“I don’t know. I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.”
— Steve Spurrier, on the Georgia-South Carolina game
No such luck for South Carolina this year, I’m afraid. I expect that’s gonna matter.
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think team depth is getting the focus it deserves heading into Saturday. It’s a place where Georgia enjoys an advantage over South Carolina — sorry, Saturday Down South — and I have to think it’ll be a factor as the game wears on in the heat and humidity that’s part of Columbia’s charm.
I think Kirby is well aware of it, too.
By comparison, South Carolina played its starters through three quarters against Coastal Carolina. Now, I think Muschamp had good reason for doing so (more on that in a subsequent post), but it still is what it is.
Speaking of comparisons, take a look at what Georgia’s offensive line has focused on this week in practice…
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said Monday that the offensive line’s conditioning was not “where it needed to be,” against Austin Peay. The position group has been working in practice this week to better prepare physically for the SEC opener by doing some little things to improve its stamina.
“This week, we’ve really been focusing on our conditioning, because it’s going to be hot over there,” redshirt sophomore guard Ben Cleveland said. “So, we’ve been putting a really big emphasis on chasing down the ball, after its thrown, running on and off the field. Just the small things that are going to make a difference.”
It’s a good sign for South Carolina that the biggest area of concern coming out of its season-opening 49-15 win over Coastal Carolina was the zip, or lack thereof, on center Donell Stanley’s shotgun snaps to quarterback Jake Bentley.
“We will discuss that moving forward,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “That is certainly a topic of discussion.”
It was a short discussion apparently. Stanley and Bentley both said Tuesday that the issue had been resolved.
“I guess it was sweat basically,” Stanley said. “The equipment guys have got some solutions for me so I think it’ll be good. It worked pretty good at practice (Tuesday).”
… Stanley’s snaps all made it to Bentley on Saturday but some of them didn’t have the pace or height the quarterback or Muschamp would have preferred, and that contributed to one fumble that the Gamecocks recovered in the red zone.
The little stuff matters.
One final conditioning note comes from a beat writer at The Daily Gamecock:
I think South Carolina will start off really strong and then it’s going to probably change second half because the team will get tired, they’ve been struggling a lot with stamina. [Emphasis added.]
I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t expect a real slug fest early on. The question is who lasts.