The Georgia Bulldogs have been the No. 1-ranked football team in the country for 48 consecutive weeks — since Oct. 9, 2022.
Their mission for 2023: become the first school to three-peat as national champions since Minnesota in 1936.
First in line to play spoiler: 26-point underdog South Carolina.
It sounds nearly impossible. Now listen to USC players share how they’re mentally preparing for the game. Then really look at UGA’s schedule. Now how do you feel about a potential upset?
South Carolina defensive back Marcellas Dial feels hyped up.
“This a statement game,” he said. “We’re trying to go in there and hope for the best, knock ‘em off, ya feel me? Last year against Tennessee, last year against Clemson, everybody counted us out before the game started thinking that we can’t compete with them.
“So we’re just trying to go down there and just make a statement. And show everybody that we can compete with anybody. That we can create another miracle like we did last year.”
It’s common for South Carolina and Georgia to be each other’s first conference opponents on the schedule. But it’s not as common for the Bulldogs to walk into the game with two wins on their resume by a combined 83 points over Ball State and Tennessee-Martin.
ESPN pinpointed South Carolina as UGA’s first test of 2023. This is the first year since 2008 (Georgia Southern, Central Michigan) that Georgia has not faced a Power Five team in the first two weeks of the season. In the words of The Athletic’s Seth Emerson: “It’s hard to get a full read on this team given the first two opponents.”
USC coach Shane Beamer acknowledged the question marks associated with this Georgia team, giving insight into how one prepares for an opponent with atypical film like the Bulldogs.
“It’s a challenge because they’ve had two blowout wins two weeks in a row, so they haven’t had to do much offensively from a schematic standpoint,” Beamer said. “So you know what their base stuff is, and you try and prepare for that. You look back at last year, the schemes they ran and the concepts of the run game and pass game, and you prepare for those.
“But then, you also know that they had a whole offseason, too. That there’s some things that they haven’t shown the first two games that we’ve got to be ready for and adjust to on Saturday also.”
Not to mention the new quarterback, Carson Beck, who sat on the sideline for three years behind Stetson Bennett. Prior to 2023, Beck had seen action in just 10 college games mostly in cleanup role with the wins all but guaranteed. The Associated Press wrote last month that he had the biggest shoes to fill in all of college football.
South Carolina running back Dakereon Joyner was part of the last South Carolina team that beat UGA in 2019. He helped the Gamecocks to a 20-17 double-overtime victory in Athens at quarterback after starter Ryan Hilinski left the game with a knee injury. This year is his sixth with the Gamecocks. His advice to the younger guys on the team for Saturday: Don’t let the moment intimidate you.
“On this team, we approach everything as nameless, faceless opponents,” Joyner said. “This a mentality game, man. It’s football. We just can’t be caught up in the atmosphere. Can’t be caught up in the logo on their helmet. You gotta just be us, just go play ball.”
Who: South Carolina (1-1) at No. 1 Georgia (2-0)
Where: Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday