The South Carolina Gamecocks will visit the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday in what has been a back-and-forth affair since Steve Spurrier arrived in Columbia. Spurrier is 5-5 against the Bulldogs as the head ball coach for the Gamecocks and for the second straight year, his team will be coming off a bad loss before playing Georgia. But don’t let the Gamecocks' past woes mislead you; this is always a heated and hard-fought matchup.
The Bulldogs are 2-0 and would love to put this game away quickly, as Alabama and Tennessee loom big in a couple of weeks. South Carolina is 1-1 after a devastating loss to Kentucky last week. The Bulldogs will have revenge on their mind as the Gamecocks upset Georgia last year 38-35 after South Carolina was blown out by Texas A&M in its 2014 season opener.
We’ve seen it all when it comes to this rivalry. We’ve seen defensive games, blowouts, high-scoring affairs and outcomes that effect SEC East standings. Since 2005, an unranked team has won this contest only once (South Carolina, 2007).
South Carolina at Georgia
Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Georgia -15.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Greyson Lambert help Georgia Win?
I know Lambert hasn’t been in this system long but it still remains to be seen if he can help this team win a game. Lambert was benched after going 0-for-7 to start last week's game against Vanderbilt and Brice Ramsey came in to give some relief. We all know the game plan by Georgia: run the ball and let the defense do the rest. At some point this recipe is going to spell disaster if Lambert or Ramsey can’t make throws and open up the run game for Nick Chubb and company. The Bulldogs have a real shot at making the College Football Playoff, like a lot of teams, if they can just get some results out of their quarterback.
2. Expect the Ol’ Ball Coach to Throw the Kitchen Sink at Georgia
If there is one thing everyone knows for sure, it’s that Steve Spurrier really dislikes Georgia and losing to them. I fully believe if Spurrier knew he had a shot at beating Georgia every year, he would coach until he died. Just so he could ruin the Bulldogs' season. That’s what’s so great about college football. I expect Pharoh Cooper to throw, run and catch any and everything he can, at least one special teams fake play, be it a punt or field goal. I also expect multiple-quarterback sets with a double-reverse pass thrown in because why not. Spurrier just wants to beat Georgia and he will do everything he can to accomplish that feat.
3. Can Georgia’s Defense Continue to Get Better?
Jeremy Pruitt’s defense is good but struggled against Vanderbilt late because the Bulldogs’ offense couldn’t stay on the field. Remember, before the Dominick Sanders interception return for a touchdown to put the game away for the Bulldogs, this was a 10-point contest and could have been closer if not for a missed Vanderbilt field goal earlier in the fourth quarter. Perry Orth will get his first start after he nearly led the Gamecocks to a comeback victory last week against Kentucky in Lexington. Orth will be playing a much better defense, but the Bulldogs can’t let South Carolina hang around like they did Vanderbilt. This defense has potential to be great but will it crack against a team that has nothing to lose?
The Bulldogs are a heavy favorite at home against South Carolina. It’s a trap! Don’t fall for this I beg of you: only twice since 2005 has either team won by a margin of greater than two touchdowns. Spurrier will keep this thing close but I fully expect a heavy dose of Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Keith Marshall. The Bulldogs don’t want to start another big year with an early loss to South Carolina and last year’s game still hangs in the minds of a lot of these Georgia players. I like Georgia to win but don’t expect them to cover.
Prediction: Georgia 27, South Carolina 17
— Written by Justin Nails, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @justinnails.