COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina returns to action after a much-needed bye week hoping to keep that winning feeling alive.
The last time the Gamecocks saw the field, they claimed a 24-7 win over Kentucky snapping a 5-game losing streak to the Wildcats. This week, Will Muschamp and company hope to end another streak when they take on No. 3 Georgia at Sanford Stadium at noon Saturday.
The Bulldogs have won the last four meetings between the two teams and hope to add another victory to remain in the hunt for one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff.
Taking snaps at quarterback is senior Jake Fromm, who has completed just over 77% of his passes while throwing eight touchdowns and no interceptions this season.
“Very accurate with the football,” said Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp. “A lot of command in what they do offensively. Obviously, he's had a lot of turns and reps, but just an overall really good football player.
However, it is the Bulldogs’ rushing game that has proven to be their signature under Kirby Smart. Georgia is among the top 15 teams in the country when it comes to rushing offense averaging 250 yards on the ground per game. Led by junior running back D’Andre Swift, the defending SEC East champions have at least three tailbacks on their roster who can be dangerous once they’re handed the ball.
“They're really talented at running back and they're really talented on their offensive line,” said Muschamp, “and they got a quarterback that gets 'em in and out of the right run schemes. So, when you mix all that together, that mixes for a pretty good run game.”
South Carolina has done well against the run this year. The Gamecocks have given up an average of 139 yards per game.
Defensively, Georgia boasts one of the best defenses in the country. The Bulldogs give up an average of just under 279 yards, which is good for 13th in the country, while they are among the top 10 teams in scoring defense surrendering 10.8 points per game.
“Defensively, very deep and talented,” Muschamp said about the Georgia defense. “On the front seven, they play a lot of guys up front, and roll guys in there, play hard, play tough, play physical, but two guys that jump out at me is the two safeties, Reed and LeCounte are really good football players. They erase a lot of things, tackle well in space, make a lot of communication, obviously, in what they do defensively, and those guys do a really nice job.”
The Gamecocks will likely rely on a balanced offense against Georgia. In the run game, Muschamp will call on Rico Dowdle and Tavien Feaster to once again lead the way. With both running back reaching more than 100 yards against Kentucky, the Gamecocks are hoping their friendly competition can pay off the same way this week.
“I think that competition helps you and when you have a deep, talented roster and that's what we're building to and it takes time,” Muschamp said. “It's frustrating at times, but a** on bench, it's the best motivator we've got and I say it all the time. They all want to play and they all want to be out there and they all want to start and they all want to be on the field. So, there's no question. Competition is a great motivator for us.”
While a productive run game will help against this defense, the Gamecocks are also hoping to be successful through the air. With that in mind, quarterback Ryan Hilinski will look to get Bryan Edwards and Shi Smith involved against the Georgia secondary. Combined, Edwards and Smith have 45 catches for 568 yards and four touchdowns.
South Carolina faces Georgia in Athens at noon on Saturday. The game can be seen on ESPN.