Dawgs Determine Destiny?
If it's true, that we can predict the outcome of the season by the Georgia game, then those who haven't circled September 8, 2007 on their calendars will be missing a tiny season crammed into three hours.
SEASONS IN THE SEC 1992 - 2006
hy•poth•e•sis - [ hi póthessiss ](plural hy•poth•e•ses)
theory needing investigation: a tentative explanation for a phenomenon, used as a basis for further investigation
Given a "hypothesis" is a tentative explanation, then as the definition says, the Gamecocks can use it as a basis for further investigation.
Obviously, the next step would be looking at the outcome of each season in the Southeastern Conference before comparing it to that season's contest against Georgia. Further, separating whether the game was played in Athens or Columbia may shed more light on the hypothesis.
In his fourth year as Gamecock Head Coach, Sparky Woods was all but fired. At 0-5, the 1992 Gamecocks were spiraling faster than a speeding slinky racing down "The Rocky Steps" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Gamecocks were demolished in Columbia that year by the Bulldogs, but it was arguably one of the most exciting seasons in South Carolina history. If it were not for a five point loss to an egotistical coach named Spurrier at Florida that year, the Gamecocks would have run the table to finish at 6-5. So the Georgia loss combined with a 5-6 final record may prove the theory true, but depending on who you listen to, it might not.
In 1993, the Gamecocks beat the Bulldogs between the hedges, yet finished the year a measly 4-7. Spelling the end for the Sparky Woods era, this season hurt the theory.
Enter Brad Scott. The 1994 installment of the Gamecocks finished the year 7-5 with a Carquest Bowl victory over West Virginia. They must have beaten Georgia then, right? No, Georgia escaped Columbia with a 24-21 victory.
In 1995 the Scott era started its four year tailspin – getting hammered in Athens, 42-23. That season was an ugly 4-6-1. The theory proves true!
In 1996 the Gamecocks beat down the Bulldogs 23-14. The team finished 6-5 with no bowl game appearance. Winning record? Yes. A successful season? Probably not. The only thing keeping a smile on Gamecock Nation's face after the season is the 34-31 victory in Death Valley. The Dawgs had nothing to do with it.
So far, it looks like the "Theory of the Dawg" is nothing but false. Things get interesting though as Scott runs himself out of town and legendary Lou Holtz takes over.
In the three games between 1997 and 1999, the Gamecocks are outscored 72-27. Their record in those seasons was becoming a national laughing stock. With a 21 game losing streak started by a 17-3 loss to none other than Georgia, USC combined to go 6-27.
In 2000 and 2001, the Gamecocks Outback Bowl years, they combine to go 17-7. Two of the 17 wins come against the Dawgs.
The trend continued, as the Holtz led Gamecocks slid into mediocrity, until his final season – the "woulda', coulda', shoulda' season" of 2004. That year the Gamecocks lost to Georgia at home yet were all but assured a trip to a bowl game if not for "The Brawl."
The Gamecocks and Bulldogs will face off again on September 8 in Athens, GA.
Leading us to present day where Georgia is the only big shot in the East that the Spurrier led Gamecocks have yet to upset, yet most would agree the team is headed in the right direction.
So then, does the Georgia game really depict the season before it actually happens? Looking at it from a pure wins vs. losses perspective, it does not. When approached from a home vs. away angle, the results are no more enlightening.
In the last 15 years, the record is in favor of Georgia 11-4. The last five contests falling on the side of the red and black in Athens. In those five though, the Gamecocks were Bowl eligible three times. Their one bowl victory in that five year span was in 2006 when they were shut out by Georgia for the first time since joining the SEC.
THOERY IS FALSE
Look at the chart below. The Georgia games really mean nothing about the outcome, especially lately. Many could look at the statistics below and determine the theory to be true by the nine consecutive years where a Georgia outcome coincided with the season outcome. However, it may not be as complicated. When Carolina fields a strong team, they beat Georgia and a host of others. When they field a bad team they lose to Georgia and a host of others.
So Then What Does the Georgia Game Mean?
If South Carolina is going to compete for an SEC title, they'll need to win the East. Beating Georgia will keep that goal alive. Losing to Georgia makes the task much harder to do and places control in the hands of other teams – not the Gamecocks.
Head Coach Steve Spurrier recently highlighted the Georgia game as critical, "Georgia is going to be a crucial game. If we're going to have a shot at the SEC (title), we really need to win in Athens. We'll go over there with the idea of beating those guys and seeing what happens."
Spurrier's "idea of winning" seems more possible this year than any. Georgia's post-spring depth chart consists of seven freshmen and sophomores listed in starting roles, including two freshmen on the starting offensive line. Their combined two deep on offense and defense is home to over twenty first and second year players.
Can we predict the outcome of the season by this game? Maybe. Some would argue that the same can be said for the week before and the week after though. If the Gamecocks lose to Louisiana-Lafayette and SC State, Gamecock Nation won't need the Georgia game to know what's on tap for the rest of the season. Even if they beat Georgia in between, it'd be obvious something was very wrong.
Obviously no one in the program intends to lose to Louisiana-Lafayette and SC State, but the point is that a win or loss in Georgia is just as important, in the big picture, as any other game. This game indicates nothing the others do not.
One does not have to research the history books to find a perfect example. In 2006 the Gamecock offense looked pitiful in the second week of the season. Georgia crushed the Gamecocks from the outset – punishing the run, stopping the pass and moving the ball effectively enough to tough out an 18–0 sleeper. With this loss, it should then have become apparent that the season was about to be a bad one. A one point loss to the eventual National Champions, a victory over Clemson and a strong offensive display in the Liberty Bowl victory would qualify as a successful season.
In actuality, there are twelve chances to determine the outcome of the season. The first chance is September 1, 2007 against the Ragin Cajuns. Each time one of those chances is won, the outcome looks better.
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