SEC Showdown Saturday: Georgia-South Carolina, LSU-Florida
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South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier knows firsthand that freshman running backs can make a huge impact.
He saw it two years ago with Gamecocks star Marcus Lattimore and hopes he doesn’t see a repeat Saturday afternoon with Georgia freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
‘‘That’s a position you don’t have to have been there for two years and learn the offense and all that kind of stuff,’’ Spurrier said.
All you have to do is run. Expect to see plenty of handoffs and pitches to the tailback when the fifth-ranked Bulldogs (5-0, 3-0) take on the sixth-ranked Gamecocks (5-0, 3-0) at Columbia, S.C., in the second of two big Southeastern Conference showdowns Saturday. Fourth-ranked LSU visits No. 10 Florida in the afternoon.
South Carolina’s Lattimore and Georgia’s duo of Gurley and Marshall are all coming off big performances heading into the Eastern Division matchup.
Lattimore ran for 120 yards and two scores as South Carolina rallied past Kentucky, 38-17.
Gurley and Marshall combined for 294 yards and five TDs rushing in Georgia’s 51-44 shootout against Tennessee. Gurley, the SEC’s leading rusher, gained 130 yards against the Vols, his fourth 100-yard rushing game this season. Marshall rushed for 164 yards on 10 carries, including touchdown runs of 75 and 72 yards.
‘‘It’s very fun, especially when the offense is rolling like it has been rolling,’’ Marshall said. ‘‘Everyone’s been making plays and it’s very exciting.’’
Gurley and Marshall have shown the explosiveness of famed Georgia star and 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker. Lattimore’s powerhouse play is similar to that of South Carolina’s own Heisman Trophy winner, George Rogers, in 1980.
Lattimore’s importance to the offense was crystal clear last Saturday. He had just five carries for 12 yards as the Gamecocks trailed Kentucky, 17-7, at halftime. Lattimore rushed 18 times for 108 yards in the second half to help South Carolina outscore the Wildcats, 31-0, the final two quarters.
‘‘If we win’’ against Georgia, Spurrier said, ‘‘he will have probably had another big day.’’
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LSU is about to hit the toughest part of its schedule with a handful of key players either unable to suit up or hobbled with injuries. At least four players who were projected starters back in early August won’t be on the field for LSU (5-0, 1-0) when it faces Florida (4-0, 3-0) in Gainesville.
Meanwhile, there is mostly encouraging news on the injury front for Florida, which looks to be gaining momentum with each victory. The Gators were happy to have an extra week to rest leading running back Mike Gillislee, who is averaging 100 yards per game but has been slowed by a groin injury. His practice snaps were reduced during the bye week to get him back to full speed.
‘‘We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do,’’ offensive coordinator Brent Pease said in reference to Gillislee’s workload. ‘‘If he needs to carry it 30 times this time, he’ll carry it 30 . . . Mike can handle that.’’