This is a "cat and mouse" affair if there ever was one. Coach Steve Spurrier knows that Marcus Lattimore's performance in 2010 embarrassed Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham and the Georgia defense. Conventional wisdom says that the Ole Ball Coach will give them more of that medicine this year. It is important to note, however, that there are many words to describe the long time Georgia nemesis, and conventional is not one of them.
Expect South Carolina to try and break the Dawgs' jaw early. The run game is more effective when the offense is already ahead, so the Gamecocks' defense will come out trying to hit the big play in the play action passing game. It would not be at all surprising if the Gamecocks played off of their "I" formation run tendency on first down (53% Isolation or Sprint Draw) to attack the UGA defense with play action plays down the field.
Whether that plan works or not, expect South Carolina to settle into their normal game plan and do what they do best--feed Marcus Lattimore. They will look to get him in excess of 30 touches in the game while continuing to take shots with play action and screens to their other playmakers, Alshon Jeffery and Ace Sanders.
The Gamecocks might come out, after seeing the Boise State film, and hit the Dawgs with a short and calculated passing game, but that certainly does not play to their offensive strengths. If this were to be the case, it would play into UGA's favor.
The Georgia Defense vs. South Carolina's Offense
Luckily for Coach Grantham and the UGA defense, playing assignment football will combat any offensive game plan. One reason fans have not heard the UGA defensive staff harp on Lattimore's performance from a year ago is because they understand that South Carolina is no "one trick pony."
USC has talent in multiple areas of the offense and overplaying one particular aspect could be a recipe for disaster. Expect the UGA defense to come out in their base set and have confidence that they are better against the run than they were a year ago. They will expect Nose Tackles Kwame Geathers and Jonathan Jenkins to do their job and contain USC's super sophomore.
Also look for UGA to use Sanders Commings when defending Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery is the type of receiver that doesn't necessarily have to beat the coverage. When he is covered, he can just beat the man. Sanders Commings is Georgia's biggest corner at 6'2" 217 pounds. Even if the UGA staff uses Commings size to neutralize the size of Jeffery, expect them to bracket the South Carolina pass catcher with a safety over the top as well.
The South Carolina Defense vs. Georgia's Offense
This game plan will be simple, familiar, and traditionally effective against UGA. USC Defensive Coordinator Ellis Johnson is always going to do what his defenses do best. Fortunately for the Gamecocks, their strength matches up well with what they saw Boise State do to Georgia in the dome.
Coach Johnson will attack the Georgia offense with a base pass rush most of the time. His philosophy is to allow few yards on first down, attack on second down, then become unpredictable on third down. Expect nothing different from the South Carolina Defense on Saturday.
One possible wrinkle the Dawgs might see is Coach Johnson's "Panther Package" on any down where UGA goes with Shotgun or Spread Personnel. If that happens on early downs, expect him to support his defensive linemen with inside blitzes.
The Georgia Offense vs. South Carolina's Defense
Expect the Dawgs to come out and attack Ellis Johnson's defense with efforts to get the ball in space. UGA has always had success attacking Johnson's defense with toss sweeps and outside zone plays out of the shotgun.
UGA's screen game seemed non existent against Boise State, but they can ill afford to let the South Carolina pass rush attack without giving them some things to think about. Gamecock corners C.C. Whitlock and Staphon Gilmore are talented cover corners but have been known to struggle to bring down ball carriers and it would be fitting for Coach Mike Bobo to attack them with perimeter screens and hitches. No matter how you slice it, expect UGA's screen game to return in week two.
Lastly, expect UGA to pick up where they left off in attacking defenses with play action passes to the tight end. Orson Charles had a huge game against the Broncos and USC's safeties and linebackers struggled to lock down the middle of the field against East Carolina.