South Carolina at Georgia is the most intriguing game on the SEC schedule this Saturday. By far. Fact is, Gamecocks-Bulldogs is among the most intriguing games on the conference schedule all season. And this makes it even more so: Georgia has to win.
We say this not because the Bulldogs lost 38-35 at Clemson last Saturday. Losing to a top-five team is no embarrassment. And yet it was the but the first date in a brutal first month for Mark Richt’s Bulldogs. The schedule makers did Georgia no favors.
In two weeks, Georgia welcomes LSU to Athens. Further down the schedule, the Dawgs play Florida at the annual World’s Largest Cocktail Party in Jacksonville. To have a chance at a repeat trip to Atlanta for the SEC championship game, Georgia can’t afford to take an early league loss, especially to a strong contender for the division crown.
South Carolina has won three straight in the series. Steve Spurrier’s team has had a couple of extra days rest, beating North Carolina 27-10 on Aug. 29. That was two more days for defensive end and Heisman candidate Jadeveon Clowney to hear how poorly he played against the Heels.
Georgia didn’t play poorly at Clemson. The Bulldogs were without one of their best players on defense — suspended safety Josh Harvey-Clemons — and for all but four plays one of their best players on offense: Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell tore his ACL celebrating Todd Gurley’s 75-yard touchdown run.
Had a high snap not foiled a chip-shot field goal late in the third quarter, Georgia might have taken Clemson to overtime. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, molding a young unit, now has game video for teaching. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has had all summer to devise a plan to keep critics after Clowney.
“Don’t turn a bad play into a catastrophe,” Bobo said Tuesday.
A Georgia loss and an 0-2 start would be just this side of catastrophe, but the guess here is that won’t happen.
(Photo of Todd Gurley by Macon Telegraph)