COLUMBIA, S.C. — Greetings from Williams-Brice Stadium, where it’s currently 90 degrees, feels like 95 based on the current heat index, and will top 100 degrees on the sand-based Bermuda grass fields on which No. 3 Georgia and No. 24 will do battle today.
As I made the 4-mile walk (only slight exaggeration) from the media lot on Key Road to the press entrance on the opposite side of the stadium in my now sweat-soaked dress shirt, I was reminded of a fellow reporter who covers games here on the regular who actually changes clothes after he arrives at the stadium. Oh, well, maybe next time.
Now I’m in an air-conditioned press box high above the field watching the two teams just begin their pregame warmups. They’re all in shorts and T-shirts right now. I’m sure they’ll put off climbing into those padded uniforms as long as they possibly can.
I’m also reminded today that this time last year, we were all in South Bend, Ind., getting ready to watch the Bulldogs play Notre Dame. Hard to believe that was actually a calendar year ago, as so much has happened since that fateful night. Not only was there the incredible turnout of the Bulldog Nation that day a year ago, but the Bulldogs answered the bell on national TV and beat a very good Fighting Irish team 20-19.
If you’ve ever been here to the Fairgrounds in Columbia, you already know that South Carolina’s game day setup has not a tenth of the charm we enjoyed on Notre Dame’s beautiful campus. To start with, Williams-Brice is not on the campus. It’s down the hill and across the railroad tracks from downtown on some wide-open plains. Only, almost everything down here has been asphalted or graveled-over. So it’s literally desert-like on a day like today.
What matters, of course, is what happens on the field today. From that standpoint, this game feels a lot like that one last year in South Bend. No, it doesn’t match a pair of top-10 teams, but it’s a conference game between the top two teams from the SEC’s Eastern Division, which technically makes it even more important. The loser will need the other team to lose twice going forward to overtake them in the standings, and as we all know, it’s never good to depend on somebody else to get something done.
And I expect Georgia to. I picked the Bulldogs to win 31-23 in something I wrote sometime this week, so we’ll stick with that I guess. But I do expect it to be close, as the matchups between these two teams this time of year almost always are.
It’ll be a raucous environment. This press box will sway and shake like it always does when the South Carolina crowd jumps up and down and whips around their white towels to Sandstorm. The key for Georgia is making sure the Gamecocks’ in-game celebrations are extremely limited after kickoff.
If Georgia does indeed take care of business – or “blows them out,” as ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit predicted on College Game Day this morning – then I believe it can really gain some confidence and get something going this season. If not, it won’t prevent the Bulldogs from achieving all these lofty goals this season, but it will be considerably tougher to make it happen.
Terry Godwin is suited up for the game, as well as Jayson Stanley and Kearis Jackson, so that’s good news for the Georgia’s wide receiver corps. Take note, the Bulldogs dressed 10 wideouts for today’s game. Methinks they might be throwing the ball all over the yard.
We know South Carolina will be as well. So it might be the best conditioned team wins this one. But please know that Mike Griffith, Brandon Adams, Jeff Sentell and I are all well-hydrated and comfortable now. We will be posting stories on DawgNation and updates in the forum throughout the game and after.
Y’all stay cool now!