It’s hard to separate the football game that’s supposed to take place Sunday from what we’re watching happen: A hurricane bearing down on the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, potentially hitting places that many of us know and think of fondly. Many of you live at those places.
This segment is usually for on-field football predictions, and you’ll still see them. But there’s really only one story right now, so let’s start out with that.
1. WILL THE GAME REALLY BE PLAYED?
Yes, but it shouldn’t be treated as a certainty.
Columbia may be just fine, but let’s say that the coast of South Carolina is battered terribly overnight by Hurricane Matthew. Depending on the damage, a lot of people may wonder about what kind of look it is to be playing a football game so close by and so soon. There are players on both teams who have family along the hurricane’s path, not to mention fans of both teams who are affected.
Another factor to watch: Does Georgia’s ability to get to Columbia get impacted adversely? The team is now planning to leave Saturday – by bus – and doubtless will be watching the weather and traffic closely to find the right time and right route. But if the weather is terrible and the roads are clogged, things could get very difficult.
2. WHAT IS THE ON-FIELD IMPACT OF MOVING THE GAME?
South Carolina, like most major programs, now has a sophisticated draining system, and one that was just installed this past summer. There is 100 percent chance of rain Friday night and Saturday, but it’s supposed to be sunny on Sunday. So one would think the field won’t be that muddy, or perhaps even that wet.
The great unknown is the crowd atmosphere. Not playing on Saturday night actually helps Georgia: The Gamecocks might not be good, but their fans are, as anyone who’s been in the Williams-Brice Stadium press box when it’s shaking can tell you. So if the stadium isn’t full, that helps Georgia, and a day game tamps down the atmosphere. But there’s also a chance that traffic concerns makes this as close to a 100 percent pro-Gamecock crowd as there’s ever been for a Georgia-South Carolina game.
3. OTHER THAN THE WEATHER, WHAT SHOULD SCARE THE BULLDOGS?
The return of Gameocck receivers Bryan Edwards and Deebo Samuel, who have been limited lately but are ready to go. And what if South Carolina suddenly figures out its quarterback situation, be it Perry Orth playing all game and doing well, or freshman Brandon McElwain proving dangerous with his feet?
South Carolina’s offense has been its main undoing. If it suddenly figures things out on Saturday, that’s trouble for the Bulldogs.
4. IS GEORGIA’S OFFENSE VULNERABLE TOO?
Absolutely. South Carolina’s defense has been decent, and it does have 10 sacks this season, meaning it’s not an automatic that Jacob Eason will have time to throw. Georgia’s offense had a good week against Tennessee, but can it sustain it?
5. GEORGIA IS FAVORED BY SEVEN. DOES IT WIN AND COVER THE SPREAD?
Yes. And no. The guess here is a low-scoring game that Georgia wins by a field goal, or maybe a couple field goals.
The key stat is in the trenches: South Carolina is averaging only 3.3 yards per rush, and its defense is yielding 4.8 yards per rush. That’s a stat that bodes well for Georgia’s ability to control clock, score enough points, and get out of Columbia with a victory.
Assuming the game is played.