Heading into this Sunday’s matchup — yes, Sunday — with Georgia (3-2, 1-2) at Williams-Brice Stadium, South Carolina (2-3, 1-3) will have an opportunity to halt its two-game losing streak. In addition to Georgia, South Carolina will be facing the fury of Hurricane Matthew, which is supposed to reach the Carolina coast anywhere from Friday to Saturday afternoon.
In preparation for this SEC East duel, Today’s U caught up with UGASports.com managing editor Anthony Dasher to gauge what kind of challenge the Gamecocks must confront. Dasher answered several key questions hovering around this game before South Carolina and the Dawgs take the field.
1. With Nick Chubb returning from injury, how do you expect the running back workload to be distributed?
Dasher: Nick had been given 100-percent clearance per coach Smart, but it remains to be see how much more action he will get. Personally, I’d anticipate around 10-12 carries, but I can’t see them letting him overdo it, especially with Sony Michel and freshman Brian Herrien having also been impressive thus far. Right now, I’d guess all three of those backs getting anywhere between 10 and 15 carries each.
2. Eason has shown all the potential in the world and has a high ceiling, which makes sense as a 5-star prospect, but with a completion percentage just over 50. Is he performing better than the stats would suggest?
Dasher: He’s made some freshman mistakes, most young quarterbacks do. That said, in the Missouri and Ole Miss games he had a total of 12 passes dropped or his percentage would be considerably better than what it is. There’s no questioning the young man’s arm, though. It’s the best I’ve seen since Matt Stafford, and the throw he made late to Riley Ridley against Tennessee was one of the best I’ve ever seen. Yes, he will still make mistakes, but so far he’s been a very poised young man. We’ll see how he responds.
3. What do you make of Kirby Smart’s 95 percent / 5 percent comment to the media after the loss to Tennessee?
Dasher: All he meant was 95 percent of his kids were doing the right thing, playing disciplined football, but there was another 5-percent of kids who weren’t. He was just making a point that playing undisciplined can cost you a game as we saw when Rico McGraw ran on the field without his helmet following Eason’s touchdown pass to Ridley. That play forced Georgia to kickoff from its 20, and we know what happened next.
4. Against the Vols, Georgia allowed Dobbs to extend a few plays and he made the Bulldogs pay on a few occasions. South Carolina QB Brandon McIlwain has a similar skill set as a dual-threat player. How do you expect Georgia to try to counter that ability?
Dasher: While I don’t think you’ll see Georgia utilize a “spy,” I do think you’ll see the defense play a lot of dime packages where it will be the job of the nickel Maurice Smith to try and keep Brandon contained. Georgia actually did a better job on Dobbs than they did a year ago when he rushed for over 100 yards, but you’re right, containing McIlwain is a big concern for the Bulldogs.
5. What is the weakness of the Georgia defense in 2016?
Dasher: It’s young. There’s not a single senior starting and the defensive line is rotating four true freshman in and out of the lineup. While they did a better job last week, Georgia still hasn’t gotten many sacks and the secondary has been susceptible to giving up big plays.
6. South Carolina has held its opponents to under 20 points in three of its five games this season and has a lot of experience on that side of the ball. What should we expect Georgia to attack this Saturday?
Dasher: You’ll see Georgia try what it always attempts to do– establish the run to set up the play-action pass with Eason. Last week the Bulldogs did a better job on first downs, and that is obviously something that they’d like to continue doing against South Carolina to keep Eason out of as many second and third-and-longs as possible. Last week, the Bulldogs finally got freshman tight end Isaac Nauta into the flow of the offense for the first time, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see offensive coordinator attempt to utilize him, along with fellow tight ends Jeb Blazevich and Charlie Woerner even more in this game.
Give Dasher a follow on Twitter at @AnthonyDasher1 and read his work at UGA.Rivals.com.