There’s no way to sugarcoat it: South Carolina’s 35-7 win over Georgia on Saturday night wasn’t just a one-sided beat down, but one of the most emphatic wins any college football team has had during the 2012 season. From the first snap of the game until the final whistle, the Gamecocks were bigger, stronger, faster and tougher, taking a 21-0 lead after a few short minutes, and turning the second half into a mere formality.
In the process, South Carolina proved one thing beyond a reasonable doubt: They are a legitimate BCS National Championship contender.
Like most places in the SEC, South Carolina’s dominance started on the defensive line, a place where Georgia had absolutely no answers all night long. Aaron Murray admitted to having a few sleepless nights thinking about Jadaveon Clowney, Devin Taylor and the rest of South Carolina’s front seven this week, and unfortunately for the Georgia quarterback, perception proved to be reality Saturday.
Actually, let’s take that back, since in no reality did anyone outside Columbia, SC expect the Gamecocks defensive front to put on a performance like they did Saturday night.
Led by Clowney (who at times was triple-teamed by Georgia), South Carolina sacked Murray twice and overwhelmed him in the pocket all night, to the point that even when Murray had time to think and throw he often times rushed the ball out to his receivers instead. In the process, the Gamecocks held a Georgia offense that was averaging 536 yards entering Saturday night’s game to just 224, with nearly a third of those yards coming on the Dawgs final drive, when the game was well out of reach. Georgia also got their only touchdown on Saturday night on the final drive, after averaging 48 points a game prior to this one.
Yes, South Carolina’s defense was that good.
As for the offense, well, South Carolina was nearly as superb, picking up big yards all night against a Dawgs defense whose individual parts continue to be much more talented than their sum. Marcus Lattimore had a workman like 109 yards on the ground, while Connor Shaw threw for 162 yards on just six completions while adding 78 more rushing. Safe to say it was another disappointing night for Georgia, which up to this point in the season had won games despite their defense, not because of it. They weren’t nearly as lucky Saturday night against South Carolina, which has now beaten Georgia three times in a row.
Speaking of the Gamecocks, the fun is just now beginning for South Carolina and head coach Steve Spurrier.
That’s because while Saturday night may have proven to be amongst the most defining, signature, and important wins of Spurrier’s time at South Carolina (likely trailing only a 2010 win against Alabama), the tough part is just getting started. South Carolina’s next two games will be back-to-back showdowns with LSU and Florida, both coming on the road. As effortlessly as we’re talking about the Gamecocks as BCS title contenders tonight, the Gamecocks could not only be out of the National Championship mix two weeks from now, but conference title chase too.
Still, those games are yet to be played, and as easy as it is to look ahead to the future, it’s time to focus now on the present. And what the present told us tonight is this: South Carolina is as talented, dangerous and fearsome as any team in college football.
The scary thing is, the best might be yet to come.
For all his opinion, analysis and insight on college football, be sure to follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.