South Carolina at Georgia: Pregame thoughts and notes

semerson@macon.comSeptember 7, 2013 

Sanford Stadium four hours before kickoff vs. South Carolina.


Gamecocks sit two players (one for a half)

South Carolina will be without two first-teamers for the first half, and one of them the whole way.

Starting center Cody Waldrop, a game-time decision because of a foot injury, is sitting it out.

Starting cornerback Victor Hampton, who also returns kicks, is suspended for the first half because of a violation of team rules.

Some offensive line juggling

Kolton Houston will start at left guard, with John Theus at right tackle, according to the announced starting lineups. There were indications this week in practice that Georgia might be going that way, and that was also how the team lined up in warmups just now.

Senior Dallas Lee, who started last week at left guard, is the odd man out.

Houston started at right tackle last week, then switched to left tackle during the game. He gave up sacks at each position. Theus, who started every game at right tackle last week, came off the bench.

Country music star Luke Bryan introduced the probably starters. Some notes:

- Ray Drew announced as the starter at defensive end, and Sterling Bailey at the other one, and Garrison Smith at nose guard.

- Josh Harvey-Clemens, to no one's surprise, was announced as the starter at strong safety. (But Harvey-Clemons will play a lot at the star position.) Leonard Floyd was announced as a starting outside linebacker.

- Justin Scott-Wesley and Chris Conley were the announced starters at receiver, leaving out Michael Bennett, but that likely was a gesture to Scott-Wesley for being a captain. Bennett, Conley and now Scott-Wesley are basically co-starters.

In order, the biggest roars for players as they were announced: Todd Gurley, Aaron Murray, Quayvon Hicks, Harvey-Clemons.

Rome and Rumph are out

Aaron Murray will be without more than just Malcolm Mitchell.

Tight end Jay Rome and receiver Jonathan Rumph are each out of uniform and thus will not play in this game. Rome has been dealing with an ankle injury, and Rumph has a hamstring issue.

Earlier in the week head coach Mark Richt said he expected Rumph to be able to play after missing the Clemson game. But evidently the hamstring wasn't healed enough. The 6-foot-5 Rumph wasn't ticketed to be a starter, but he was a potential weapon.

Rome's absence is a bit more of a surprise, though not a shock. He did miss Wednesday's practice with the ankle, and on Tuesday the ankle was wrapped and he was trying to run on it.

Meanwhile, other players not in uniform include outside linebacker Chase Vasser, who's been dealing with some nagging injuries, and junior defensive back Kennar Johnson.

ATHENS - Welcome to the first Georgia home game of the 2013 football season. Hey, remember how last year Georgia began with a nondescript game against a nondescript team (Buffalo)? Well not so much this year. Not only is the first home opponent South Carolina - what with its No. 6 ranking, its three-game win-streak over the Bulldogs, and it's Steve Spurrier - but the home team is coming off an opening-week loss.

Therefore, this one really does seem like its for all the marbles. I mean, it's not, but it's fair to feel that way.

A victory means that, eh, last week wasn't such a big deal. This was the one Georgia really wanted and needed, that Clemson game was really close, and by the way one of the top defensive players was suspended. Georgia beating South Carolina would mean the good feelings are back, and onward and upward with the lofty goals.

A loss means, well, you can double and triple all those ill feelings from this past week. Quadruple them, maybe.

This one is big, there's no evading it. Not as big for the program as some will make it, in the rush to make every game a referendum on the state of things. But it's big for the season, perhaps season-defining.

How do I see it? I've said this on many a radio appearance, and in my live chat and mailbag, but I'll repeat it:

My gut says Georgia comes out and plays a whale of a game and does enough to win. Todd Gurley does his thing, Aaron Murray makes use of whatever time he has to throw, and the defense looks a lot better with Josh Harvey-Clemons flying around.

But my head keeps coming back to the matchup on the lines. Georgia's offensive line doesn't add a Harvey-Clemons this week. It just has to hope it makes a huge Week 1-to-Week 2 improvement. And it must do so against not only Jadeveon Clowney, but Chaz Sutton and Kelcy Quarles. Then there's Georgia's defensive line, which struggled to stop Clemson's run last week, and might be facing a better running attack this week. All told, if this game is decided at both lines of scrimmage, you can't like Georgia's chances.

So I guess we'll see whether my gut or my head is right.

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