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Georgia Bulldogs vs. South Carolina Gamecocks Preview and Prediction

Jacob Eason

Jacob Eason

As Hurricane Matthew makes its way up the East Coast, many college football teams decided to postpone or reschedule games. The SEC announced on Thursday that the LSU-Florida game scheduled to be played in Gainesville was “indefinitely postponed,” and it may not happen at all, depending on who you ask. But Georgia and South Carolina are ready to go. The Bulldogs and Gamecocks, originally scheduled to meet on Saturday, will play Sunday afternoon in Columbia.

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Georgia comes into the game off the heels of an emotional loss on a Hail Mary to Tennessee — just after it had connected on a long touchdown pass of its own with 10 seconds to go. It’s one the Bulldogs certainly would love to have back, with a chance to just knock the ball down in the end zone. But it’s over with now and Georgia is faced with the task of responding.

South Carolina has shown signs of life this season with an improved defense under first-year head coach Will Muschamp. The problem for the Gamecocks is that they have trouble scoring points. Still, they have been able to attain a couple of wins over Vanderbilt and East Carolina. And in losses to superior SEC West foes, Mississippi State and Texas A&M, the defense played pretty well.

Sunday will mark the 69th all-time meeting between the Bulldogs and Gamecocks. Georgia holds the all-time series lead 48-18-2 and has won two of the last three meetings. However, South Carolina has had plenty of success in this series in recent memory, having won four of the last six. The ‘Dawgs haven’t won in Columbia since 2008.

Georgia at South Carolina

Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 9 at 2:30 p.m. ET (postponed from Oct. 8)

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TV Channel: SEC Network

Spread: Georgia -7

Three Things to Watch

1. Offensive Opportunity for South Carolina
The Gamecocks are last in the SEC in both scoring offense (14 points per game) and total offense (302 yards per game). They just can’t seem to find the end zone, which was Will Muschamp’s biggest criticism when he was the head coach at Florida. But this game should at least provide South Carolina some opportunities. Georgia is giving up almost 31 points per game — good for second to last in the SEC in that category. The Bulldogs don’t give up a ton of yards but they are one of the SEC’s worst in terms of yielding good field position. They give up a lot of yards on kickoffs and have struggled in the punting game. With decent field position, maybe the Gamecocks could put up a few more points.

2. Gamecocks’ D vs. Georgia Running Game
South Carolina looks pretty solid on defense. Even though the Gamecocks don’t have Muschamp’s recruits in yet — and Steve Spurrier didn’t leave him much to work with — there has still been marked improvement under the defensive-minded head coach, and that’s a good sign. This South Carolina defense has already forced nine turnovers. And though it is giving up more yards per game than other stout defenses, it has done a good job of bending but not breaking. The Gamecocks are allowing fewer than 19 points per game. But Georgia presents a difficult challenge with its three-headed rushing attack. Nick Chubb appears to be ready to go, despite battling an ankle injury. Even if he’s not at full strength, Brian Herrien and Sony Michel have done an admirable job of carrying the load in the backfield.

3. Georgia QB Jacob Eason
The ‘Dawgs true freshman sensation has finally emerged as “the guy” at quarterback, as many expected he would this season. Eason had a shining moment with the touchdown bomb late against Tennessee last week. It was honestly probably one of the most beautiful throws an SEC quarterback has made in years. And also, it’s kind of tough to blame Eason for the loss to the Volunteers. He did his part. This guy is for real. Georgia fans should be thankful they finally have their quarterback — and one that is going to have some more big moments in the SEC. Expect Eason to be relied on again this week if the South Carolina defense is able to bottle up the Bulldogs’ running game.

Final Analysis

To tell the truth, this isn’t a bad matchup for South Carolina. And with the exception of last year, these teams usually play pretty close games. Even though the Gamecocks haven’t been able to score a ton of points, I expect this one to be close — especially with it being in Columbia. South Carolina’s defense should be able to match up against the Georgia running game and the pressure will be put on Jacob Eason. The question is, will the freshman quarterback deliver in a hostile environment? I think he will. This is a good test for Eason and a better opportunity for him to make some plays.

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Prediction: Georgia 21, South Carolina 17

— Written by Cody McClure, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a radio host and lead SEC Writer for Three Point Stance Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @CodyMcClureCFB.