Is South Carolina's SEC season on the line against Georgia on Saturday?
The Gamecocks, already 0-1 in the conference after losing to Texas A&M in its season opener, were the presumptive favorites in the SEC East. After all, South Carolina was a preseason top 10 and games against the Bulldogs and Missouri Tigers were at home.
But now, after getting blown out by A&M and beating East Carolina, The Gamecocks are an underdog on Saturday. And it's not crazy to extrapolate that out and make the snap judgment that they've also lost favorite status in the East despite the favorable two games at home.
"It's pretty much a must if we're going to have a shot to win the division," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "It would be very helpful, but I read something the other day that the winner of this game has not won it the last three years so obviously it's not the only game of the year. Certainly, both teams would certainly like to win it. You would think whoever wins it would have a better chance."
Spurrier's correct. While the game may be insanely important for South Carolina's division chances, a win isn't a harbinger of a championship. Last year, Georgia won in Athens, Ga. Missouri won the East. In 2012, South Carolina beat Georgia, but the Dogs won the East after both Georgia and Florida were 7-1 and South Carolina was 6-2. In 2011, Georgia won the East but its only loss was to, you guessed it, South Carolina.
A more important indicator for division success is the absence of a second loss. A team has won the East with two or more conference losses three times in the last ten years. The last one was Spurrier's 2010 South Carolina team, a squad that got destroyed at the hands of a Cam Newton-led Auburn in the SEC Championship Game.
If you're someone who likes trends, you may think this is going to be a low-scoring game. While the winner of the last three games in Athens has scored at least 41 points, the Bulldogs haven't scored more than 20 in Columbia, S.C. since 2000 while, with the exception of 35 points in 2012, the stretch goes to 1996 for South Carolina.
"To think that the last nine times, the most amount of points was 20 – that shocked me when I read that stat," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "I knew what it had been for us when I've been at Georgia, but I didn't realize it went back that far. Just a great atmosphere, great defense and Georgia not getting it done. I guess I've been there six times, this is my seventh time, and we haven't scored many points but we've actually won four out of six games there."
"They've been some stout defensive battles, most of them. Last time we were there it obviously wasn't much of a defensive battle. But it's been tough going getting points over there for whatever reason, and hopefully we'll do better."
However, with Hutson Mason and a healthy Todd Gurley, it's feasible to believe it'll be really hard for South Carolina's defense to stifle Georgia's offense yet again.
"I knew they haven't scored 20 since I've been here, of course they've won two of them, but we won the low scoring game over there, I think it was , that 16-12 game," Spurrier said. "We've had some low-scoring games with Georgia and we have held them under 20 here. Then again, we didn't think Texas A&M was going to roll up 52 on us either so every year is a new year and we're believing that we can play a lot better, but we need to go do it on the field and this would be a good week to show that."
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