COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina football team hits the road for Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday to play the Georgia Bulldogs, the No. 1 team in the country in the first College Football Playoff rankings.
The game will be televised by CBS (3:30 p.m. ET). Here are the predictions from SEC Country contributors Mike Chapman and Hale McGranahan:
Chapman: Georgia 31, South Carolina 21
This Saturday, South Carolina will attempt to do something that’s never been done in school history, which is beat the No. 1 team in the nation on the road. In order for the Gamecocks to accomplish this, it is going to take a near perfect game played by the entire team — offense, defense and special teams.
South Carolina has won only four times at Sanford Stadium since joining the SEC in 1992. Georgia is firing on all cylinders right now. Maybe the only thing that can help the Gamecocks is the timing of this game.
Georgia just beat Florida 42-7, became the No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday and faces a very good Auburn squad next week, so Saturday’s game might not have the Bulldogs’ full attention. However, I still think Georgia wins this game against South Carolina, but it will be a lot closer than the experts think.
To win, South Carolina will have to make Georgia feel uncomfortable by making them play catch-up. The Dawgs have not trailed in many games this year, which has allowed them to run the ball with their four superstar running backs.
If the Gamecocks can jump out to an early lead, maybe by two scores, then they will have the opportunity to make Georgia do what no other team has been able to do this year, which is force them to abandon the run while asking the freshmen quarterback to win the game for them.
The Gamecocks are playing some of their best football of the season and I think they have a chance to keep this thing close, perhaps shock the nation with an upset in Athens. However, I still see Georgia winning. The game should be close, due to the fact that South Carolina is playing well right now, but I see Georgia pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 31-21 victory.
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McGranahan: Georgia 31, South Carolina 10
There’s a reason why South Carolina is more than a 3-touchdown underdog in this game. Nothing against the Gamecocks, because they’re playing the best football we’ve seen out of Columbia in a few years, but Georgia has some of the best players in the country on its roster.
Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are at the top of the list, offensively, but Georgia has a stable of running backs that’s probably the most talented group in the country. Brien Herrien, who rushed for 82 yards against South Carolina last season, is Georgia’s fifth-leading rusher this season with 166 yards.
To me, this season’s game will play out kind of like it did on that sunny Sunday afternoon in Columbia. South Carolina will be able to keep the scoreboard from getting too lopsided, but there probably won’t be a point in the second half where Georgia fans are too nervous about losing.
Sure, Rico Dowdle punched in a 1-yard score to cut the Dawgs lead to 7 a year ago, but there was 1:40 left in the game. Then, of course, Terry Godwin grabbed the Gamecocks’ onside kick and returned it for a touchdown.
Any loss stinks, but a road cover against the No. 1 team in the country should give South Carolina fans a little something to feel good about, before the Gamecocks return to Williams-Brice to close out Year 2 under Will Muschamp.
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