Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 04, 2018 at 9:05 pm.

Gamecocks host Bulldogs in SEC East battle

Things get serious in a hurry for South Carolina this week. After rolling to a 49-15 victory over the Sun Belt’s Coastal Carolina, the newly ranked No. 23 Gamecocks (1-0) host No. 3 Georgia in what could be a telling game for their conference fortunes.

The Bulldogs (1-0) are coming off a 45-0 blanking of an FCS foe, Austin Peay, in their opener. They enter Southeastern Conference play as the East Division favorite while the Gamecocks are hoping to be a contender in the division.

“They’ve got a really good football team with a bunch of good players, a bunch of guys that played for a national championship last year,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “That experience certainly is benefitting them moving forward. We’re looking forward to it.”

As is usually the case among conference colleagues, the Gamecocks are very familiar with the Bulldogs. Both teams faced overmatched opponents in their respective opener.

“Knowing our structure and their structure, and how we do things, this game has been game-planned for this summer,” Muschamp said. “We’re just kind of brushing up the game plan this week, and I’m sure they’re doing the same.”

One thing that South Carolina did that could help the Gamecocks in their running game is the up-tempo offense they have adopted. The Gamecocks rushed for 276 yards against the Chanticleers. Last year they rushed for only 43 yards against the Bulldogs.

“When you watch teams that play with tempo and how effective they are running the football, a lot of it has nothing to do with getting a hat on a hat in the running game,” Muschamp said. “A lot of it has to do with the displacement of the defensive player not getting aligned, not having his eyes in the right spots.”

Running the ball effectively could open the passing game led by junior quarterback Jake Bentley and receiver Deebo Samuel. Bentley passed for 250 yards against Coastal Carolina and Samuel had 56 of that on seven receptions.

“In order to create some explosive plays in the passing game especially, you need to be able to run the ball and stay balanced to create one-on-ones down the field,” Muschamp said. “There’s no question that was a big part of it.”