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Georgia faces must-win in Week 2

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

No Matthew Stafford and no Knowshon Moreno, no problem.

At least, that was the party line coming out of Athens this offseason.

Georgia was going to play more as a team. The star of the team was going to be the team. There wasn’t going to be as much standing around and waiting for Stafford or Moreno to make a play.

It all sounded so promising.

Until now.

Strange as it sounds, the Bulldogs’ season is already teetering, and it’s only Week 2. Their game Saturday night at home against South Carolina (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET) is about as critical as it gets.

Going 0-2 to start the season is never a good thing in the SEC, especially at a place like Georgia. But doing so with a schedule the likes of which the Bulldogs have to play this season is football’s version of a death sentence.

After South Carolina’s visit comes a trip to Arkansas, followed by home games with Arizona State and LSU and then trips to Tennessee and Vanderbilt before Georgia gets its bye. The Bulldogs then have games against Florida and Georgia Tech to look forward to after the bye.

But with the problems the Bulldogs have right in front of them, particularly offensively, the last thing on their minds is what’s down the road.

Senior quarterback Joe Cox was ineffective throwing the ball in the loss to Oklahoma State, and the offense sputtered after the touchdown drive to open the game.

There were varying reports Thursday that Cox might not play against South Carolina because of a problem with his arm/shoulder and would give way to sophomore Logan Gray.

Georgia officials quickly shot down those reports and said Cox would start. Either way, it sounds like the Bulldogs have at least been getting Gray ready for an increased role in the offense.

“If your quarterback doesn’t play well, it’s hard to win,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said Wednesday. “That’s just all there is to it. He’s got to make plays. He’s got to get his team in good situations and out of bad ones. In protections, Joe did a beautiful job. We’ve still got to be able to hit our target, and guys have to make plays on the other end, too.”

As if the quarterback issues weren’t enough, the Bulldogs will also be forced to go with a different combination in their offensive line. Left tackle Trinton Sturdivant is out for the second straight season with a knee injury after getting hurt against Oklahoma State. Vince Vance will replace Sturdivant in the starting lineup, but that’s not the only change.

Justin Anderson will start at right guard this week, with Cordy Glenn moving from right guard to left guard. Chris Davis, who started last week, is the odd man out.

Georgia only had one run of longer than 10 yards against Oklahoma State.

Richt had said earlier this week that he hoped to get tailback Caleb King back for this game, but the offensive staff wasn’t nearly as optimistic after seeing him practice Wednesday. King missed the opener with a hamstring injury.

Cox said a big part of Georgia’s problems in the opener revolved around players being too tentative and playing “not to mess up.”

That may be, but the mess that this season could become if Georgia doesn’t win Saturday is something nobody in red and black wants to fathom.