COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina interim head coach Mike Bobo is all too familiar with the border rivalry between the Gamecocks and the ninth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs.
Bobo played quarterback for the Bulldogs from 1994 to 1997 and returned to Athens in 2001 as Georgia’s quarterbacks coach under Mark Richt. On Saturday, Bobo hopes to coach the Gamecocks to a victory over his alma mater.
“I could sit here and say, ‘Hey, it’s another opponent. We’ve got to get ready to play,’ and that’s all true,” Bobo said, “but it’s more excitement in the air because there’s a lot of history there. There’s a lot of people I know on the other side of the ball, not just the red Georgia, but in Coach, known since we were childhood friends. And then, I know when I played there and when I coached there, it was always tough to come over here and play. Now, we’re not going to have 85,000 people in the stands, but it was a tough place to come play at Williams-Brice Stadium.”
Georgia (5-2) is coming off of a hard-fought 31-24 win over Mississippi State last week. Behind the play of transfer quarterback JT Daniels, Georgia found success against Mike Leach’s team and are looking to keep their success on offense going against Carolina.
“I think we’ve got to get ready to obviously play some things or play against some of the things they did last week offensively because he’s a different guy,” said Bobo. “He’s a thrower and Stetson was a thrower, too, and he ran around a little bit, but I think they’re always going to have an element to want to run the ball and be physical because of who they are, the size that they have, and the backs that they have.”
In Daniels’ only game of the year, he was 28-of-38 passing for 401 yards and four touchdowns.
“They threw it a lot more than they have in the past few games,” said Gamecocks redshirt senior defensive back Jaylan Foster. “He has a talented arm. He can make all the throws, but that really doesn’t change our gameplan. We worry about South Carolina and South Carolina only.”
Daniels will have several weapons to throw to this weekend. That starts with the Bulldogs’ leading wide receiver Kearis Jackson. In seven games, Jackson has 31 catches for 451 yards and three touchdowns. Georgia will also have 6-foot-3, 200-pound sophomore wide receiver George Pickens at their disposal. This season, Pickens has 21 catches for 227 yards and three touchdowns. If they weren’t enough to worry about, add the production of Jermaine Burton this season. Burton has 18 catches for 327 yards and three scores. Of course, that’s just detailing the weapons in the Georgia passing game.
The Bulldogs have relied heavily on its rushing attack and this year, they haven’t abandoned that philosophy. Zamir White has rushed 108 times for 530 yards and seven scores.
In all, Georgia averages just over 29 points and just under 387 yards per game.
Defensively, the Bulldogs are among the SEC’s best. Kirby Smart’s team is second in the league in scoring defense (21.3 points allowed per game), first in rushing defense (74.1 yards per game), second in sacks (20), and second in total defense (347.4 yards per game).
The Bulldogs are led on defense by sophomore linebacker Nakobe Dean with 61 tackles. Redshirt sophomore Azeez Ojulari has made his presence felt in the backfield this year with 7.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. In the secondary, Eric Stokes leads the charge with three interceptions
If the Gamecocks hope to have some success against the Bulldogs, it may have to come through the passing game. Georgia is 10th in the conference in passing defense, allowing 273.3 yards per game. However, Carolina will likely have to do it without the help of Shi Smith, who was in concussion protocol following last week’s game against Missouri, was listed as doubtful on Tuesday by Bobo.
But the interim head coach does have one surprise left up his sleeve. That’s his starting quarterback. Bobo didn’t announce who would take the snaps for the Gamecocks at that position this week, but many fans are hoping it’s freshman Luke Doty. The Myrtle Beach product injected energy into the Gamecocks’ offense last week after helping the team produce 14 second-half points after being shut out in the first two quarters.
“If Luke’s your quarterback, I think, one, we have to work a lot more on those scramble rules,” Bobo said. “If something’s covered, he’s going to break out of the pocket and either look to run or look to throw. So, sometimes, you don’t work those as maybe as much as you would if you didn’t have a mobile quarterback, but that’s where a lot of big plays are generated.”
South Carolina will take on Georgia on Senior Night at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
The game will be televised on the SEC Network.