Georgia’s hopes of a College Football Playoff appearance took a major hit on Saturday afternoon. The third-ranked Bulldogs played hosts to SEC East foe South Carolina, and despite entering the game as 21-point underdogs, the Gamecocks found a way to pull off an upset with national title implications, walking out of Sanford Stadium with a 20-17 win in double overtime.
The game was decided by the turnover battle. Despite out-gaining South Carolina, 468-297, Georgia turned the ball over four times. Three of them came by way of interception, as Gamecock cornerback Israel Mukuamu made life hell for Bulldog signal caller Jake Fromm. Mukuamu registered all three interceptions against Fromm, who had not thrown an interception all season prior to Saturday.
Georgia struggled to get into any sort of consistent rhythm — Fromm went 28-for-51 for 295 yards and a score through the air, while the normally stout Bulldog rushing attack only averaged four yards per carry, far below the 6.7 yards per carry they averaged coming into the game. On the other side of the ball, Georgia was able to keep South Carolina’s offense mostly in check, in part because Gamecock quarterback Ryan Hilinski left the game in the third quarter with a leg injury.
The kicking games for both programs were in the spotlight down the stretch. South Carolina coach Will Muschamp opted to kick a field goal with 45 seconds left and the game tied at 17. The issue was his kicker, Parker White, was being called upon to drill one from 57 yards out, and unsurprisingly, he missed wide right. Georgia got the ball and made their way into field goal range for their kicker, Rodrigo Blankenship, but on the final play before he would have came out onto the field, the Bulldogs were flagged for an illegal shift.
Instead of asking Blankenship to attempt one from 60 yards deep, Georgia went for a hail mary, and their prayer was not answered.
In the first extra frame, Mukuamu picked off Fromm for the third time, making it so South Carolina only needed three to pick up a win.
On the ensuing drive, the Gamecocks played for the field goal. White was asked to make one from 33 yards out, but he pushed it just wide.
White came out on the first drive of second overtime and cooly converted a 24-yard field goal, giving Georgia a window to win the game with a touchdown or force a third overtime with a field goal. South Carolina’s defense held up admirably, meaning Blankenship took the field for a 42-yard kick. Despite being one of the best kickers in the sport, Blankenship’s try was no good.
This was an absolutely brutal turn of events for Georgia — the thought of them losing at home to South Carolina’s third-string signal caller seems absurd, but college football is a weird sport where weird things will happen. The Bulldogs do still have a path to the College Football Playoff, one that will require them to win the rest of their SEC games and be crowned SEC champions. That would require winning a neutral site game against Florida and topping Auburn on the road, then beating whichever squad wins the SEC West in Atlanta.
It’s a tall task for sure, and if there is any solace the Bulldog faithful can take, it’s that they are a really good team that can go toe-to-toe with the sport’s elite. For one Saturday, though, that was not the case, and the Gamecocks were able to pull what might go down as the upset of the year.