Outplayed. Outcoached. Outperformed. Outhustled. Outsmarted. Outgunned. Outmanned.
The South Carolina Gamecocks dominated the Georgia Bulldogs in every phase of the game from start to finish, winning convincingly by a final margin that accurately represented the lopsided nature of the contest. In many ways, this win by the Garnet and Black was unprecedented; South Carolina had never before beaten the Bulldogs in three straight seasons, or in back-to-back meetings in Columbia, or this late in the autumn. In other ways, though, it was merely the culmination of a trend that has been building for years.
I was prepared for the possibility of losing. I was not prepared for the possibility of being exposed as a pretender. I should have been, though.
I should have been prepared because this sort of thing has happened before, against Alabama in 2008, against Florida in 2009, and against Boise State last year. I also should have been prepared because South Carolina isn’t just a good team, it’s a good program, and not only in football. The Gamecocks have spent aggressively yet shrewdly to upgrade their coaching, their facilities, and their recruiting. The results have included the best three-year run in school history on the gridiron, three straight trips to the College World Series finals on the diamond, and a top-shelf hire to revive interest and competitiveness on the hardwood.
We can talk all we like about the Gators and the Yellow Jackets and the Volunteers and, yes, even the Tigers and the Tigers, but the simple truth is that we have been surpassed by the Gamecocks in every way. When the Bulldogs take the field in 2013, no Georgia player who is not a redshirt senior will have ever known what it is like to have beaten South Carolina.
All this, of course, is a credit to the Gamecocks, who have improved steadily in recent seasons, to the point of becoming a permanent fixture in the SEC East firmament. This is not simply a matter of one great coach or one great player making all the difference; South Carolina has quality depth, and, when Steve Spurrier eventually retires, he will leave behind a program sufficiently established to attract another high-caliber coach.
The hard, cold reality is that South Carolina is better than Georgia. The Gamecocks were the better team tonight, they are the better program overall, and, until further notice, the SEC East foe that has taken three straight series meetings, and four of the last six, is the most important rival we have, period.