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Georgia is set to take on South Carolina this Saturday night. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. for the SEC opener, which will be the first night game in Sanford Stadium since 2019.
The Gamecocks come to Athens in rebuilding mode. Former Georgia assistant Shane Beamer is at the helm, replacing new Georgia special teams coordinator Will Muschamp in Columbia.
South Carolina is led by graduate assistant quarterback Zeb Noland as former starter Luke Doty is recovering from an injury suffered in fall camp. The Gamecocks are coming off of a 20-17 win over East Carolina in week-two.
On the other side, Georgia is dealing with its own quarterback injury problems. Star J.T. Daniels missed last week with a core injury and Stetson Bennett, who stepped in and played great in Daniels place versus UAB, is dealing with a minor back injury.
Coach Kirby Smart was optimistic about both Daniels and Bennett’s status in his weekly press conference on Tuesday, but we probably won’t know who will lead the Bulldogs until Saturday.
Even with the offensive questions, Georgia’s defense is good enough to make up the slack.
Here’s five reasons why UGA beats the Gamecocks this weekend.
Sep 11, 2021; Athens, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Kelee Ringo (5) intercepts a pass over UAB Blazers wide receiver Trea Shropshire (11) during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Georgia's defense is one of the very best in the country through two games. Just take a look at these rankings so far:
Total defense: 1st
Points allowed: 1st
Yards per game: 1st
Yards per play: 2nd
One of those games was against a non-Power 5 opponent in UAB, but the Blazers are defending conference USA champions. Georgia didn't even allow over 100 yards passing to UAB last Saturday (97). Pair that performance with the shutdown of Clemson's high-powered offense and there is no denying the Bulldogs prowess on that side of the ball.
Sep 4, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Zamir White (3) makes a cut at the line against the Clemson Tigers during the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Coach Kirby Smart will tell you Georgia hasn't run the ball well through the first two weeks but the run game is a big reason why UGA won in Charlotte. Star running back Zamir White averaged over five yards per carry against the Tigers. Last week, UAB decided to sell-out to stop the Dawgs on the ground and Georgia responded by going deep. Backup quarterback Stetson Bennett made the throws over top and ended with 288 yards and five touchdowns on the day. That said, Georgia still racked up 163 yards rushing versus the Blazers with a loaded box. South Carolina will have to pick its poison on Saturday night.
Nov 23, 2019; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs punter Jake Camarda (90) follows through on a punt against the Texas A&M Aggies during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
It's about time we show some love to specialists. Georgia has one of the most unheralded weapons in all of college football in senior punter Jake Camarda, who leads the SEC with a 45.8 net punting average, and was a preseason first-team All-American. And the riches don't stop there for the Bulldogs. Junior kicker Jack Podlesney was a semifinalist for the 2020 Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's top kicker, and was the Offensive MVP of the 2020 Peach Bowl. Even if the Gamecocks are able to make the game a low-scoring defensive battle, UGA will have the upper hand in field position.
SEC East dominance
Dec 7, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart talks to defensive coordinator Dan Lanning against the LSU Tigers in the third quarter in the 2019 SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Other than the Bulldogs' loss to South Carolina in 2019 and Florida in 2020, UGA is perfect against the SEC East under Smart the last four seasons. That span has included three SEC East titles. Considering how South Carolina is in the begging stages of a program rebuild under new head coach Shame Beamer, we have no reason to think this game turns out like the infamous noon-loss to Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks two years ago. This year's Georgia team could punt on first and ten and still win the game.
Night game in Athens
Sep 21, 2019; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs offensive lineman Justin Shaffer (54) reacts after defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit:cDale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Georgia is simply not a good matchup for South Carolina and it doesn't help that the Gamecocks roll into town for the first full-capacity night game in Sanford Stadium in two years. There will be no shortage of noise during South Carolina's possessions. Athens was rocking last week against UAB and will be on a whole different level on this weekend. There is no place quite Sanford on a fall Saturday evening.
J.C. talks J.T. Daniels' injury, previews South Carolina and breaks down all things Georgia football with college football analyst Jake Crain in a new episode of “UGA Football Live with J.C. Shelton”. Listen here: https://open.spotify.com/episode/06hLcmCRo5MyH8GiEDqwy6?si=E5fJen_VThW5jBC6axvu7w&dl_branch=1