Welcome to Five Fearless Forecasts, in which we pull five prognostications out of thin air which may or may not determine the outcome of this weekend's game. Historically the Georgia/South Carolina game is a contest which defies forecast, but that's not stopping us. Based on what little we have seen of these two squads so far in 2014 there are a few things worthy of an educated guess. For example:
1) You will see a whole lot more of Keith Marshall. It's just a hunch, but I expect that Bryan McClendon will go with the veteran on the road in a chaotic environment. Freshman tailbacks are a notorious liability in pass protection, and Hutson Mason is going to need protecting on Saturday night.
2) Jeb Blazevich more than doubles his 9 receiving yards against Clemson. To the extent they are healthy the full tight end rotation is going to be in the game on Saturday. This will help make up for the lack of depth at wide receiver, and should also help us take advantage of some of the play action possibilities opened up by South Carolina's concern with Todd Gurley.
3) Georgia gets burned on a wheel route. Spurrier loves to hit Mike Davis down the sideline, and has shown some sophistication in both disguising and timing the use of the good old wheel route, the one route in football no one has ever really covered.
4) If Dylan Thompson hits the ground three times in the first quarter, Georgia wins going away. I do not think the Gamecock signal caller is all that comfortable with contact. During the Texas A&M game he received pressure early and just never quite looked right. This is a quality common to all quarterbacks, of course. No one likes being run into by aggressive 260 pound SEC defenders. But to me Thompson looks particularly susceptible to a post wallop case of "happy feet".
5) Hutson Mason doubles his Clemson passing totals, win, lose, or draw. While I doubt that Mason will double his 26 passing attempts or 18 completions, the 130 yards those resulted in our pretty pedestrian, and partially result of the game plan. Clemson rarely stack the box to defend the run and was vigilant against allowing too much space downfield, even playing three deep coverage which just begged the Bulldogs to RTDB.
South Carolina is unlikely to utilize this tactic. Spurrier and Lorenzo Ward will force Hutson Mason to beat them, and the Georgia offenses is tailored to give him the opportunity to do so. If Mason can land some deep blows early, things will open back up on the ground. If, however, he makes some mistakes, or begins pressing, this one could go south quickly.
So those are my five predictions. Feel free to include yours in the comments, or to dispute the ones above. Until later...