As you know, I do a weekly segment throughout football season known as "Too Much Information." Unfortunately, for the first few weeks, what we really have is too little information, at least as far as reliable statistical indicators go.
For instance, did you know that Georgia leads the league in scoring offense with 50.5 points per game while South Carolina ranks tenth in the S.E.C. with 25.5? Still, since the ‘Dawgs played Georgia Southern and Central Michigan rather than N.C. State and Vanderbilt, you have to think those figures are more than a little bit skewed.
That’s not to say there are no meaningful numbers to be crunched at this juncture. The Gamecocks’ fifth-ranked scoring defense (12.0 points per game allowed) probably looks a little better than it really is, but only a little, and the Bulldogs’ ninth-ranked scoring defense (19.0 points per game allowed) probably looks a little worse than it really is, but not to an outlandish degree.
So, when I assert that Saturday’s game pits the S.E.C.’s leader in total offense against its leader in total defense, I am making a true statement that has little real-world meaning. Georgia averages a league-best 543.5 yards per game (8.5 per snap), but the Red and Black most likely will not be rolling up three-tenths of a mile of total offense on the Gamecocks. South Carolina tops the conference in total defense with 181.5 yards per game allowed (3.3 per play), but the Garnet and Black very probably will not prevent the visitors from traversing the length of two football fields.
I believe this gentleman will have something to say upon that subject. (Photograph by Mike Zamilli/Getty Images.)
While I hold out hope that some statistical measures are not misleading---e.g., Georgia ranks second in the S.E.C. in rushing offense (237.5 yards per game) and South Carolina ranks tenth in the league in rushing defense (112.0 yards per game allowed)---I have my doubts whether the Gamecock quarterbacks will continue to throw interceptions at their current rate of three picks per contest.
Where, then, are we to look in order to glean reliable trends? Our best bet, perhaps, is a glance at history. While Paul Westerdawg is right that the ‘Dawgs have won in Columbia with regularity (Georgia is 16-6-2 all-time at Williams-Brice Stadium, with fully one-third of the Bulldogs’ losses there having occurred while I was sitting in the stands, which I most emphatically will not be this Saturday), the Classic City Canines have played more than their fair share of nailbiters on the Palmetto State Poultry’s home field.
Dating back to South Carolina’s 10-2 season in 1984, the Bulldogs have gone 7-4 in road games against the Gamecocks, with the seven victories being decided by margins of five, 22, three, 14, six, four, and 18 points. In other words, Georgia’s last eleven trips to Columbia have produced eight games which were either losses or wins by fewer than seven points. Even one of the Red and Black’s two victories by more than two touchdowns was a worrisome outing that didn’t feel truly out of reach until late in the game. A convincing Bulldog victory would not be unprecedented, but it would be a deviation from the historical norm.
Of course, for South Carolina, not losing all the time would be a deviation from the historical norm.
Still, it’s not the margin that matters, it’s the victory, so, as long as we’re examining historical trends, let’s consider a few:
- Last Saturday, Georgia scored 56 points, making 2008 the sixth season in Bulldog football history in which the Red and Black scored more than 50 points in the game immediately prior to taking on the Gamecocks. It happened before against Alabama Presbyterian in 1911 (51), against Oglethorpe in 1937 (60) and 1940 (53), against Mercer in 1941 (81), and against Kent State in 1998 (56). In games directly following outings in which the ‘Dawgs hung half a hundred on someone, Georgia is 5-0 against the Gamecocks.
- When last year’s Bulldogs finished second in the sportswriters poll, they became the 19th Red and Black squad to be ranked in the final A.P. top ten. In the previous 18 seasons following an Associated Press top ten finish, Georgia went 12-2 against South Carolina. The most recent of that pair of losses came in 1993, when Steve Taneyhill was lining up under center for the Garnet and Black, so perhaps this provides at least a hint of a pertinent datum.
- Among the highlights of the Classic City Canines’ 2007 campaign were the win over Florida and the blackout of Auburn. 2007 was the 22nd season since World War I, and the first season since 1982, in which the ‘Dawgs beat both the Gators and the Plainsmen. In years immediately after autumns in which the Red and Black swept both sets of stalwarts in orange and blue (or, as I like to abbreviate it, "S.O.B.s"), Georgia is 8-0 against the Gamecocks.
What does all of that mean? Most likely, it means nothing at all. Still, it does provide some hint of the ordinary course of business between the Bulldogs and their rivals from Columbia. The border wars pitting these two old foes against one another are hard-fought close contests . . . which the Red and Black most often win.
My Prediction: Georgia 24, South Carolina 17.