South Carolina-Georgia Preview
(AP) - Georgia appears to have all the makings of a championship team.
Except at the most visible position on the field.
After two games, there are still plenty of questions about the player taking snaps for the No. 7 Bulldogs. Greyson Lambert, who transferred to Georgia after losing his starting job at Virginia, looked a bit shaky last weekend in a 31-14 win at Vanderbilt.
Not surprisingly, coach Mark Richt spent a good part of his weekly media briefing Tuesday defending his starting quarterback.
''Sometimes,'' Richt said, ''you've got to show a little patience before guys catch on and really play well.''
Lambert was just 11 of 21 for 116 yards, his longest completion going for 19. Fortunately for the Bulldogs (2-0, 1-0 SEC), Nick Chubb had another huge day on the ground with 189 yards, while the special teams and defense each produced a touchdown.
Isaiah McKenzie scored on a 77-yard punt return in the first quarter and Dominick Sanders brought back an 88-yard interception return to clinch the victory with just over a minute remaining.
Second-string quarterback Brice Ramsey has also gotten playing time in the first two games, though Richt stressed that Lambert is the clear-cut starter. The last thing the coach wants is a quarterback controversy heading into Saturday night's matchup with South Carolina, but neither signal-caller has shown enough so far to establish a degree of separation.
Richt pointed out that Lambert is still learning the ropes at his new school, having only transferred to Athens at the beginning of the summer.
''I know from playing that position that you don't become super-proficient overnight,'' said Richt, who was a backup quarterback at Miami during his college days. ''I know Lambert has played a lot of college ball, but he's not played a lot of college ball in this league or in this system. There's a learning curve. It's going to get better as you go.''
Lambert was picked as the starter less than a week before the opening game. His debut was a breeze - a 51-14 rout of Louisiana-Monroe - but the first SEC game quickly rekindled doubts that were there throughout the offseason.
''We just couldn't find our rhythm, especially in the passing game,'' Lambert conceded. ''We didn't get to go up-tempo as much as we would have liked. Some of that was us and some of that was them, which kind of kept us out of our rhythm a little bit.''
Despite their issues at quarterback, the Bulldogs appear to be a bit more stable there than the Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1).
Former walk-on Perry Orth will make his first career start after Connor Mitch suffered a shoulder injury and hip bruise in last Saturday's 26-22 loss to Kentucky. Orth, seeing the first significant action of his career, was 13 of 20 for 179 yards with a touchdown but also threw a costly interception with 4:32 to go at the Wildcats 26.
"He throws a nice pass when he takes his steps and gets protection and throws it, he can throw a beautiful pass," coach Steve Spurrier said. "He's been here, what, three years now, earned a scholarship preseason, so if we can protect him and get some guys open he's very capable."
The Gamecocks are 4-1 in the last five matchups with Georgia but were ranked in all of those meetings. They're unlikely to crack the Top 25 this season, however.
Picked to finish fourth in the SEC East, South Carolina allowed Kentucky to snap a 22-game road winless streak and is allowing an average of 207.5 rushing yards - second-worst in the conference.
With Chubb leading the way, the Bulldogs have one of the best running games in the country, averaging 262.0 yards. Chubb has amassed 309 yards and his 8.8 yards per carry is tied for the best in the FBS among those with at least 30 attempts.
Sony Michel also provides a versatile threat, capable of breaking big plays as a runner and a receiver, while Keith Marshall finally looks healthy after two injury plagued seasons.
But teams are going to stack the line even more if Lambert doesn't provide at least the threat of a passing game. It will be difficult for Georgia to win the SEC and even contend for a national title without a top-flight quarterback.
''We can throw the ball,'' Chubb said confidently. ''It's just game two.''