This game has the cautionary and, let’s face it, terrifying voices of Larry Munson and Vince Dooley echoing in my ears.
On the living room floor in my days of youth, hearing the “Mighty Munson” and consummate poor-mouthing Hall of Fame coach discuss the upcoming foe would have me, along with tens of thousands of fellow members of the Majority Party of the Empire State of the south in a state of despair for impending doom for our beloved Bulldogs.
Georgia would usually find a way, in the early 80s, almost always.
But my goodness, the stress leading into battle was excruciating. Plus the Greatest College Football Announcer Ever had a way of making the other guy’s fullback picking up a three-yard run from their own 20 to their own 23 in a scoreless game early in the first quarter seem perilous. It was part of the great man’s magic.
Dooley made sure his team was ready, and focused, no matter the opposition, and Munson did the same for the Georgia people.
So now here we are with the Bulldogs and Gamecocks.
When the schedule came out, and five teams had open dates before Georgia, the blood pressure went up. Granted, in two of those games, last week’s contest at Tennessee and the Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville November 2, the Bulldogs also had/have an open date the week prior.
That’s one of the residual effects from residing in the upper echelon of college football. Teams set up their schedules to take their best shots at the big boys on the block.
So this is the second straight game for Georgia with an opponent coming off an idle week.
When the kickoff time was announced, I could hear a Munson-Dooley conversation at its finest.
A noon kickoff time favors the visitors usually. The thinking, and usually how it plays out, the hometown crowd doesn’t have time to get properly juiced and amped up. For this one, South Carolina has the added advantage of having the open date before a noon kickoff while Georgia was on the road at night last week in Knoxville.
That’s a big edge.
Rest, extra head start, two weeks of focus.
Plus South Carolina is good. The Gamecocks have a lot of good players, and no doubt former Georgia strong safety Will Muscmap is eyeing this Saturday afternoon as a potential launching point for the second half of this season and his program overall on many levels.
Yes, the Gamecocks are 2-3, but they are in the midst of one of the country’s most challenging schedules. In the opener, a double-digit lead got away, and South Carolina fell in a disappointing decision to North Carolina 24-20. It was certainly a big upset. That loss doesn’t look nearly as bad going back two weeks, as the Tar Heels fell 21-20 to defending national champion Clemson.
In the Gamecocks second game against Charleston Southern, freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski came on for an injured senior Jake Bentley and had a record-setting day. Hilinski was recruited by Georgia, but the quarterback depth chart at that point certainly boosted the Gamecocks’ chances of landing the highly-touted signal-caller.
Before Alabama pulled away in Columbia, the Crimson Tide led 24-10 and the Gamecocks came up short on two straight possessions inside the five-yard line, scoring just three points on those two trips. There was a call or two that shockingly went Alabama’s way.
The next week in the other Columbia, the Gamecocks went down to Missouri 34-14. It was 24-14, the ‘Cocks were inside the five and Mizzou got a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown.
An outstanding defense and two 100-yard rushers highlighted the Gamecocks 24-7 win over Kentucky leading into the open date.
Checking NFL mock drafts, the Gamecocks massive defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw and long, tall wide receiver Bryan Edwards are both projected first-rounders.
There’s a term that applies to politics and sports, “unintended consequences.” With the resounding success that Clemson has had, the Gamecocks in-state rival Tigers have turned heavily to national and regional recruiting. In fact, in 2019, the Tigers signed just two players from the state of South Carolina. The Gamecocks signed the top two prospects in the state. According to the 24/7 rankings for the class of 2020 in South Carolina, four of the top five prospects in the Palmetto State have verbally committed to the Gamecocks. None of the top ten to the Tigers. So while Clemson’s national titles are certainly bitter pills to swallow, their increased recruiting swath has also provided a boost to the Gamecocks in-state. By the way, the top prospect in South Carolina is choosing between the Gamecocks, Tigers, and Georgia.
Under Kirby Smart’s watch, Georgia has been recruiting at an incredibly high rate, amongst the very best in all of college football. That depth has shown, as the Bulldogs have battled through a rash of injuries. Dating back to the 2017 season-opener, Georgia has delivered in the games the Bulldogs are “supposed” to win. Of the 29 victories the Bulldogs have chalked up since 2017, 26 have come by 14 or more points. The lone exceptions, some pretty fair programs, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and the Fighting Irish again three weeks ago. It should be noted that South Carolina played the Bulldogs mighty tough two years ago in a 24-10 Georgia win by the SEC champs of 2017.
As The Greatest Bulldog Ever Dan Magill would say before every game, “I’ll take a one-point win right now.” Amen Coach, Amen.