Tales from the Cockpit: Test Time

Mike Venditti
September 05, 2018 - 11:59 am
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The 2018 South Carolina Gamecocks' season began with a cakewalk.

The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers came to Williams Brice Stadium last Saturday as something of a tune-up for the Gamecocks before their big match-up with division rival and third-ranked Georgia this week.

Of course, when a team blows out a lower level school, a lot of what happens on the field must be taken with a grain of salt...but with that being said, after what we saw from the Gamecocks' offense on Saturday, you really have to feel pretty good about the season as a Carolina fan.

The Gamecocks did what they were supposed to.  They executed their offense, put up 49-points (even though I wanted 50) and most importantly, ran the ball well.

Again, I know that Georgia will be a completely different animal defensively than Coastal was, but seeing the Gamecocks actually step up and dominate a game that they should dominate isn't something we've seen the last few seasons.

Jake Bentley was impressive in the season opener throwing for 250-yards and 4-touchdowns while completing 22 of 29 passes to Gamecocks receivers.  Rico Dowdle racked up 105-yards and a touchdown on just 15-carries. Deebo Samuel was, well, Deebo Samuel and the Gamecocks collected 557-total yards of offense.

Again...grain of salt, but there is a lot here to be cautiously excited about.

Now comes the first test, and probably the biggest test...Georgia.

The third-ranked Bulldogs come to Willy B with high expectations for their 2018 season after their run to the National Championship game in 2017.  Coach Kirby Smart didn't take long to make Georgia a legitimate contender in his first season at the helm and would love a nice, lopsided road SEC win in a raucous environment to set his team back on the path to glory.

Thing is...it's not going to happen.

I'm not going to guarantee anything, because I would be crazy to...but I have this gut feeling about this game that I've had before.  When I had this feeling before, the Gamecocks pulled off the upset.  Against Alabama in 2010, Florida in 2005 and Georgia a couple of times as well, something just told me that magic was going to happen at Willy B.

Gamecock nation is one of the best when it comes to massive games.  Sure it doesn't always make a difference on the field, but in week 2 of the season, against Georgia, we've seen it have an impact in the past.

It still comes down to the men on the field in the end, and it will be Jake Bentley and the Gamecocks' offensive line that will have to play hero for Carolina to knock of the Dawgs.

Of course a lot will also ride on the Gamecocks defense, that early on in the Coastal Carolina game seemed as if they had forgotten how to tackle...again.

That did not continue on Saturday and the defense seemed to get stronger throughout the game, getting good pressure on Coastal QB Kilton Anderson.

The Gamecocks did lose junior defensive end D.J. Wonnum against Coastal Carolina, but signs are pointing to him being on the field Saturday against Georgia.  Wonnum is a key piece of the Carolina pass-rush and led the Gamecocks in sacks last season.

The Bulldogs head to Columbia after dismantling Austin Peay 45-0 between the hedges in Athens in week 1.

Jake Fromme looked great, freshman QB Justin Fields looked great, the Bulldogs rushing attacked looked just as great as always and of course, they pitched a shut out.

The Georgia win, which should also be taken with a grain of salt, was dominant on both sides of the ball as the Dawgs were able to rack up 508-yards of total offense and hold Austin Peay to just 152.

Mark Richt used to talk about not wanting to play freshman quarterbacks in Williams Brice stadium.  It will be interesting to see if this is something that Kirby Smart thinks about too.  Will he continue to implement the 2-QB system, or will he lean heavier on the experienced Fromme, knowing that Columbia is a tough place to play?

Either way, this game is going to be very interesting and sets up beautifully for the upset.

The question is, can the Gamecocks pull it off?

Prediction Time

I fully expect to see the Gamecocks' new look offense under new offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon to be aggressive in this game.  Don't expect that same old 3-yards and a cloud of dust approach we've seen from Roper both in Columbia and in his year in Gainesville under Muschamp.

I believe that if Jake Bentley can get comfortable and into his rhythm early that the Gamecocks have the weapons to be successful moving the ball against the Bulldogs and scoring some points.  Getting the ball to Deebo Samual in the flat or to the running backs coming out of the backfield early on will be important for both opening up the deep ball and creating running lanes.  This is where I need to see the offensive line become heroic.  They must protect Bentley or there is no chance.

I think this one turns into a heavyweight fight, not exactly high scoring but not a 10-7 game either.  As long as it's close, and SC vs UGA games are a lot of the time, I'm giving the edge to the up and coming Gamecocks both as my professional analyst pick AND as my Homer Time Pick!

Professional Analyst Score: 
Bulldogs- 20
Gamecocks- 24

I think this stays close and very low scoring throughout the first half with both teams feeling out the other defense as it is the first time either team are facing a P5 defense. The second half will include a few haymakers with the Gamecocks taking the 24-17 lead and holding on to survive late.

Player of the Game: Jake Bentley

Homer Time Score: 
Bulldogs- 10
Gamecocks- 45

Homer Ditti likes a blowout.  UGA played some dude named Austin last week...nobody knows who that is. They aren't ready to come into a sold out Willy B and battle the new-look Gamecocks offense full of studs!  Deebo will score 5 times (3 rec, 2 rush), Bentley spreads the ball around, the defense becomes the ball hawking defense we haven't seen since the last 11-win season and the Gamecocks will have arrived on the national scene!

Player of the Game: Coach f'n Boom for reviving our Gamecocks, Deebo for being a golden god like Dennis Reynolds.

There you have it.  Both versions of myself have an opinion...scary huh.

What do you think?  Tweet at me (@Ditti33) with your predictions...and don't be a troll.

As always, in the immortal words of Bill and Ted, be excellent to each other.

Forever to thee.

-Ditti

Find me on Facebook (/InsideTheMindOfDitti), Twitter (@Ditti33) or Instagram (dittius33)

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