The SEC East will be on tap as one of the featured matchups in the 2012 college football season, as the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs travel north to Columbia to battle the No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks. It may the game of the week for some, but it is just another classic contest in the SEC. But while this game could come down to the Bulldogs’ offense against the gamecock’s defense, don’t sleep on the fact that this game will feature a heavy dose of Marcus Lattimore in the ground game for South Carolina.
Less than one calendar year removed from tearing up his knee, Lattimore looks to get things going against a Georgia team in which he has torched in his first two meetings against the Bulldogs. As a true freshman in 2010, Lattimore carried the ball 37 times for 182 yards in a 17-6 win over the Bulldogs. Last season, South Carolina won a 45-42 shootout in Athens. With the game on the line, Lattimore carried it 13 times for 95 yards… in the fourth quarter.
But this year has not been quite the start that many expected from Lattimore. Sure, the Gamecocks are 5-0 and 3-0 in SEC games, but it has been the strong play of running quarterback Connor Shaw who has truly helped the Gamecocks on offense the most. When they take on the 5-0 Bulldogs, who are also 3-0 in SEC play in 2012, South Carolina will need the old Lattimore to return if they are to defeat Georgia for the third straight time.
It should be noted that the Bulldogs have never dropped three in a row in this rivalry that began in 1894. That does not exactly bode well for Steve Spurrier and his Gamecocks. Neither does the fact that Georgia will probably remember what Spurrier said about them before this season.
Spurrier joked that he wished that SEC could move their game against Georgia from early September as it has been for several years to October, as it would help the Bulldogs, who usually have a couple of key players suspended for offseason transgressions to start the season.
The Bulldogs may not be laughing when they take the field this evening.
Regardless, both teams will have to be on top of their games if they wish to remain unscathed in the conference and overall. One team will move to 6-0 and 4-0 in SEC play and move up a spot or two. The other will suffer their first defeat and likely drop out of the top 10 in the rankings. It will also dampen their chances of hoping to compete for an SEC Championship, as well as a BCS Championship.
The Gamecocks are a -1.5 favorite entering tonight’s game against the Bulldogs, which was also partly due to the fact that Georgia will be without its’ top receiver for the rest of the season, as Michael Bennett tore his ACL in practice this week. With one of the top offenses in the country, Bennett will be missed, although they have enough players who can step up in his absence. South Carolina has fewer dynamic options on offense, and will need Lattimore to resemble the running back he was prior to damaging his knee on October 15 last year.