matchup.
"We're a lot more experienced and we've got a lot of talent. Hopefully, we're going to match up talent on talent and see who wins," he said. "Whoever comes out victorious seems to have a better year every time."
Center of attention
It's safe to say that T.J. Johnson has a firm grasp on what it takes to play center. After starting all 13 games as a redshirt freshman at right guard last season, when he earned Freshman All-SEC honors, he started his first game at center in USC's season-opening win.
He won the SEC offensive lineman of the week award for his performance. The 6-foot-4, 302-pound sophomore from Aynor also was given a game ball by the USC coaches following the game. Johnson was a big part of an offensive line that paved the way for 449 yards of total offense, an average of 6.9 yards per play.
Both linebacker Shaq Wilson and Allen remain sidelined with hamstring injuries, but both are working their way back. Beamer is confident about Allen.
"We think he'll be good to go," Beamer said. "He did not practice tonight, but we're optimistic for Saturday. He's optimistic and the training staff is optimistic. We need to get Antonio back."
Wilson has missed nearly all of fall camp, and Ward said Tuesday's practice would tell the coaching staff more about where last season's leading tackler stands in his progress.
Safety D.J. Swearinger, who missed the second half of the Southern Miss game with a concussion after getting his legs cut out from under him by a teammate, said he will be ready to go against Georgia. He sat out Monday's practice.
Saturday's game falls on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and South Carolina officials plan to honor local civil servants at halftime.
The South Carolina Highway Patrol, Lexington County Sheriff's Department, Columbia Police, Richland County Sherriff's Department, USC police, Richland County EMTs and Columbia Fire Department all will be recognized at midfield. There also will be a brief reading remembering those killed in the attacks, followed by "Amazing Grace" played on bagpipes by the Palmetto Pipes.
USC is still awaiting word from the NCAA on the playing status of senior cornerback Chris Culliver, who missed last week's game due to NCAA-related issues, and senior offensive tackle Jarriel King, who didn't play against Southern Miss due to Whitney Hotel-related issues.
"It's amazing how big their (wide receivers) are. We have to get ready for that." -- Georgia coach Mark Richt, who already is concerned about the matchup of 6-4 Alshon Jeffery and 6-5 Tori Gurley on his cornerbacks, 5-10 Brandon Boykin and 5-11 Vance Cuff.