Posted: 9:00 a.m. Monday, Sept. 30, 2013
Each of the past two seasons, South Carolina defeated Georgia but didn't get to go to Atlanta. To hear Steve Spurrier tell it, the reason was because of his Gamecocks having a tougher SEC schedule than what the Bulldogs ended up with.
This year, Georgia finally broke the streak and defeated South Carolina. No big deal, it seemed at the time, because the scheduling situation had reversed. The Gamecocks' rotating West opponent is Mississippi State, while Georgia has LSU in that spot. The tables could easily have turned with South Carolina being the one to lose early but still play for the conference title.
Now that Georgia has defeated LSU, is it time to write off South Carolina's chances for the SEC Championship Game?
Realistically, it's not. You never know what can happen over the course of a season, and there is a reason they play the games. With that said, it does kind of feel like we can relegate the Gamecocks to no better than second place. After all, UGA must lose twice in SEC play for South Carolina to go to Atlanta, and that's if the Gamecocks win out. That team hasn't exactly dominated to a degree that suggests it's anywhere near certain that they'll win out, and it's probably safe to say that Connor Shaw won't be 100% from here on out thanks to his shoulder sprain.
Florida is the most obvious opportunity for Georgia to lose in conference play, given that it's about the only team left playing lockdown defense. After that, the next best chance for a loss might actually be Missouri. The Tigers have plenty of firepower to match with UGA's this year with James Franklin finally healthy again, three capable running backs toting the rock, and Dorial Green-Beckham blossoming into the player his recruiting ranking predicted. However that one is in Athens, and I can't say with confidence that Mizzou's defense will provide stiff resistance. After that you've got Vanderbilt, who has lost to Ole Miss already, and Auburn, who needed a dramatic comeback to beat Mississippi State and merely hung in there with the LSU team Georgia just beat.
The CBS game on Saturday was the Gamecocks' chance of getting back into divisional contention. It didn't break their way. Though the idea of writing off a one-loss divisional contender in September seems entirely premature, it doesn't feel that way right now.