There's probably some mixed emotions going on for Georgia and South Carolina in anticipation of their game in Columbia this Saturday. The Bulldogs (5-2) had a surprisingly tough tussle with pesky Mississippi State last weekend, escaping with a 31-24 win. But at the same time, they got a gem of a game from new starting quarterback JT Daniels.
Man, you gotta think that after what we saw from the punchless Gamecock offense, this one is going to be a gigantic hill to climb. South Carolina (2-6) is just in disarray now. Sure the Gamecocks lost to Missouri, but before that they also lost their head coach Will Muschamp, who was fired. On top of that, the school still owes Muschamp $13.2 million for his firing. Gah. Nothing is going right for the Wicked Chickens.
It'll probably only get worse here too.
Georgia at South Carolina
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 28 at 7:30 pm ET
TV: SEC Network
Spread: Georgia -21.5
When Georgia Has the Ball
Heed my words. Last week, in my preview of the Mississippi State-Georgia game, I expressed my disbelief that the Bulldogs had not already handed the reigns of their punchless offense over to JT Daniels, the USC transfer. Stetson Bennett and D'Wan Mathis had proven to be unproductive and at times inept, combining for 18 completions in the two games before this. Daniels is a former freshman All-American and it showed in his first game for Georgia — 28-of-38 for 401 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions, and 10.4 yards per pass attempt. Wow. Perhaps it was just a matter of Kirby Smart and the coaching staff being extra-cautious with Daniels in his return from a torn ACL suffered I his last game as a Trojan. He passed his first test with flying colors. Let's find out if that was a fluke.
No way to sugar coat it, the running game has become an embarrassment. Is this really Herschel Walker U here? Against Mississippi State, Georgia ran the ball 23 times for, wait for it... wait for it... EIGHT yards. Not a typo. Look, MSU had a decent run defense, coming in 30th in FBS at 127 yards per game. But this is Georgia. And it's not just Herschel. It's Nick Chubb. It's Todd Gurley. It's Garrison Hearst. It's all that running back history. They should've bullied their way to 127 yards by halftime. So the onus falls on that offensive line. They've got to get an upfield push and re-establish some confidence, because it is wounded now.
It doesn't look good for the Gamecocks. Although they looked better in the loss to Missouri, the three games prior to that Carolina gave up 59, 48 and 52 points to Ole Miss, Texas A&M and LSU respectively. They had four players opt out last week including cornerbacks Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu. Daniels has to be licking his chops.
When South Carolina Has the Ball
Yep, another quarterback controversy. While Georgia seems to have fixed its QB problem, the Gamecocks haven't. Pocket-style passer Collin Hill got pulled after a scoreless first half vs. Missouri and freshman Luke Doty came in to make it a game. Doty went 14-of-23 for 130 yards and also ran for 59 yards on the ground. It seems logical that Doty would get the call here and his knack for extending plays with his feet gives this offense a new dimension. But at least Georgia has to prepare for both styles of QBs.
The Gamecocks get tough. Playmaking wide receiver Shi Smith is probably out for this game, as is Xavier Legette. On top of that, Dakereon Joyner and tight end Nick Muse are questionable. In other words, the receiving corps is a mess. Interim head coach Mike Bobo is a throwback. And that's good news for running back Kevin Harris, who has 875 yards and is averaging six yards per carry. I'm sure he will be given a chance to establish the running game in this one.
Unleash the hounds. The Gamecocks have given up 23 sacks on the season and Georgia knows that. The Bulldogs come in with 24 of their own in seven games, which is tops in the SEC. Azeez Ojulari has 4.5 sacks and 24 QB hurries so far. Look for Ojulari and those Junkyard Dogs to pin their ears back and give it some hell in going after the QB.
Almost forgot to mention that the Bulldogs will be frothing at the mouth to get revenge on the Gamecocks after last year's stunning 20-17 overtime upset in Athens. But Jake Fromm isn't back to throw three interceptions against the Gamecocks. And now that I think of it, Israel Mukuamu isn't back to make those three interceptions again.
Prediction: Georgia 34, South Carolina 14
Podcast: Week 13 Preview and Predictions + Interview with Kirk Herbstreit
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.