For the past two weeks, South Carolina has had to rely on former graduate assistant Zeb Noland to lead at quarterback, as Luke Doty was recovering from a foot injury. Going into the SEC opener against Georgia, it might end up being the Zeb show again. As the Gamecocks prepare for either JT Daniels or Stetson Bennett, they find themselves wondering whether the former GA can keep them in the fight on Saturday. I find it very interesting to see these two teams enter this game, both with question marks from behind center.
Coach Shane Beamer seems to be confident that if needed, the Gamecocks can still rely on the former assistant to lead this team.
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“He made some changes at the line of scrimmage, saw some 1-on-1 coverage and being able to take advantage of it. The thing with him, he’s just so poised and confident, calm, poised and cool at all times. He has everything under control. He continues to get better. The fact of the matter is he was a graduate assistant less than a month ago, and he has started and won two college football games.”
Beamer said that Luke Doty has practiced this week, but it’s still uncertain whether we will see him in any capacity against the Dawgs. Honestly, they might need him if the Georgia defense continues to play lights out. They’ve already recorded 10 sacks on the season. On the other hand, South Carolina is 4th in the country in total defense. Now, I understand their first two opponents put up less of a fight than Georgia will, but the front seven for the Gamecocks has been key on 3rd downs as well.
On the other side, Kirby Smart will decide which quarterback takes the opening snap for the Dawgs on Saturday based on which guy has recovered the most and can battle through some pain. He alluded that neither Stetson nor JT is 100 percent.
“Yeah JT feels much better. He’s continuing to improve. He’s better now than he was on Saturday. I don’t know that he’s 100 percent, but he’s certainly getting closer to that. Stetson is repping, JT is repping, and Carson is repping. Stetson’s actually got some lower-back issue that he strained some stuff, but he’s able to go, but I don’t know that he’s 100 percent. He’s been dinged up since Monday morning, but he went out and practiced. So they’re all three practicing, and I wouldn’t say – I think Carson is 100 percent healthy, but the other two are pushing back.”
This Georgia team leads the country in defense, giving up only 354 yards on the season. And unlike South Carolina, they haven’t just played gimmes. Who can forget their dominating performance against Clemson to open the season? Simply put, if South Carolina is going to find success on Saturday night, it better start by protecting the quarterback.
There is a reason FanDuel.com has Georgia favored by 31.5 points.
In another interesting subplot to this game, former Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp will be roaming the Georgia sidelines. He was hired as an analyst this past off-season, and he is now helping out on the field in place of Scott Cochran. It will be a sight to see, as the former Carolina coach goes up against his former school. Shane Beamer discussed this dynamic this week.
“It’s not the first time a coach has been with a program and now is with a different program within the SEC. It’s happened with Coach Muschamp at other stops he’s been at. It’s happened with Kirby coming from Alabama to Georgia, but certainly Will has great ties here to the USC and cares about this place. I’ve got tons of respect for him. He’s been very good to me since I’ve got the job here.”
If we’re being honest with each other, this game shouldn’t resemble the 2019 outing, when they Gamecocks pulled off the upset in Athens. This one doesn’t have that same feeling. Even though both teams still have to figure out who will be slinging the ball on Saturday, Georgia would have to play a really ugly game for this to be close.
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It shouldn’t be close, and I don’t think it really will be, but as we’ve learned recently, never say never. But give me Georgia and the points.