A majority of my life as a Georgia fan I haven’t had to worry about the South Carolina Gamecocks. My godfather was a graduate so I always had a little special place for them. They were mostly harmless. Then Steve Spurrier showed up and things changed. They took four of five from us starting in 2010. They got cocky and annoying like they actually won an SEC Championship or something (they haven’t). The best was in 2015 when Greyson Lambert set a college football record against Steve Spurrier and the crybaby quit a few weeks later. It started a bit of a run on what I thought would be a long string of dominant victories over the chickens.
Then 2019 happened. I was in the building for the game. It was a bit of a family reunion as me, my dad, my half-brother, my two uncles, and two of my cousins all went to the game together. My two uncles both hold degrees from South Carolina and are big Chicken fans. One uncle, actually never liked Georgia. He rooted for Tech (weird) and then switched to Carolina. The other uncle just fully embraced Carolina after getting his grad degree and it’s weird. ANYWAY, we were all at the game together. The bad news started when it was announced for a noon kick. I hate noon kicks. I especially hated it that day because it was hotter than blue hell. Plus, it seems like the players just don’t get up for a noon kick, which played out exactly like that. We lost. And it still baffles me and I was there.
We couldn’t do shit on offense. This was the game that, with the benefit of hindsight, was the harbinger of doom for the 2019 Georgia offense. Jake Fromm looked worse than hot garbage in this game. We couldn’t run the ball to save our lives. Our receivers couldn’t catch a cold (we could’ve used JJ Hollomon). Kirby had some questionable coaching calls. Just one big cluster that led to a crippling loss. We heard about it all season. We didn’t lose again until we played LSU, but the offense never looked in rhythm for a full game all season after this game. When that kick sailed to the left in OT, well…it was a pretty depressing walk back to the car. My half-brother puking in the street out of the car was an all too apt metaphor for the day.
This year’s game should be different. In the Kirby era, his teams have usually bounced back well from a loss to a team. He hasn’t lost two regular season games in a row to an SEC team during his tenure. 2017 was the famous “revenge tour” where we annihilated Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Florida on our magical run to the playoffs. Can 2020 be the same? I think so. South Carolina comes in with plenty of changes. The whole offense is different with former Georgia OC Mike Bobo taking over. They lose one of their biggest pieces on defense with Javon Kinlaw exhausting his eligibility. Georgia returns its own stout defense, but is also implementing a new offensive scheme. The game will be in Columbia which can be a house of horrors for us in recent history. Let’s break it down though from the player perspective.
BEST SOUTH CAROLINA OFFENSIVE PLAYER
Shi Smith, WR. Following in the footsteps of Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards steps Shi Smith. He will be their best returning receiver. Ryan Hilinski did not have a fantastic freshman campaign. If he is going to bounce back, he will need Shi Smith (and a newcomer [foreshadowing]) to bail him out. Their OL is not their strong suit. This game will show us how good Smith really is, and how good our defense is. If he’s as good as advertised, he will give our DBs some trouble. If our defense is as good as advertised, we won’t hear his name too much.
BEST GEORGIA OFFENSIVE PLAYER
Zamir “Zeus” White, RB. I’m projecting a bit here. We will need our running game to show up after its no show last year. Carolina has quite a bit of talent in the secondary (rewatch last year’s game if you doubt) as well as some names on the DL you might remember if you follow recruiting. Kinlaw is gone, but guys like Rick Sandidge, Kingsley Engabare, and Zacch Pickens will be around. The good news, is they don’t have elite depth and we can use White to break them down. I envision him getting the lion’s share of carries to wear down their DL to set up the pass. Or we will try to pick them apart with short passes to set up loose holes (twss) for White to run through. Either way, White will be heavily involved.
BEST SOUTH CAROLINA DEFENSIVE PLAYER
Israel Mukuamu, DB. The star of last year’s game. He is their best DB on the roster. He can play any position in the secondary, but will probably line up at cornerback. I’m imagining he will get up close and personal with George Pickens. Jaycee Horn will be on the other side, so it’s not as though we can just pick on one guy. More than likely we will have to attack the middle of the field to keep the ball away from the cornerbacks because I don’t think Carolina has the linebackers to hang with our RBs and TEs.
BEST GEORGIA DEFENSIVE PLAYER
Eric Stokes, CB. He will more than likely be on Shi Smith. He has the ability to lock down his man. If Carolina can’t pass, we will be able to load the box. Last year the defense wasn’t the problem. Considering they only gave up 13 points of offense, nothing much should need to change. Much of it will depend on Carolina’s QB play. If Stokes and company can take away his safety valves, it should be a long day for the Chickens.
BEST SOUTH CAROLINA NEWCOMER
Marshawn Lloyd, RB. He will be the RB for this team even though he’s a freshman. They have no one else with his talent. If the offense is humming, it will be because of Lloyd. If he breaks out of stacked boxes, it could be a long day for the DAWGS.
BEST GEORGIA NEWCOMER
Kendall Milton, RB. His second appearance! If we can wear down their defense like we can (and should) then young Kendall will be getting some late game love again. Hoping he sends the chicken fans to the parking lot early in the fourth quarter.