Georgia vs. South Carolina has been an increasingly-heated rivalry since the 2000 season. That year, the Gamecocks snapped an 18-game SEC losing streak by beating the 10th-ranked Bulldogs in Columbia. Since then, there have been many memorable plays and close games between the two teams. Georgia linebacker David Pollack batted down and intercepted a pass simultaneously in the 2002 match-up, which the Bulldogs won 13-7. Freshman running back Marcus Lattimore ran all over Georgia in a 17-6 win for South Carolina in 2011. With both teams ranked in the top 10, South Carolina demolished Georgia 35-7 in 2012.
But following a 52-20 rout by Georgia last year (quarterback Greyson Lambert completed 24-of-25 passes in the game) and the absence of legendary head coach Steve Spurrier, this year’s match-up lacks the luster, excitement and significance fans have come to expect.
The Bulldogs suffered a truly gut-wrenching, last-second loss to the Tennessee Volunteers last week. Now, Georgia (3-2, 1-2 in the SEC) finds itself needing the Vols to lose three SEC games to have even a chance at winning the division. Sitting at 2-3 (1-2 in the SEC), the Gamecocks are lucky to not be 0-5. South Carolina needed a second-half comeback to beat the Vanderbilt Commodores in Week 1. Against the East Carolina Pirates, four takeaways saved the Gamecocks in a 20-15 win where ECU out-gained South Carolina 519-312.
Sure, an SEC win is always a positive for recruiting and morale, but in the grand scheme of things, the Georgia vs. South Carolina winner will not challenge for an SEC title this season. Consider it more of a moral victory.
Georgia vs. South Carolina (Sunday October 9, 2:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)
On paper, Georgia should run away with this game against South Carolina. The Bulldogs have the better talent. However, South Carolina has won four of the last six games in this rivalry, and Georgia has not won in Columbia since 2008. With a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff under the lights at Williams-Brice Stadium and a South Carolina team desperate for a quality win, Georgia better come out firing.
By the numbers, Georgia has outgained the Gamecocks by more than 100 yards per game (408.8 vs. 301.8). In fact, South Carolina ranks last in the SEC in total offense and rushing offense (104.8 yards per game), while its passing offense ranks 10th in the SEC (197 yards per game). With a relatively stout rushing defense (137.2 yards per game, 5th in the SEC), Georgia should test South Carolina’s already one-dimensional offense, and force quarterbacks Brandon McIlwain and Perry Orth to throw early and often.
Where the game will be won or lost for the Bulldogs is at the point of attack on its offensive line. Georgia has allowed 15 sacks this season due to its struggles to protect against the blitz. With a freshman at quarterback in Jacob Eason, if South Carolina can get consistent pressure, it could force some mistakes. Georgia also ranks just sixth in the SEC in rushing offense, and a lot of the blame can be placed on the offensive line. Even with talented running backs in Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and several freshman backs, the rushing attack cannot be effective without stronger play from the offensive line. If Georgia can win the battle in the trenches, expect the Bulldogs to take advantage. South Carolina’s defense has given up 202 rushing yards per game (12th in the SEC).
Georgia vs. South Carolina Prediction
Georgia should come out extremely motivated against South Carolina after failing to execute defensively on Tennessee’s Hail’Mary last week. Former Georgia Bulldogs safety and current Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp has not had much success as a defensive coordinator (Auburn) or head coach (Florida) against Georgia, winning just one out of seven games against the Bulldogs.
Hurricane Matthew has caused the game to be moved to Sunday, giving both teams another day of preparation, in the film room if not on the soggy field. Expect Georgia to win its first game in Columbia since 2008.
PREDICTION: Georgia 28, South Carolina 17