After opening their respective seasons against cupcake opponents, the Georgia Bulldogs and South Carolina Gamecocks step up in class as they begin their SEC schedules on Saturday afternoon (3:30 p.m., CBS). Oddsmakers have installed Georgia, ranked third in the country according to the most recent AP poll, as 10-point favorites over 24th-ranked South Carolina. The total is listed at 56.5 for Georgia South Carolina CFB odds.
The Bulldogs’ starters put their team up by 38 points at halftime in a 45-0 rout of Austin Peay last week. Transfer Demetris Robertson and freshman James Cook led the way on the ground, admirably filling the void left by Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
Quarterback Jake Fromm picked up where he left off in 2017, going 12-for-16 for 157 yards and two touchdowns. Georgia’s defense couldn’t have been much better in that contest either, and it was hardly surprising that they posted a shutout. The Bulldogs returned five starters from last year’s unit that was fourth in the nation in yards per game allowed.
South Carolina demonstrated a much more lively offense than last year against Coastal Carolina last week, as Jake Bentley threw for four touchdowns in a 49-15 thrashing. But the Gamecocks did not entirely abandon their traditional ground-and-pound strategy, as they rushed for 263 yards. South Carolina’s defense held the overmatched Chanticleers in check in Game 1, but the country’s 51st-ranked unit from a year ago will be tested much more thoroughly by Georgia on Saturday.
Dating back to last year, the Bulldogs are 9-1 against the spread in their last 10 road games, so that would seemingly diminish the Gamecocks’ home field advantage. South Carolina covered when these two teams met in Athens last year, but Georgia, who still won 24-10, may have been caught looking ahead to a date with Auburn the following Saturday.
Georgia has no such excuse this year with Middle Tennessee next on the docket. Expect the Bulldogs to bear down on defense and smother the opposition while Fromm picks apart the Gamecocks’ vulnerable defense. Cook will be sitting out the first half due to a targeting penalty, but Robinson should be able to carry the freight for the first two quarters.
The Under (56.5) looks like an even stronger play than Georgia -10. Kirby Smart’s team has gone below the total in each of their last five September games and has done so in eight of their last nine. Assuming South Carolina reverts back to their more familiar ball-control tactics, that should help run their Under record to 15-5 in their last 20 SEC contests. Since Will Muschamp took over in Columbia, the Gamecocks have gone Under in 16 of 27 games.
Prediction: Georgia wins, 30-17
The play: Georgia -10, Under 56.5, one unit each