The Georgia Bulldogs are looking superb and the South Carolina Gamecocks are looking suspect.
Georgia will head into Saturday’s game in Columbia as the decided favorite after drubbing Central Michigan 56-17 this past weekend and after South Carolina lost 24-17 last Thursday night at Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs humbled Boise State 48-13 three years ago before escaping South Carolina 17-15 at Sanford Stadium, and they followed an impressive 35-14 opening win over Oklahoma State last season with a 16-12 home loss to the Gamecocks.
“It’s very consistent each year,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday. “They’ve played very well the week before, and we’ve not played very well the week before. We’ve had pretty good games with them every year, so hopefully we can get in a close game with them and make a play or two to beat them. They’re certainly one of the best teams in the country, as we all know.”
Georgia remained No. 2 in The Associated Press and USA Today polls behind Southern California, but Oklahoma is now immediately behind the Bulldogs followed by Florida and Ohio State.
The Bulldogs are averaging 50.5 points a game and rank ninth nationally in total offense with 543.5 yards per game. Coach Mark Richt is pleased with the balance and productivity through two games but believes, in a sense, that this season kicks off in Williams-Brice Stadium.
“We have not played a Southeastern Conference defense, and we’re getting ready to now,” Richt said. “We’ve played a I-AA team and a Mid-American Conference team that don’t really have the opportunity to recruit the athletes that we see on a weekly basis in our league. The jury is still out on how good we might be.”
South Carolina ranks ninth nationally in total defense, allowing 181.5 yards a game, but has serious questions offensively after a 1-1 start. Senior receiver Kenny McKinley, who set a school record Thursday by catching at least one pass for a 35th consecutive game, suffered a strained hamstring late in the first quarter.
Spurrier isn’t optimistic about McKinley playing.
“There is a chance he might be back, but hamstring injuries tend to linger two to three weeks,” he said. “I hope it’s not a severe one.”
Spurrier has another quarterback quandary in Columbia, this time with junior Tommy Beecher and sophomore Chris Smelley. Beecher started the opening 34-0 win over N.C. State but threw four interceptions, while Smelley started last week and threw two.
Smelley has been the better quarterback so far this season, but Beecher had the better preseason camp.
“We’ve got two quarterbacks who have not really distinguished themselves from each other, in my opinion, and I’ve got to make the call,” Spurrier said. “We’ll go through practice this week and try to see how each player performs and how excited each player is to play the game.”
Said Richt: “They’re not that different in style. I think they’re trying to accomplish the same thing regardless.”
When asked about Knowshon Moreno, Richt said his sophomore tailback looked just as good on film as he did in person Saturday, if not better. Moreno had 168 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries, but Richt could not believe his hurdling of CMU safety Vince Agnew late in the third quarter wasn’t an ESPN highlight staple.
“They missed the boat or didn’t do their homework or whatever,” he said. “I don’t know how they couldn’t have noticed that as thorough as it seems like they are most of the time. It’s going to make our highlights for a long time.”
Odds and ends
Georgia junior defensive tackle Kade Weston (knee) and senior receiver Kenneth Harris (ankle) are probable for Saturday. ... Richt is disappointed so far in the pass rush, which produced one sack Saturday. ... Spurrier on recruiting Georgia freshman receiver A.J. Green: “He’d come up for a game every now and then, but he was committed to Georgia when I got here three years ago.”
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...