THE TEN AT 10:
1. To run or pass against South Carolina? That is the question.
The Gamecocks enter Saturday’s game in Columbia ranked last in the SEC in total defense at 566.5 yards and 13th in points allowed (37.5 pg). But the majority of the Gamecocks’ problems have come against the pass. Texas A&M and East Carolina both employ pass-oriented, spread offenses and threw for a combined 832 yards against South Carolina.
Conversely, the Gamecocks have given up 150 yards a game rushing. But five of the nine touchdowns they’ve allowed have come on the ground.
But it’s no quandary as far as Georgia right tackle Kolton Houston is concerned. The 6-foot-5, 287-pound senior was a big reason the Bulldogs were able to rush for 328 yards in the 45-21, season-opening win over Clemson. Many of those yards – 211 in all – came in the fourth quarter as Georgia ran toss sweeps to Houston’s side of the line.
“At Georgia, our offense is based off the run,” Houston said. “Right now, we’re weak on receivers and outside skill players. So we’ve got to put this game on our backs. We can’t get in third and longs. We can’t let the crowd noise start to affect us like last year at Clemson. That’s what happened there, we got into third and long every drive. You can’t do that on the road. So we’ve got to establish the run and go from there.”
2. Clearly, tailback Todd Gurley remains the Bulldogs’ primary offensive weapon. Aside from conserving energy for the second half, it could be argued he needs the ball a little more heading into the South Carolina game. Just 16 of Georgia’s 67 offensive plays (23.8 percent) went to him against Clemson, though he averaged 12.1 yards on those touches.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was asked if he thought the Gamecocks were capable of containing the Bulldogs’ 6-foot-1, 226-pound featured attraction.
“Oh, geez, ask me after the game, OK?” Spurrier said. “We’ll try our best to see if we can. We haven’t slowed down the other team a lot. We have to have hopes and beliefs. We’ll see if we can or not.”
Actually, South Carolina has done a pretty good job on Gurley the last couple of years. Two years ago, when the Bulldogs lost 35-7 at Williams-Brice Stadium, the Gamecocks held Gurley to his lowest total as a collegian – 39 yards on 13 carries. Last year, Gurley was more of a workhorse than a racehorse for Georgia. He finished with 132 yards on 30 carries and a touchdown.
Combined, that’s an average of 85.5 yards on 21.5 carries in the two games.
“He’s a big, strong back,” Spurrier said. “He and the quarterback at Oregon (Marcus Mariota) are the Heisman leaders right now. Hopefully we can slow him down a bit. But he’s going to get his yards, there’s no question about that. He’s going to get yards against everybody. They ran out the last nine minutes of the game on us last year. So, of course, we know they’re capable of doing that.”
3. Gurley is not the only one who might need more touches against South Carolina, according to Georgia coach Mark Richt. Richt was asked on his radio call-in show Monday night if he thought tailback Nick Chubb deserved more carries after his performance against Clemson. The 5-10, 228-pound freshman from Cedartown got just four carries in the game – all in the second half – but finished with 70 yards and scored on a 47-yard, tackle-breaking run.
“I would have to think he’ll get a few more carries,” Richt said. “That’s a lot of guys to share the ball with, but Nick certainly earned the right to carry the ball more the way he ran it. I also think he’s become a very conscientious pass protector and all the things that you need to do. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get it a little bit more, but we’ll just have to see how the game is going.”
Any additional carries for Chubb would likely come at the expense of fellow freshman Sony Michel or junior Keith Marshall. Michel had six rushes and three receptions for a total of 53 yards against Clemson while Marshal totaled eight yards on six carries.
4. Lastly on Gurley, it’s not like it’s a revelation or anything, but Richt on Monday made his strongest admission yet that he expects this to be the star tailback’s last season in Athens.
“It would probably be tough for a guy like him to stick around another year, quite frankly,” Richt said on his call-in show.
It’s ridiculously early for such things but, according to mock drafts on walterfootball.com, Gurley is projected as the No. 5 pick to the Cleveland Browns and the 10th pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Bottom line, if he stays healthy he’s expected to be an early first-rounder, which is good reason to bolt.
5. Speaking for future pros, Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd had his 22nd birthday on Monday. But he wasn’t ready to celebrate it quite yet. He said he planned to do that on Saturday at South Carolina.
“Maybe I’ll get some more sacks,” he said. “That’d be good.”
Floyd is currently tied for the SEC lead with an average of 2.0 sacks per game. The Gamecocks’ offensive line has allowed three sacks in two games.
6. As for current pros, Georgia’s presence is being felt in the NFL one week into the season. The Bulldogs have former lettermen leading the league in three statistical categories.
- Miami running back Knowshon Moreno leads the league in rushing. He had 134 on 24 carries and a touchdown in the Dolphins’ 33-20 win over New England.
- Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green leads the league in receiving with 131 yards on six catches, including a 77-yard game-winner late in the fourth quarter of a 23-16 victory over Baltimore.
- Kansas City outside linebacker Justin Houston leads the league in quarterback sacks. He had two Sunday in the Chiefs’ 26-10 home loss to Tennessee. That’s 28.5 in Houston’s three seasons in Kansas City.
Georgia had a chance to also have the league’s leading passer. But Matthew Stafford’s 346 yards and two touchdowns (on 22-of-32 passing) in Detroit’s 35-14 win over the New York Giants Monday night came up well short of Matt Ryan’s 448 yards for the Falcons.
7. Speaking of former Bulldogs, Georgia has a couple of them that stand a good change of winning $10 million over the coming weekend.
Two UGA alums – Bubba Watson (2000-01) and Chris Kirk (‘04-07) — are among the top five players in the FedEx Cup standings heading into this week’s T Championship at Atlanta’s East Lake Country Club. That means that they are in prime position to claim the $10 million bonus that comes with winning the FedEx trophy.
Kirk and Watson are ranked 1 and 3, respectively, coming into this week’s competition. Billy Horschel is No. 2 and Rory McIlroy and Hunter Mahan are 4 and 5. Only players in the top five are assured of winning the FedEx Cup by winning the Tour Championship.
“It’s obviously what everyone is hoping for starting off the year, to be in that kind of position going into Atlanta,” said Kirk, a native of Woodstock and a graduate of Etowah High School. “I couldn’t be happier. It was definitely a goal of mine for this year. I’m not a big goal-setting guy, but it’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a while now. I’m glad I was able to pull it off.”
If either Kirk or Watson wins the Tour Championship, they’ll win the cup and the grand prize. Russell Henley and Brendon Todd, the two other Bulldogs in the field, also have scenarios in which they could claim the Cup with a victory but it is dependent on how others finish.
8. Georgia will be one of several major college athletics programs across the nation to take part in a study aimed to improve the understanding of concussions and how to reduce their prevalence in sports. The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics met Monday to discuss the concussion crisis and outline the NCAA’s plan to implement new medical guidelines, conduct further research and develop future safety initiatives.
The Bulldogs’ football program already is considered to be at the forefront of concussion treatment. UGA has in its training facility a state-of-the-art machine that monitors and measures the severity of concussion symptoms. Players aren’t allowed to return to the field of play until they achieve a certain threshold.
Earlier this year, starting fullback Merritt Hall was medically disqualified after suffering the latest in a long line of concussions during his prep and college career.
9. Georgia freshman goalkeeper Louise Hogrell was named SEC defensive player of the week on Monday after recording two shutouts over the weekend. It marks the second weekly honor of the Hogrell’s young career as she was named the SEC freshman of the week on Aug. 25.
A native of Asa, Sweden, Hogrell already has shutouts this season. In six outings, she has allowed multiple goals only once. She recorded three saves over the weekend and now has 16 on the year to go along with a 0.80 goals-against average in over 565 minutes of action.
The Bulldogs (4-1-1) play two games this weekend, Friday night at home against Mercer and Sunday on the road at Furman.
10. This & that: Junior Justin Scott-Wesley returned to the practice field on Monday but in a run-only capacity. Richt has already said neither he nor Malcolm Mitchell is expected to play against South Carolina. … Jonathon Rumph, another promising receiver, is sidelined with a hamstring injury. … Junior left tackle John Theus, who missed two practices last week with an ankle injury, returned on Monday and was able to participate without limitations. … Five members of Georgia men’s tennis team were included in the ITA preseason rankings released Monday: Junior Austin Smith (No. 12), senior Nathan Pasha (17), junior Ben Wagland (50) and junior Nick Wood is No. 89. In doubles, Wagland and redshirt freshman Paul Oosterbaan were ranked 26th. … In the women’s tennis rankings, Lady Dogs senior Lauren Herring and junior Silvia Garcia earned the Nos. 6 and 9 spots, respectively. The pair was placed 10th in the doubles rankings.