Han Vance on Georgia football: Rivalries commence. The Georgia Bulldogs visit the South Carolina Gamecocks for a 3:30 CBS tilt, the biggest game of the week. Furthermore, as Georgia fans, five series matter more than the rest, when looking at the program versus other programs – six if you are ready to throw in Bama, who hasn’t lost to Georgia in years and plays the Dawgs infrequently. The Carolina series, as it should scheduling-wise and traditionally has, signifies the start of rivalries season. Lots of rivals.
‘Cocks are 1-0 with a win over Coastal Carolina, which seems like a fun place to go to school itself. I know, on experience, that Columbia is a fun time. But not in person this year for me sadly, somewhat suddenly, due to the death of the mother of one of my wife’s best friends. They rushed the same sorority at Georgia and are still tight today. The friend’s husband had actually played for the Dawgs. Bless all of their hearts, Lord.
Instead of Augusta together to see my father-in-law and her little brother recently retired from the Air Force, who used to live in Athens with her, and his family crew – me up to Columbia and back Saturday with my dude Merv, who goes to all the Georgia games from Burke County – she’ll be at the service in Athens while I’m home in ATL with daughter, dog, two cats and a fish named Georgia.
My 5th-generation Georgia Man friend, Richard Hilley is coming by to watch the game with us. We always go huge in front of the curve, pom-poms, a plethora of Georgia regalia in terms of vibrant clothing and props. We have a pool for before or after, and we are vocal. Give us something good to cheer about Saturday, Georgia!
Key matchup being the young Georgia defense versus their passing offense led by strong QB Jake Bentley. Georgia Man and former coach Bryan McClendon is the new Carolina play caller. They finished just 12th in total league offense last season but get their best playmaker back in top-talent WR Deebo Samuel, an explosive athlete who will be matched by our projected All-SEC corner Deandre Baker.
But glance across the defensive backfield and you see CB Tyson Campbell the only 2018 Georgia freshman starting for the team. He marks a 6-2 speedster for Carolina but possesses a matching size and superior speed. This is, obviously, his first college road game. The SEC is the road.
Meanwhile, Swift will be the MVP of this football game if Georgia wins.
ESPN pointed out, the (#24) Chickens – cue the chicken sounds – are 5-0 in previous meetings where both schools are ranked (Dawgs #3) in games played in Columbia. Georgia has out-rushed them for 500 yards over the last two meetings, both Kirby Smart wins, as only Missouri, Kentucky, South Carolina with 0-2 records versus the Smart regime. He has split, to-date with: Florida, Tech, Auburn – so all three traditional rivals, and Tennessee our fourth-biggest rival.
Dawgs have won three straight in the series. The old (1894) Carolina-Georgia rivalry increased in importance and thusly intensity near the end of the 15-year Mark Richt (9-6 versus S. Car.) SEC coaching era, as total villain Steve Spurrier somehow spun Carolina through to consideration, beating Georgia fairly regularly and winning 11 games twice consecutively. It was a blip on the radar, though. The Ol’ Ball Coach abandoning a failing team into the season, after they’d floundered early, after they’ve faded the year prior. Georgia is a light-years-better program, the school career mark versus South Carolina is 50-18-2.
S. Carolina joined the SEC in 1992, with the formation of divisional play and having played Georgia periodically prior, they assumed rivalry. Georgia is actually Carolina’s second-biggest rival from their perspective, after Clemson of course. Since 2010, 3-of-4 Georgia losses came in Columbia, where they like their space music loud and audibly back Carolina regardless. I find them to be an impressive fanbase, especially considering their relatively low success rate, they have only won the SEC East once, so Georgia’s divisional glory last season is the same as their historic tally.
They play better at home. They win more often at home, and 9-4 last year was either a harbinger of a breakthrough cracking the surface or false hope. They need this win. But it is hugely to Georgia’s advantage that so much of the media is picking S. Carolina to upset the defending SEC champions.
Gamecock coach, Georgia Man Will Muschamp much maligned at times, experienced, respected by his peers. He went to school with me, actually, and held court in the commons of our class building, especially on Fridays. Been the rising star, the boom of ignition behind teams like Texas under Coach Brown (who I ran into at the Rose Bowl, btw). Then Florida, fail.
I remember him beating us, vividly, though. He has Carolina poised to pounce, coming off the nine-win season in year two of his tenure, they hung tough for a little while in Athens. Every relatively recent betting trend indicates bet South Carolina here, but I’d fear a loss much more if this were a night game. Smart needed a win up there on a weather-moved Sunday afternoon two years ago and got it over his old teammate and friend.
A long-trend I dug up is this: Georgia has lost ten times at Carolina, while losing only 18 total times to them. That barely-above percentage compared to UGA home losses in the series shows their home mystique in the series a fallacy. They won’t beat Georgia simply because of home field advantage.
Lose this game and Georgia appears to me still in position to win the SEC East, as I can’t see Carolina navigating the rest of their conference schedule close to unscathed. Georgia, however, may find itself in a position to have to win out their league games. Carolina could quite conceivably finish with just two league losses, should they eclipse Georgia Saturday. I’ll take UGA.