Following what is hopefully a successful weekend against Kentucky (please god please) and a bye week, the South Carolina Gamecocks pack up again for another road trip, this time visiting the Georgia Bulldogs between the hedges. It’s a weird time of year to face UGA — traditionally, this contest is played in Week 2, and when it hasn’t been that early, it’s still tended to fall sometime in September. By mid-October, the Bulldogs could be really clicking, which would make an already challenging game even more difficult.
Last meeting: In the only Carolina game I was able to attend last season (no, I’m not bitter at all), the Gamecocks rolled out a comedy of errors against the Dawgs, ultimately falling 41-17 in a game that honestly wasn’t that close. It can best be summed up by USC’s opening possession, which featured an errant pass doinking off Rico Dowdle’s facemask and into the arms of a waiting UGA defender, who happily returned it for a touchdown. It was an especially cruel outcome given the pre-game hype, which had positioned the Gamecocks as a possible SEC East challenger and at the very least, a tough early road test for Georgia. Welp.
Last season: The Bulldogs had a bit of a “step-back” season in 2018, though I use the word very loosely. 2017 was a monumental year for UGA, as it finally shattered the glass ceiling of lofty fan expectations and captured an SEC championship before finishing as national runners-up (to Alabama, of course). Georgia failed to win the SEC crown or make the national title game last season — indeed, the Dawgs were left out of the Playoff entirely — but still dominated the Eastern Division on their way to an 11-3 (7-1 SEC) record.
Player to watch: With a team that recruits as well as Georgia does — especially since that’s gotten even better with the presence of Kirby Smart — singling a player out is a bit of a ‘Bama-esque dilemma. Since deposing Jacob Eason, Jake Fromm has continued to come into his own, second only to Tua Tagovailoa in the SEC’s quarterback pecking order. The true calling card of the Bulldogs’ offense tends to be their running game, though, and D’Andre Swift should continue to lead a loaded backfield. Operating behind one of the best offensive lines in the country and in good health, Swift is set up to be terrifying after notching a 1,049-yard season in 2018 despite battling groin and ankle issues.
Prognosis: Until further notice, the Bulldogs are the class of the Eastern Division, as much as it pains me to say it. Under no circumstances will I believe the hype as far as Florida is concerned, but I suppose they are the theoretical challengers to this claim with the rest of the division teams still jockeying to find their various identities. Nonetheless, with a preseason No. 3 ranking, it seems like the safe bet to continue banking on Georgia making another SEC Championship game appearance and staying in the College Football Playoff discussion. Hopefully, the Gamecocks can actually bring a concerted effort with them this time.