After a 1-1 start to the season, South Carolina football will host the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs (2-0) at Williams-Brice Stadium in week three. The Bulldogs have outscored its first two opponents by a margin of 82 to three and will prove a tough matchup for Shane Beamer and the Gamecocks.
The Daily Gamecock caught up with Meadow Barrow, football writer for Georgia's Red and Black student paper, to preview the matchup that will air on ESPN at noon this Saturday.
The Daily Gamecock: What was the atmosphere around the Georgia football program coming into the season being ranked third despite being the defending national champions?
Barrow: “Georgia was ranked a little bit lower than what people normally thought that they would be ranked as — especially with them coming off of a crazy season last year. Especially defensively, I feel like we — Georgia — had one of their best defensive seasons that last season.”
“I feel within these past two games that have gone on so far, they've been doing pretty good. And I feel like they've been holding up their name defensively. There hasn't been any crazy injuries or anything like that. So the team is still doing pretty good. And offensively as well, the team is doing good as well. I mean, I feel like everybody knows the story with Stetson, and how he came in and had to take up for JT who was injured last year, and how he ultimately won the championship for them. And he just has a crazy story and how he's kind of keeping that story going into the season.”
The Daily Gamecock: What’s the mindset for head coach Kirby Smart and his team at this point in the year?
“I think the other week, Kirby, I was at a press conference, and he was talking about how the team was really trying to shut out the noise.”
“A lot of teams do this as well, they don't really like to pay attention to what everyone else is thinking. They just like to move at their own pace, and obviously, another national championship is obviously the goal. But I feel like it really just like you take it game by game.”
The Daily Gamecock: Over the first two weeks of the season, Georgia has won easily but this week if the game plan is not working as perfectly, how do you think the team will respond to any adversity and the road atmosphere?
“At this point, Georgia is pretty accustomed to going through adversity, and I think that they're going to do pretty well with it. Like I said, I've never like been to (Williams-Brice Stadium). But from what I've heard everything that I've heard is just like 'oh, it's crazy' — like the fans are crazy. It's loud. And I'm pretty sure that most of the players on that team have experienced environments like that — especially at the national championship. I mean, that has to be the highest level that you can get to. But also, with some of the well, most of the players on the team being younger, that can also like play a role, because they're not as experienced as some of those veteran players that we did lose. But I think that this weekend will be a test to that as we go into SEC play and as we start playing these better teams, I guess we'll really get to see. But I think that they'll do pretty good under the adversity.”
The Daily Gamecock: Do you think the history between Shane Beamer and Kirby Smart from when they coached together at Georgia will play a factor on Saturday?
“It's similar to the Oregon game and how Dan Lanning — who is Oregon's head coach now was our defensive coordinator and how ... our previous wide receivers coach is now their offensive coordinator. So, I feel like it's a similar, like story with that. And I mean, when you look at that game, I mean, you see how that game went. And I feel like there's not going to be an issue or a challenge when it comes to that.”
“That's kind of how it was last year to at the National Championship and how Kirby and (Nick) Saban used to coach with each other, or Kirby coached under Saban. So, I feel like that's kind of becoming more common now. But I don't feel like it's going to play that big of a factor in the game. I mean, I feel like they're probably still cool or whatever, but they probably haven't talked at all this week.”
The Daily Gamecock: Can you talk about senior quarterback Stetson Bennett’s performance so far this season and preview some of the top players on both sides of the ball for the Bulldogs?
“He's been doing pretty good so far this season. He hasn't had any interceptions, and he has three touchdowns.”
“He's 49 for 65 right now on his attempts and he has 668 yards, so he's not doing too bad right now.”
“For receiving, like I said, I feel like our best players are (redshirt sophomore wide receiver) Ladd McConkey, (sophomore tight end) Brock Bowers, (sophomore wide receiver) Adonai Mitchell who, unfortunately, is injured, and also (junior tight end) Darnell Washington. I feel like we have like a really great tight end room and also wide receiver room. But we just got to keep them healthy. That's really the only issue as far as offensively. (Defensive back) Malaki Starks, he's a freshman, he's leading the team in tackles right now. And I feel like, again, our young players are really showing their strides this season.”
The Daily Gamecock: What is one area where South Carolina might be able to keep the game close and find ways to exploit this Georgia defense that has not allowed a touchdown yet this season?
“I just want to keep going back to Spencer Rattler. I've just been seeing how well he's been playing so far and his arm strength and just his mobility and his athleticism. I just feel like, if he can keep that up and find gaps in the arm defense and just keep up that work that he's been doing. I feel like he's going to really be a threat to Georgia.”
The Daily Gamecock: How do you think Georgia will try to establish dominance early coming into Columbia this weekend?
“So far, we haven't really been utilizing the running game, I really thought that they were going to do that in the Samford game. But they're probably going to — like you said — hit the ball running early and then save the end of the game for our secondary quarterback."
“But it just really depends on how South Carolina plays against them this weekend. But I definitely think that there's going to be some ... competition, because I feel like so far in Georgia’s season, there hasn't really been that much competition. But I think that this game is really going to be a good one.”
“Especially with it being our first away game, and it's also an SEC opponent. I really feel like this is going to be a good game, and it's going to be pretty competitive.”
The Daily Gamecock: Score prediction?