No. 3 Georgia faces road test at No. 24 South Carolina

The Sports Xchange

September 04, 2018 at 5:14 pm.

Neither third-ranked Georgia nor 24th-ranked South Carolina was exactly tested during last week’s respective openers against Austin Peay and Coastal Carolina.

That all changes Saturday afternoon (3:30 ET, CBS) when the Bulldogs and Gamecocks kick off SEC play at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C.

For Georgia (1-0), it’s an opportunity to show the country that it is indeed worthy of its current seat among the top programs in the country, while the up-and-coming Gamecocks (1-0) have a chance to prove it is ready to become a legitimate contender in the SEC East.

“It counts as one,” South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp said. “We have a lot of football left to play, seven conference games after this one. We just need to focus in, put all our focus on Georgia this week. They have a good football team, but I think we do as well.”

The Gamecocks cruised past Coastal Carolina 49-15, piling up 557 yards of offense, while the Bulldogs had no trouble rolling to a 45-0 victory over Austin Peay in a game that saw the fourth quarter shortened by five minutes upon mutual agreement by both head coaches.

“We probably didn’t get tested. I mean to be dead honest with you, probably didn’t get tested. I know it’s easy to say that now, but that’s not the caliber of offensive line we’re going to have to face,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Austin Peay and the job their coach does, and their kids played really hard. But we know that we’re going to face a bigger, heavier, quicker person, and we’re going to have to play better.”

Both teams will no doubt lean heavily on their respective quarterbacks.

Gamecocks junior Jake Bentley, who threw for a career-best four touchdowns last week against the Chanticleers, is arguably the most unsung quarterback in the SEC. Georgia’s Jake Fromm is a proven talent after leading the Bulldogs to last year’s national championship game against Alabama.

“I don’t know if Jake Fromm really gets the credit he deserves,” Muschamp said. “I watched him in the Rose Bowl against Oklahoma and he made some big-time throws. He was throwing to the field side, corner high, low digs, across the corner in. In the championship, he put them in position to win that game.”

Smart likes what he sees from Bentley.

“A leader. I mean he understands the game. There are games I’ve watched him play over the years, it seems like 30 games now, seeing the kid in the game, understand it — whether it was on TV or watching him on tape — comes down to a two-minute situation,” Smart said. “You like having a coach on the field. He’s more athletic than you give him credit for. He scrambles for first downs when things are covered. He handles pressure well. He knows where to go with the ball. He’s unbelievable in the RPO game.

“I mean he’s a really good quarterback, and as an offensive coordinator, it’s a lot easier to call the game when you’ve got a guy that you know makes good decisions with the ball. And that’s what he does best.”

The Gamecocks will also be leaning on All-American wide receiver Deebo Samuel, back after missing most of last year with a broken leg. The Bulldogs are expected to welcome back leading receiver Terry Godwin, who missed the first game with a knee injury.

Both teams come into the game relatively healthy. South Carolina lost defensive end D.J. Wonnum to an ankle sprain against Coastal Carolina but he is expected to be able to play.

“Last year’s game (a 24-10 Georgia victory) was probably one of the most physical we played in. It was a really tough, physical game,” Smart said. “A lot of breaking the wheels when it comes to running the ball, them and us. They’ve got a great special teams unit that does a tremendous job in all phases. We know this is going to be a tough team.”