While there are a lot of interesting games this weekend, I’ve chosen one slightly off the beaten path. Well, as off the beaten path as an SEC game between two top-25 ranked opponents on national TV can be. Saturday at noon, Georgia rolls into Dead Cockroach Stadium (look at a picture, I’m not kidding…) to take on the newly-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks. Sure, history is in the Bulldogs’ favor, but let’s dig deeper into what makes this ESPN2 game a compelling matchup.
There was a lot of off-season chatter about how this was “the year” for South Carolina to make some noise in the SEC East. Fans and pundits alike have been waiting for Spurrier’s genius to show itself in the Midlands of South Carolina. While South Carolina has many of the resources necessary for competing in the cutthroat SEC, they are perpetually trying to get over the hump in the SEC East. Part of the reason for that is that Spurrier has not had the quarterbacks at South Carolina enjoyed at Florida. Blake Mitchell was no Danny Wuerrfel, my friends. However, coach Spurrier and the Gamecock faithful have high hopes for Stephen Garcia, and Garcia’s time at the controls of the Gamecock offense this season has come. While Garcia has shown flashes of physical talent on the field and flashes of smiles in mug shots off the field, this may be the year that he puts it all together and leads the Gamecocks to the SEC championship game in Atlanta.
Beyond Garcia, the Gamecocks have a pair of freshman phenoms who will spend some time in the backfield this season. Freshman quarterback Connor Shaw and freshman running back Marcus Lattimore supplement seventeen returning starters for the Gamecocks, and make them a popular sleeper pick to win the SEC East. Despite the fact that tight end Weslye Saunders is likely to miss another game due to the NCAA investigation, the Gamecocks appear to be a formidable foe for the Bulldogs.
South Carolina’s optimism runs smack into UGA VIII and his team of angry canines led by Mark Richt.
While Georgia may not have garnered the right kind of headlines in the off-season, Mark Richt will absolutely have the Bulldogs ready to play in a very hostile environment in Columbia, South Carolina. Keep in mind that Georgia is 8-1 in its last nine games against South Carolina, and they have faced this combination of optimism and hostility from Gamecock fans and teams in the past. The Georgia offense, despite missing A.J. Green, put up 55 points last week, signaling they are ready for a conference clash.
I don’t want to turn this post into a statistical rundown of the two opponents. But there are two data points that make this game really interesting. First, UGA and South Carolina really do not like each other, and that will come through on the field and in the stands (hopefully more on the field than in the stands).
Second, and perhaps most importantly, Florida looked decidedly vulnerable against Miami of Ohio last weekend, and the Gamecocks and Bulldogs both believe they’re playing for the driver’s seat in the SEC East. We all know much of the greatness of college football is tied up in the desperation shown by teams on a week-in, week-out basis (especially in conference play).
This game seems like an entertaining, eminently watchable week two matchup. At the very least, it’s the best excuse you have on Saturday to crack a cold one at noon Eastern!