ATHENS - Seven thoughts and observations at halftime as No. 11 Georgia and No. 6 South Carolina are tied at 24.
1. Suddenly, Georgia's defense can't stop Shaw, either through the air or the ground. Todd Grantham has to make adjustments or else Georgia's offense may have to get into the 50s to win this one. It'll be interesting to see if the end of the half looms large. Georgia had momentum back and a 24-17 lead, but then it a) allowed South Carolina's Connor Shaw to scramble his way downfield, and then b) freshman cornerback Brendan Langley was absolutely burned on a long bomb to Nick Jones.
2. I got the feeling Mike Bobo was relaxed before the game when I passed him in the press box just before kickoff. Normally he's pretty locked in, but this time he nodded and said hello. The Georgia offensive coordinator has dialed up a near-perfect gameplan, relying heavily on his tailbacks - especially Todd Gurley. The star sophomore had 90 yards on 17 carries in the first half, including a touchdown, and almost had another touchdown, but it was called back on replay. Keith Marshall also has 48 yards on six carries. But also credit the offensive line, which is getting such a better push on run plays than it did at Clemson: At one point Aaron Murray was late handing off to Keith Marshall and the play still gained six yards.
3. Murray has been pretty much perfect. His passes have been much more crisp than last week, and he's been getting rid of the ball quickly, helping render the South Carolina pass rush almost moot. The tone was set on the first pass attempt: Jadeveon Clowney got to Murray and grabbed his shoulder. But Murray got the pass off anyway, and in single coverage Michael Bennett made a great correction, leaping and grabbing it for a 32-yard completion. The pass protection has been better than anticipated, which is partly a credit to the line, but also to Murray making some quicker reads, which I imagine is part of Bobo's gameplan.
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4. Georgia hurt itself last week with turnovers and penalties, but it was kind of lost that Clemson pretty much played mistake-free. Once again, Georgia's opponent is playing mistake-free, while the Bulldogs are providing the help.The first big mistake came from Georgia, again on special teams: Punter Collin Barber couldn't handle a snap right at him, allowing South Carolina to take over at the Georgia 18. One play later, Shaw hit Nick Jones in the corner of the end zone, and it was tied.
5. Mark Richt went for broke, first onside-kicking it after going up 7-3, and it worked. Then he went for it on fourth-and-13 from the 31- and got it, with Murray hitting Justin Scott-Wesley to the 7-yard line. But the Bulldogs eventually had to settle for the field goal. Normally a team that recovers an onsides kick and converts a fourth-and-13 wins ballgames. Should Georgia not feel good that its only tied at the break?
6. Josh Harvey-Clemens hasn't been a difference-maker yet. In fact, neither have Jordan Jenkins or Leonard Floyd. Georgia was trying to force a pocket for Shaw by rushing those three, but Shaw was still finding a way. Connor Norman still playing a lot at safety. He was the strong safety with Harvey-Clemons at the star. (Georgia's defense only gave up three points while Norman was out there, by the way, for those who consider him the weak link.) Once again, the defense is making liberal substitutions on the line, but none in the secondary and hardly any at linebacker.
7. Final analysis: Georgia's offense just needs to keep doing what its doing. The defense needs to have a better plan for Shaw. And the special teams - and the team in general - cannot make any mistakes. The defense, by the way, has yet to force a turnover this season. That will make it hard to win.