ATHENS — Despite a hurricane barreling down, Georgia and South Carolina will still play this weekend. It will just be on Sunday.
UGA and the SEC have confirmed that the game has been moved to 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp first announced the change during his radio show Thursday night in Columbia. The game will still be televised on the SEC Network, which had originally slated it for 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
“Due to the potential impact of the hurricane on Columbia and the surrounding area, it is in the best interest of safety to play the game on Sunday rather than Saturday night,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement issued late Thursday night. “I appreciate the cooperation of the schools who worked closely to make the appropriate operational adjustments in order to accommodate this change in the schedule.”
The change comes because Hurricane Matthew, now a Category 4 storm, is barreling up East Coast. President Obama declared a state of emergency for the state of South Carolina and the state’s governor, Nikki Haley, pleaded at a press conference Thursday afternoon for people to “please take this storm seriously.”
Columbia is about a two-hour drive inland from the coast, or Low Country, as it is known there. The harshest projections for Saturday were heavy rain and wind. However, thousands of people being evacuated from the coast, many of whom are expected to converge on Columbia and the surrounding areas in the next 24 hours.
But even with another key SEC game being called off — Florida postponed its Saturday home game with LSU on Thursday — there was still no official resolution on Georgia-South Carolina.
“(We are) still in a holding pattern,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said on his radio show Thursday night, prior to Muschamp’s statement. “Been a lot of conversations but nothing definitive. ….
“There’s a lot going on. There’s been a lot of talk. People are working on both ends to try to figure out the best solution. We’ve got good organization in this conference and we put a lot of trust in Greg Sankey and their group and also the South Carolina athletic department. So everybody’s on the phone with each other.”
Speaking simultaneously on his radio show, Muschamp said they still planned on playing the game, they just didn’t know when. He returned to the subject later in the show for the Sunday announcement.
Now that it will be Sunday, that means getting ready for the conditions. The weather forecast for Sunday in Columbia, according to The Weather Channel, is for 0 percent precipitation but for wind up to 21 mph.
“We’re expecting it to be wet,” Smart said on his radio show. “Not much you can do about that. The biggest factor is the wind. Obviously the kicking game is impacted a great deal. That’s always a concern of mine. Which way are you going to kick? To get the wind in teh fourth quarter you’ve got to take the ball first, and that’s not an option a lot of people like doing. You prefer to defer. So wind will be a big factor I’m sure.”
This also means Georgia (3-2) will have one less day to prepare for Vanderbilt, which visits Sanford Stadium on Oct. 15. But the Bulldogs normally take Sunday off anyway, other than to lift weights and review film. The coaches will have one less day of watching film and preparing the Vanderbilt gameplan.
South Carolina (3-2) has a bye next week, so moving to Sunday doesn’t affect its preparation.