COLUMBIA -- When the South Carolina defense faces Georgia Saturday, it’s going to know what to expect from an offense that’s been boat-racing opponents all season.
It’s easy to pick up on film, and T.J. Brunson summed it up perfectly: “They’re going to try and run the ball.”
The Bulldogs rank second in the SEC in rushing offense with 284 yards per game, and they have two running backs in the top five in rushing per game with Nick Chubb (95.6 yards) and Sony Michel (89.9 yards).
They run the ball so frequently that quarterback Jake Fromm threw the ball just seven times in Georgia’s 42-7 win over Florida.
“There’s no doubt this will be our toughest test of the year,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “I know our guys prepared well today and we need to continue to prepare well through the week and play well on Saturday.”
The two-headed tandem of Chubb and Michel have been on fire this season, racking up 1,394 yards on the ground and 17 total touchdowns. The two are combining to average 7.2 yards per carry.
Stopping the run is priority one come Saturday, and it starts with limiting what Muschamp calls explosive plays. He said the Bulldogs have at least 80 rushes that have gone for at least 10 yards.
Chubb has at least one rush of 20 yards in every game this season, including four two-touchdown games.
“They all have top-end speed and can finish on the runs,” Muschamp said. “I know in tracking that through the year, they have been a team that is very explosive in the running game and you’ve got to limit the explosive runs.”
So how does South Carolina go about stopping that kind of offense? For D.J. Wonnum, it’s simple.
“We got to get their cleats out the dirt,” he said.
Wonnum said Georgia likes to run the stretch play, which means it’ll be up to the BUCK and SAM linebackers to set the edge and force the running backs inside to the rest of the interior defensive line.
With Georgia running a pro-style offense, the Gamecock defense will most likely be in more of a 4-3 formation with Wonnum playing the end spot. So he’ll be tasked with setting that edge along with the starter at outside linebacker.
Last week Antoine Wilder saw increased playing time with Sherrod Greene out, but Greene is healthy and expected to return this week to help stop the run.
Greene’s played in seven games this year and started in the Gamecocks’ last game against a pro-style offense in Arkansas. He has 14 tackles as a true freshman.
“I think it’s extremely important,” Brunson said about Greene. “He helped when he came in at first and he had his injury. I think if we can get him back this week it’ll definitely help.”
The Gamecocks have had success stopping the run at times this year, ranking sixth in the SEC giving up 137.6 yards per game.
Against Arkansas, they gave up 106 yards on the ground and they haven’t allowed 200 yards rushing since giving up 237 against Texas A&M.
Saturday will be a big test for the Gamecock defense, but the players know what to expect and are excited for the challenge.
“We kind of know what’s expected out of the pro-style set,” Brunson said. “We know they’re going to run the ball. I think it’s going to come down to us executing our calls and making our tackles.”