UGA-South Carolina: Position breakdown, edges

semerson@macon.comOctober 6, 2012 

Compiled by GoGamecocks' Josh Kendall and Seth Emerson of The (Macon) Telegraph and Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

QUARTERBACKS

USC: No Gamecock is playing better than Connor Shaw, who has completed 35 of his last 39 passes, has four TD passes in the last two games and is third in the SEC in passing efficiency. He also bedevils defenses with his scrambling.

GEORGIA: Aaron Murray entered the season as a Heisman candidate, and while he’s not putting up Geno Smith numbers, the junior has 1,378 passing yards, 12 TDs and three picks. Murray’s ability to avoid turnovers may be the key to the game.

EDGE: EVEN

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RUNNING BACKS

USC: Marcus Lattimore’s gradual return may have peaked last week, with a 120-yard performance against Kentucky. Lattimore is averaging 179 yards against Georgia.

GEORGIA: Georgia may have found its next Herschel Walker in the form of “Gurshall”: Freshmen Todd Gurley leads the SEC in rushing (536 yards) and scoring (nine TDs), and hardly ever seems to go down to the first tackler. Fellow freshman Keith and Marshall (428 yards and five TDs) is averaging 8.2 yards a carry and is a home-run threat whenever he gets the ball.

EDGE: USC

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WIDE RECEIVERS

USC: It’s still the Ace Sanders and Bruce Ellington show. Each has 12 catches (fewer than Lattimore’s 16), and Sanders has three TDs, but no other wide receiver has emerged as a large target other than the tight ends.

GEORGIA: Even without Michael Bennett, who was injured this week, the team is deep at the position. Seniors Marlon Brown and Tavarres King are steady, and Malcolm Mitchell – the team’s top receiver last year – returns full-time to offense.

EDGE: GEORGIA

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OFFENSIVE LINE

USC: A rotating lineup caused by injuries and poor play has kept the line from consistent improvement. USC has surrendered 13 sacks, the second-highest total in the SEC, and the Gamecocks are ninth in the league in rushing (171.8).

GEORGIA: This is still a work in progress, with a freshman and sophomore occupying key spots. So far the line has done well enough, but stopping the Gamecocks’ all-star ends is its biggest test.

EDGE: EVEN

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DEFENSIVE LINE

USC: Ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor are doing just what was expected of them. The Gamecocks are second in the SEC in sacks (22) despite playing several teams with quick-passing offenses.

GEORGIA: The strength of the unit is the nose tackles: John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers are each over 350 pounds. Ends Abry Jones, who was slowed with a sprained ankle, has yet to record a sack this year, and Cornelius Washington has been quiet.

EDGE: USC

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LINEBACKERS

USC: After a blazing start, the linebacker play hasn’t drawn as many eyes lately, but Quin Smith and Shaq Wilson lead the team in tackles. Wilson did not have a tackle last week against Kentucky.

GEORGIA: All-American Jarvis Jones (4.5 sacks) is a force on the outside. Inside linebacker Alec Ogletree had a game-high 14 tackles in his return from suspension last week. The rest of the corps is also experienced and deep, including sophomore Amarlo Herrera, the team’s leader in tackles this season.

EDGE: GEORGIA

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DEFENSIVE BACKS

USC: A group that was thought to be the defense’s weak link has held up the back end well. Senior cornerback Akeem Auguste has returned to the field but has yet to win back his starting job in part because of the cohesion of the current unit.

GEORGIA: This group is the most experienced on the team, with senior starters at safety, including Bacarri Rambo, the All-American who returned from suspension last week. But the Bulldogs have given up too many big plays.

EDGE: USC

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SPECIAL TEAMS

USC: An impressive performance against Missouri showed potential but overall results have been mixed. The Gamecocks are in the top half of the SEC in the return games but in the bottom half in both coverage units.

GEORGIA: It’s been a mixed bag for the Bulldogs so far, exemplified by freshman kicker Marshall Morgan making most of his field goals, including two field goals of 50-plus, but missing two extra points and having another blocked. The punt return unit has also been adventure, but Gurley returned a kickoff 100 yards in the opener.

EDGE: GEORGIA

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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