Early Season Test

It is what it is, and that is one of the biggest games of this, or any season. South Carolina versus Georgia seems to set the tone for the rest of the season, every year. Anytime the Gamecocks defeat the Bulldogs; the season inevitably becomes successful, and generally results in a bowl game. A loss in this game, and the season almost always becomes a struggle. Clemson is our arch-rival, but Georgia is our benchmark ...

The Dawgs, whether we want to think so or not, show us where we are in terms of the Southeastern Conference.

Let's look at some recent examples that bear this theory out:

In 2000 the Dawgs came in highly touted, ranked in the top ten, and had tons of experience. USC was coming off of their first win against New Mexico State, a mediocre team at best, after having lost twenty-one straight losses. It seemed like the deck was stacked firmly against the Gamecock team. Georgia came out that day and tried to drive that point home, as they marched right down the field to take an early lead. However, on this day the Gamecock defense would have no more. With zone blitzes and great coverage, the Cocks picked off five passes thrown by Quincy Carter, and went on to defeat the Bulldogs 24-10. USC then went on to qualify for the Outback Bowl where they defeated Ohio State 24-7.

Then in 2001, the Cocks traveled to Athens for a night game against Georgia and first year head coach, Mark Richt. This game was a defensive struggle from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. The Gamecocks held the high-powered Georgia offense to three field goals. After an early touchdown, Carolina was held scoreless until late in the game. Phil Petty led perhaps the drive of the season, as he marched the Gamecocks methodically down the field. The margin of victory for USC came as Petty threw a beautiful touchdown pass to Brian Scott, and the Gamecocks had won two in a row against Georgia. Again, they returned to the Outback Bowl and defeated Ohio State to give the school back-to-back bowl victories for the first time in school history.

Next came the 2002 contest at Williams-Brice Stadium. The game was delayed for several minutes by a tremendous lightning storm, and Gamecock fans were wondering if lightning could strike again and allow the Cocks to beat UGA for a third time in a row. The pattern of defensive games continued in this battle. The game was tight throughout, and as the Gamecocks fumbled twice inside the five-yard line, and had a pass intercepted for a touchdown, their fate was sealed. Georgia came out on top in that contest by six points. The Gamecocks struggled toward the end of the season, and missed a bowl berth by finishing 5-7.

The 2003 season brought national championship aspirations to Georgia. Coach Holtz new his troops were in trouble, even before they arrived in Athens. He said that the team hadn't prepared well, and when the game started, it showed.

Georgia used a potent offense and a stingy defense to defeat the Gamecocks 31-7. That twenty-four-point margin of victory was the largest by either team since 1981. South Carolina never fully recovered and once again finished 5-7, including a crushing loss to Clemson that dashed the bowl hopes, again.

So you can see that recent history shows that success against the Bulldogs, generally means success for the season. It is an early game, and there is a lot of football left, but the importance of this game cannot be overstated. Losing would not mean the end of the season, but a win would surely make a bowl appearance much easier to attain.

We'll see you Saturday!

- Mike

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