So that was ugly. Second worst loss in a decade. Definitely the ugliest. An outing that will fuel the Spurrier-should-retire narrative, and a loss that feels like the death of hope for a successful season. I don't see why it shouldn't. That game felt decisive in a lot of ways.
I grew up in metro Atlanta. My parents are University of Florida alumni. I grew up watching Spurrier-led teams, drinking in the schadenfreude, and reveling when otherwise rational folks lost their shit every time Steve smirked at a camera. Pissin' on the Dawgs (sic) is in my blood. In attending USC, my shift in fandom was seamless. Continue to hate on Georgia and an ACC team coached by a Bowden? Shut up and take my loyalty. When Spurrier got hired during my second year of undergrad it felt meant to be. That’s a really long-winded way of saying that this has always been the game I anticipate most.
The years the Gamecocks win when they shouldn’t are the very best, but the games have always been fun to watch. On paper, it's not a game that should be so difficult for Georgia to win. It's so satisfying when they don't. Even the intermittent losses are entertaining for the duration and they regularly defy expectations, often falling 30 points away from the over/under.
Because of these outcomes, UGA / South Carolina became a barometer for years. Even when Georgia fans pretended otherwise it’s been an important game. The winner was crowned the presumptive SEC East favorite, and expectations could be measured for both squads; the first big game of the year.
Last night was certainly telling for South Carolina, and in the worst way imaginable. Carolina made a second-rate ACC graduate transfer look like Russel Wilson. The team gave up in the second half. The team got PUNCHY in the second half, which is some bush league Lou Holtz-era garbage. The coaching staff didn't have any answers. I just wanted it to be over. That’s a weird feeling to have during my favorite game of the year.
It'll be interesting to see what kind of performance Carolina puts in next week against UCF in an impending-car-crash sort of way, but the Georgia game told fans exactly what to expect from the team this season in a way that even the UNC and Kentucky games couldn’t.
In the second half of last night’s game I had an epiphany that I never even experienced during last year's disappointing season. It was release. No need to worry about contending for the SEC. No pressure to be world-beaters or worry about failing to meet expectations (hey, Auburn!). No stress in rationalizing results or spinning positives from ugly wins. An ugly win is just an ugly win now. It’s painful, but when you don't expect to be impressed, it's harder to get let down.
The football team is not very good. They might get better. Spurrier sure as hell seems uninspired right now. He might retire. We’ll continue to follow the team, and watch the games, because our fanbase is insane and wonderful and we’ll remember that even bad football can be fun again. We’ll still bitch about it every step of the way and ponder the future direction of the program. I'm really interested to see how Ray Tanner will choose to move forward once Spurrier bows out. It sucks a lot more than cheering for good football, but I guess the games will be less stressful for a while.
Maybe Steve will do us one last solid and stick around long enough for Charlie Strong to get run out of Austin.