Our Georgia Bulldogs travel to Columbia, SC to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks on November 28. Its the post-Thanksgiving game traditionally reserved for Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate, so leave that turkey at the store and this year fry up some crispy chicken.
The Finger Lickin’ Good File
Location: Columbia, South Carolina
Home Stadium: This time of year? The Fieriest Pit of Hell... now with bonus asphalt. Once the temperatures cool down? Williams-Brice Stadium. CAPACITY: 80,250.
Notable Alumni: Sort of an impressive array of football coaches really. Mark Dantonio, Dan Reeves, Charlie Weis. Also, some guy talking to me through my radio about love and tenderness, peace and harmony... now he keeps insisting that we hold hands and he’ll (and I quote) take me to the promised land, whatever that means. Weirdo.
Coach Will Muschamp is coming off a 4-8 campaign in 2019. It doesn’t much matter where your team falls in the SEC pecking order, that’s a cause for concern. Muschamp’s time at South Carolina has been remarkably similar to his years at Florida. Rough first year, breakthrough second year (although in Gainesville that meant 2 extra wins, a Sugar Bowl appearance, and a Top 10 finish), and then diminishing returns thereafter. And while that wasn’t good enough at Florida, maybe it is at South Carolina... I’m not attuned to that fanbase’s tolerance level for 4 win seasons. Larry, however, seems concerned... which is why he brought in Mike Bobo to try to help right the ship. Some of you may remember him for the high-powered offensive attack later in his tenure at UGA, others for his green notebook and too many of your Sunday mornings spent repairing the holes you punched in the living room wall.
Whether or not Muschamp (and Bobo) are able to turn things around before the natives grow restless is yet to be seen. I still can’t believe the 2019 South Carolina Gamecocks beat the 2019 Georgia Bulldogs, but I wouldn’t count on that consistently happening as a way to keep the fanbase satiated. Also, it’s not like this season anyone can use cupcakes to pad out their win total. So the Gamecock coaching staff has some work to do... but they do have some talent of which to avail themselves.
Back under center for the Gamecocks is perennial redshirt senior and veteran starter, Stephen Garcia.
Okay, so I’m joking obviously, but you have to ask yourself... “would I really be that surprised?”
Actually in the backfield at QB for the Gamecocks will be sophomore Ryan Hilinski. Hilinski has plenty of skills to competently run Mike Bobo’s offense, but he’s going to want to improve on that 58% completion rate. Like he did in Athens last year when he completed 75% of his passes (by the way, prior to writing this, I had no recollection of that game at all. I had successfully wiped it completely from my mind. So glad I drew this preview in the rotation!!!). A balanced offense really does look to be the key for Hilinski’s development. When he was asked to throw the ball 20-30 times a game, his stats were good to excellent. When he was asked to throw it 40-50+ times during games later in the season, everything plummets. In the event that things aren’t working out with Hilinski (or in this strange new world, he goes out with a Covid-related issue), Collin Hill followed Mike Bobo over from Colorado State as a graduate transfer.
In order to have that balance Mike Bobo likes and Hilinski needs, the Gamecocks will have to be able to run the football. Sophomore Kevin Harris takes control of the running back position after looking impressive on limited opportunities in 2019 (8.5 ypc and 4 TDs on only 21 attempts from the line of scrimmage). He’ll be running behind an offensive line that looks strong (with a deep veteran presence on the outside) and perhaps still developing at the center and guard positions. The wide receiver corps looks to have a good combination of experience at the position (SR Shi Smith, JR Josh Vann) and an infusion of young talent.
The Gamecocks seem capable, if not intimidating, across the board defensively. There is some level of veteran leadership and experience at each position and that should provide stability as younger players rotate in. In all likelihood this defense will be led by Israel Mukuamu and the secondary. Georgia fans will likely remember Mukuamu because he gave the Dawgs fits last year. His four interception figure from last season is only likely to grow this year. Fellow juniors Jaycee Horn and R.J. Roderick will help fill out what is likely to be the most dangerous position group the Gamecocks have.
Along the line, South Carolina is similarly equipped with talent and experience. With two seniors at end and tackle (Aaron Sterling and Keir Thomas) and Zacch PIckens looking to up his production (from 16 tackles in 8 games) during his sophomore campaign, the line should be solid. The linebacking corps may be a bit more of a concern simply because their isn’t quite the breadth of experience seen in other parts of the defense. Other than two seniors (Sherrod Green and Damani Stanley) on the strongside and junior Ernest Jones in the middle, its sophomores and redshirt freshmen on down the depth chart. In the event of injuries and quaratine issues, or just the need to have a solid rotation going to handle the wear and tear of the season, this is the unit that could potentially become a liability.
The Gamecock special teams unit returns veteran kicker Parker White, who has only grown more consistent as his career has gone on. In addition to being pretty much perfect on extra points in his career, White is 32 of 35 from inside 40. Muschamp appears to have settled on Jammie Robinson to takeover return duties. South Carolina will be replacing its punter, holder, and long snapper, which could prove pivotal at some point early on, but which I have to imagine will have been long since figured out by the time their date with Georgia arrives.
I think it may be another rough season for the guys from Columbia. They pull LSU, Auburn, and Ole MIss out of the West to compliment their usual matchup with Texas A&M, Florida is supposed to be “better,” and I just don’t see Todd Monken settling for 17 points and an overtime loss. Also, one would imagine Kirby and the returning Bulldogs are going to want revenge for last season.
Now, maybe Muschamp gets a pass because of the bizarre circumstances this year. I know Mike Bobo is going to get their offense clicking on all cylinders. The only question is, can he do it fast enough for the coaching staff to keep their jobs?
Georgia 35 - South Carolina 14