Staff predictions, USC-Georgia game preview

September 5, 2013 

Jadeveon Clowney sacks Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray in 2011 in Athens, making him fumble. Melvin Ingram, right, recovered the fumble and scored a touchdown.

FILE PHOTO — The State

Josh Kendall: Murray can't avoid the big mistake

As most of you saw, I picked Georgia to win this game before the season. In fact, immediately after Clemson knocked off the Bulldogs 38-35 in Athens, several of you reached out to me to ask if that was going to change my mind.

The short answer is, yes, but it’s a little more complicated than that. Like most of you who watched Georgia play Saturday, my immediate thought was, “The Bulldogs can’t block anybody, much less one of the SEC’s best defensive lines.” (As an aside, let’s don’t make this Jadeveon Clowney versus the Bulldogs. Georgia is going to have to block Chaz Sutton and Kelcy Quarles, too.)

However, after a little reflection, and listening to Mark Richt’s evaluation of his line, you realize that a lot of Georgia’s up front issues can be cleaned up in a week. Not necessarily will, but can. So I don’t expect the Gamecocks to run through Georgia all afternoon long.

Having said that, my original pick was based on my belief that Georgia’s offensive line could play well enough to keep quarterback Aaron Murray out of situations in which he’ll make “The Big Mistake.” I no longer believe that to be true. If South Carolina can keep Georgia tailback Todd Gurley from having the monster game he is capable of, the Gamecocks will leave Athens 2-0.

Prediction: Gamecocks 30, Bulldogs 28

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David Cloninger: Clowney, colleagues could have sack party

For starters, I predicted that Clemson would beat Georgia by three points last week. Ask my brother. I said I had no idea what the score would be, but I said that Clemson would win by three.

That being said, I’m still stunned that Georgia’s offense could look so good and so bad at the same time. The Bulldogs rolled up 545 yards and lost. How is that possible?

Simple. Left tackle Kenarious Gates couldn’t block a stiff breeze. The rest of Georgia’s offensive line won no prizes for toughness, either. The Bulldogs’ defensive line was getting blown off the ball by the Tigers’ offensive line, more questionable play-calling (fullback dive on third-and-goal from the 3, with Michael Bennett on the field?) and more bad big-game play from Aaron Murray all contributed.

In the preseason, I went back and forth on USC and Georgia. The game’s in Athens. USC has won three straight, and nobody wins forever. I said USC would win because I think the Gamecocks are a more complete team, but I could easily see myself changing my mind later on.

After returning from Clemson, no way I change my mind. Georgia’s weakness is USC’s strength. Not disregarding Vic Beasley’s ability, but if he can get two sacks on Murray, imagine what Jadeveon Clowney and Chaz Sutton can get.

Prediction: Gamecocks 28, Bulldogs 21

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