Georgia - South Carolina Preview
GEORGIA-SOUTH CAROLINA A TOP SIX BATTLE FOR THE SEC EAST CHAMPIONSHIP
Yes, Florida may have something to say about that before the season is said and done. But, right now, the best expectation is that Saturday night's Georgia-South Carolina winner will represent the SEC East in the conference championship game come December.
If Georgia wins, they will be favored to win out because the Florida game will be on a neutral field in Jacksonville, and an easy draw from the SEC West only has Auburn and Ole Miss on the remaining slate. Missouri and Tennessee are in the rearview mirror. Georgia will be in GREAT shape to win the East if they can knock off the Gamecocks. Not only will they be in position to run the table. But, they'd own the tie-breaker with South Carolina if they were to stub their toe along the way.
If South Carolina wins, they still have some work to do the next two weeks at LSU and at Florida. Yes, that's a tough challenge to be sure. But, if they can split those games...then SC would own the tie-breaker against one-loss Georgia. There's a difference here between "great shape" (Georgia) and "in the driver's seat controlling their destiny" (South Carolina). Obviously this is the game that stirs the drink.
Each team enters Saturday's battle with a top six national ranking that looks to be deserved. We're not seeing anything from these teams that would match what Alabama's doing on a week-in, week-out basis. But, few teams have managed that in recent seasons. There are so many question marks nationally at the moment because of off-performances and lack of quality depth. We largely haven't seen those kinds of efforts from these two teams. South Carolina had to sweat its opener at Vandy because of a quarterback injury. Georgia's defense disappointed vs. Tennessee last week, but the offense gained 560 yards in a high scoring win.
Let's run the matchup through our gauntlet of key indicators...
GEORGIA at SOUTH CAROLINA (7 p.m. on ESPN)
Las Vegas Spread: South Carolina by 2.5, total of 57
Home field advantage is worth three points generally in football, sometimes more at certain sites. The fact that this Vegas spread has stayed below a field goal tells you that the market thinks Georgia is the slightly better team. They'd be a very small favorite at a neutral site, and then slightly more than a field goal at home. As you market followers know...if the sharps liked South Carolina, they would have jumped in right away before any move to a key number. That didn't happen.
CURRENT AP POLL RANKINGS
S. Carolina: #6
The SEC has been dominant in recent seasons in terms of the national championship. They currently have four of the top six teams in the AP Poll heading into this weekend. Could that set up a possible championship rematch again? With Alabama facing a team they've already beaten? Or, maybe Alabama gets upset by LSU or in the SEC Championship game but still gets to play for the title? That's not going to happen if Oregon or Florida State runs the table. Still plenty of time for "BCS Chaos" to rear its ugly head. The winner of this game will benefit from any chaos that happens. Oh, in terms of the rankings, Georgia-South Carolina is the best and most important game played so far this season!
Georgia: Mark Richt
S. Carolina: Steve Spurrier
Great coaching matchup...and one that's yielded some wild and crazy games in recent seasons. Neither coach is afraid to gamble. Both coaches have soft spots that can be exploited. Both coaches recruit playmakers who are capable of busting loose at the drop of a hat. No lead is ever safe when these teams play each other. That's largely because of the characteristics of their dynamic but flawed head coaches. Note that Richt will be feeling more pressure to get the job done here just because he's spent more time on the hot seat in recent seasons. The 2012 schedule laid out very nicely for Georgia to make a national statement. This is the week their voice needs to be heard...or the voices of thousands of naysayers will fill the airwaves in Athens.
Georgia: Aaron Murray
S. Carolina: Connor Shaw
Murray is the more dynamic passer. Shaw is one of those guys who either gets the job done, or gets yelled at by Spurrier for not quite doing enough. Well, Spurrier quarterbacks typically get yelled at even when they are doing enough! It takes a special kid to play this position for "the old ball coach." Shaw has moxie. Murray has more talent, and more big play potential in the air. Though both teams are versatile, this game will likely come down to what Georgia does in the air vs. what South Carolina does on the ground.
LAST WEEK'S BOXES
GEORGIA 51, TENNESSEE 44
Total Yardage: Tennessee 478, Georgia 560
Rushing Yards: Tennessee 197, Georgia 282
Passing Stats: Tennessee 24-45-3-289, Georgia 19-25-1-278
Turnovers: Tennessee 4, Georgia 3
Third Downs: Tennessee 53%, Georgia 55%
Vegas Line: Georgia by 14, total of 58
Georgia was supposed to have one of the most dominant defenses in the country this year. They showed some surprising softness early if you dug through the numbers, and then really struggled here in a game they were supposed to put away. If you're a 14-point home favorite, you're not supposed to be allowing 44 points and 478 yards to the team that disappeared down the stretch vs. Florida! Georgia did force turnovers, which is something they'll need to do Saturday Night as well. We said no lead was safe when these teams played each other. South Carolina is more dangerous than Tennessee, so you can imagine the explosive possibilities.
SOUTH CAROLINA 38, KENTUCKY 17
Total Yardage: S. Carolina 348, Kentucky 243
Rushing Yards: S. Carolina 200, Kentucky 120
Passing Stats: S. Carolina 15-19-0-148, Kentucky 13-24-2-123
Turnovers: S. Carolina 1, Kentucky 2
Third Downs: S. Carolina 50%, Kentucky 43%
Vegas Line: South Carolina by 20, total of 47
Solid stuff here, even though total yardage didn't blow the doors off of anything. Carolina rushed for 200 yards on the road, and controlled the flow of the game on both sides of the ball. Note that Kentucky could only pass for 123 yards while throwing two interceptions. We expect more wide open play this week for the Gamecocks. It's a good sign for them though that they can win a game that doesn't blow open just by running the ball and keeping their defense fresh. That will be the plan anyway.
This might be one of those games that's better to watch than to pick just because so many meetings come down to the wire where one or two crazy plays determines who wins straight up and who covers. The key to making money in Las Vegas isn't hoping that coin flip games go your way...it's finding the games that oddsmakers have misread!
That being said, there is the potential for true line value here if you can get a good read on the edges that matter most. South Carolina is very cheap at home if you can make a quality case for the Gamecocks. The market respects Georgia. Maybe the Bulldogs won't even need the points. That's a fairly common result when you see a line stick at 2.5 for an extended period.
JIM HURLEY will decide early Saturday if this game will be part of the mix for clients. It could qualify as a monster...but might also settle in nicely as an entry in a TV Triple Crown. Other games we're looking at include: LSU at Florida, West Virginia at Texas, Arizona at Stanford, Oklahoma at Texas Tech, Miami at Notre Dame, Nebraska at Ohio State, and Washington at Oregon. WHAT A DAY!
You can always purchase game day releases right here at the website with your credit card. Start building your bankrolls Friday with the best from Pittsburgh-Syracuse and Utah State-BYU. Then race back Saturday morning for some of our biggest releases this season. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.
Georgia-South Carolina could easily turn out to be the SEC East Championship game. When championships are on the line, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!
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