South Carolina (1-0) vs Georgia (0-1)
Why to watch: I've always said with a hint of bias that offense is for casual football fans but the real football fans understand the beauty and sheer appreciation of a good defensive battle. When South Carolina comes to Sanford Stadium, the Monet's of SEC defenses will be on display in what should be a low scoring affair. Both teams have a ton to prove as Georgia did nothing last week against the Cowboys while Spurrier has done nothing since he arrived at South Carolina four plus years ago. The Ol' Ball Coach needs a win over Georgia in order to cool off the hungry fans and Georgia needs to reestablish itself as a national powerhouse after a below average performance against an average football team. A win over Georgia would most likely get South Carolina off to a 3-0 start going into the Ole Miss game a couple of weeks from now, while the loss could shatter the Dawgs confidence in pulling off a winning season with arguably the toughest schedule in the country. Like every year, both teams desperately need this win as Georgia has never won the SEC East with a loss to South Carolina and the Gamecocks have never won the SEC East period. A Gamecock victory can take the Bulldogs out of the SEC race early and Georgia knows it can turn its season around very quickly with a decisive win on Saturday night. This annual tussle always ends up close and hard-fought so expect nothing less.
Why Georgia will win: The Bulldogs know how to win the close game against the Gamecocks. Mark Richt has had the pleasure of winning six of eight since coming to Athens but only one of those wins has come by scoring more than 20 points. It has become a yearly chess match between two great defenses and there is nothing from last week's performances that would prove otherwise going into this game. Georgia controls the series between the two teams (45-14-2) and lately they've picked up most of their wins by a late score or a late stop in the last few seconds. If the Bulldgos keep it close late in the fourth quarter, expect Georgia to find a way to pull it out again. In order for that to occur, a few things must happen: Joe Cox's starter label could be on the line in a couple of days and he knows it. He would love nothing more than to prove to the Dawg Nation that he is a true leader - not the individual who has been crying to the media since the Oklahoma State loss and showing a lack of it. He has the intelligence to control a game like this but he can't make the same mistakes from last week and still get a win. Also, the running game has to improve with Caleb King back in action and Richard Samuel has vowed to run harder against the Cocks. Bigger production from the quarterback and running backs will open up the receiving game and the defense will show up - no doubt about that. In the end, too much talent remains on one sideline and Cox, Samuel, and King should be good enough to make this offense flow to the playmaking receivers. As long as Georgia does what it's supposed to, they should win in comfortable fashion.
Why South Carolina will win: The Gamecocks weren't impressive last week in a 7-3 win over NC State last Thursday but zero turnovers is something positive the team can take with them to Athens. And most importantly, they have the unusual advantage of facing a defeated Georgia team for the first time since 1996. Many question marks still exist for the Bulldogs and Steve Spurrier would love nothing more than to shatter the Dawg's morale a little bit more. Although Spurrier hasn't been the offensive mastermind since he arrived in Columbia, he and Ellis Johnson have assembled the best athletes on the field and put them on defense. Cliff Matthews, Eric Norwood, Akeem Auguste, and Stephen Gilmore can shut down an offense alone and the rest of the Gamecocks defense can flat out fly, so it will be hard for Georgia's offense to make big plays in this game. And speaking of Georgia's offense, if they've ever had an identity crisis during Richt's tenure (and they've had brief instances), this is the apex. Replacing a future NFL prospect on the offensive line is one thing but question marks at quarterback and running back will prevent the wide receivers from getting any action, too. If South Carolina can silence the Georgia offense early by rattling Joe Cox and expose the possible hole on the offensive line, the Dawgs may not have the confidence to pull it out in the last few minutes like they normally do in this always-close border war.
What will happen: Georgia's season and reputation are both on the line come Saturday night. Expect a much bigger effort out of the Dawgs as the depth at offensive line will help carry them through the post-deux Sturdivant era. The return of Caleb King should help solidify the ground game while the defense comes up with the turnovers they missed last week. Expect a big game out of Rennie Curran and Reshad Jones. They'll play physical in a very physical ballgame. Joe Cox won't have the breakout game of his career but he should orchestrate a more efficient offense by making the educated decisions needed to get a Georgia win. It will be another defensive struggle but a few turnovers by the Gamecocks will help Georgia breakaway from the usual 16-11 score and pull away in the fourth quarter.
Foltz's Fearless Prediction: Georgia 24, South Carolina 13...Line: Georgia -8
Must See Rating: (5 - Caddyshack...1 - Caddyshack II): 4