ATHENS — Sooner or later, you knew the Georgia Bulldogs were going to have a game like this. You know, where nothing seems to go right, and they can’t get out of their own way.
Well, they had that game Saturday afternoon against the South Carolina Gamecocks. And Georgia, which is ranked No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings, won anyway, 24-10.
It was an odd game from the outset, with the Bulldogs winning the opening toss and deferring to the second half, yet attempting an onside kick. It failed, and Georgia seemed to be swimming upstream the rest of the game.
Turns out, these Bulldogs are pretty good swimmers.
Georgia combined a better-than-advertised passing game with its usual gritty ground attack to out-fight a pesky offensive bunch of Gamecocks. Jake “Can’t Pass” Fromm had a good day slinging the pigskin, finishing with 196 yards on 16-of-22 passing and 2 touchdowns. Georgia also topped 200 yards rushing for the eighth time in nine games, finishing with 242 yards on 53 attempts. Nick Chubb led the way with 102 yards.
But South Carolina’s Jake Bentley had a good day. The sophomore quarterback further exposed the Georgia secondary as the weakness in an otherwise juggernaut defense. He passed for 209 of the Gamecocks’ 252 total yards heading into their final possession and finished with 227 through the air.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who always comes forth with a laundry list of complaints after his team wins in blowouts, won’t have enough time to go over all the mistakes before the Bulldogs travel to Auburn next Saturday.
The Bulldogs not only failed on the onside kick, but they also gave a first down on a fake punt, turned the ball over inside the South Carolina 5 and committed a personal-foul penalty that let the Gamecocks get out from the shadow of their end zone, among other things.
Still, the objective was achieved. The Bulldogs improved to 9-0 for the first time since 1982 and, with a win on the road at Auburn, they can clinch the Eastern Division title and a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.
Of course, victory on The Plains will be far from automatic. The No. 14 Tigers (7-2, 5-1 SEC) scored a resounding 42-27 road win over Texas A&M on Saturday.