Georgia and South Carolina square off Saturday at high noon at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. The second-ranked Bulldogs come in with a record of 2-0. South Carolina is 1-1, and 0-1 in Southeastern Conference play after last week’s 44-30 loss to Arkansas in Fayetteville.
For the Bulldogs, it is both the SEC and road opener.
Through the first two weeks of play, a 49-3 victory over Oregon in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium and this past week’s 33-0 win over Samford in Athens, the Bulldogs have put up impressive numbers. Georgia scored on its first seven possessions against Oregon, and its first six against Samford. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart was disappointed though that the Bulldogs had to settle for too many field goals against Samford. A couple of other miscues sidetracked Georgia last weekend. But it was still a dominant performance, just not the peak showing that Georgia demonstrated against Oregon.
Defensively, the Bulldogs have famously had to replace a tremendous amount of talent that is now in the National Football League. Through two games though, the stop unit has been stout, keeping both Oregon and Samford out of the end zone.
But now it’s SEC time, and this will be the biggest challenge of the season thus far though, with both the atmosphere and athleticism.
Shane Beamer, a former assistant for Smart, led South Carolina to a surprising 7-6 record last year, including wins over Florida and Auburn and then North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. With that success, as well as Spencer Rattler taking over at quarterback after transferring from Oklahoma, expectations are ramped up this year in Columbia.
Fueled by a pair of blocked punts for touchdowns, South Carolina beat Georgia State 35-14 in the season opener in Columbia. The Gamecocks hung tough with Arkansas last Saturday, trailing the Razorbacks 21-16 heading into the fourth quarter. But Arkansas pulled away, outscoring South Carolina 23-14 in the final period to secure the win. Rattler was 24 of 39 for 376 with a touchdown and an interception.
An upset of the reigning national champions clearly be a signature moment for the Gamecocks. South Carolina has a history of knocking off highly touted Georgia teams, most recently in 2019.
In the supremely successful Smart era, Georgia is 5-1 against South Carolina, with that overtime loss in 2019 the blemish. Georgia is 3-0 with Smart at the helm in Columbia, all three victories coming by at least 14 points.
It will be hot, and Williams-Brice Stadium will be shaking on Saturday. South Carolina has had this one circled. As Smart has so often said, pressure is a privilege. How the Bulldogs respond to this hostile road atmosphere and a South Carolina team that has, among other attributes, a talented defensive line and outstanding quarterback will be a prime indicator as to whether these Bulldogs have the potential to be back once again in the championship picture.