ATHENS — Georgia football has opened as a significant road favorite over South Carolina this week.
The No. 1-ranked Bulldogs are favored to beat the Gamecocks by 24.5 points in a noon kickoff (TV: ESPN) at Williams-Brice Stadium.
It was just three years ago that an unranked South Carolina team stunned a Top 5-ranked Georgia team in Sanford Stadium in what was another noon kickoff game.
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Many other things, however, have changed a great deal since that proud Gamecocks win.
Will Muschamp was the head coach of South Carolina back then, cutting a piece of the hedges from his alma mater after making that career highlight.
Muschamp was fired the following season, leading him to Georgia where he proved a pivotal piece in the Bulldogs’ 2021 championship season by coaching special teams and working with the secondary.
Shane Beamer took over in Columbia last season and improved the club from 2-8 to 7-6, earning a share of the Steve Spurrier Award and bringing excitement back into the program.
These Gamecocks are 1-1, and Beamer said his team improved last Saturday despite a hard-fought 44-30 loss at No. 10 Arkansas.
The question is, have the Gamecocks improved enough? And, can Beamer’s South Carolina program account for the two defensive starters it lost to injury against a loaded Bulldogs’ team?
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Beamer knows South Carolina has its work cut, saying “it looks like they haven’t missed much,” when asked his initial impression of a Georgia team that lost 15 players to the NFL draft.
Smart, meanwhile, had the benefit of what amounted to a glorified scrimmage with Samford last Saturday, a 33-0 name-your-score win. The FCS school begged for the mercy of a 12-minute shortened fourth quarter, ready to take its check and go home after serving as a punching bag.
Georgia got its starters enough work against Samford to stay sharp while providing a shot in the arm to team morale by getting young players and backups into the action.
The Bulldogs could be without receiver A.D. Mitchell, who appeared to tweak an ankle early in the Samford game.
Georgia, however, has had no fewer than 10 receivers in each of the first two games, so Mitchell’s potential absence wouldn’t seem to have a major effect.
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Other SEC Game Lines
Penn State -3 at Auburn (3:30 p.m., CBS)
Ole Miss -14.5 at Georgia Tech (3:30 p.m., ABC)
Northern Illinois -1.5 vs. Vanderbilt (3:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
Alabama -49.5 vs. Louisiana-Monroe (4 p.m., SEC Network)
Mississippi State -2.5 at LSU (6 p.m., ESPN)
Tennessee -47 vs. Akron (7 p.m., ESPN-Plus)
Florida -24.5 vs. South Florida (7:30 p.m. SEC Network)
Texas A&M -6.5 vs. Miami, Fla. (9 p.m., ESPN)