Georgia State (Sun Belt) at South Carolina (SEC)
Date/time: Saturday, Sept. 3, 7:30 p.m. EST
TV: SEC Network Plus/ESPN+
Location: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, South Carolina
DraftKings Line: SCAR -12.5 as of 8/31/22*
Previous meetings: First meeting between GSU and SCAR
*Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
Both Georgia State and South Carolina finished last season with optimistic outlooks for the future. The former strung together seven wins in their final eight games as part of the program’s single best season since its inception. The latter won its first bowl game since 2017 and under a first-year head coach, no less.
And as romantic as it would be to reward both team’s uplifting performances with a win in the first week of the season, that is simply not possible.
A Quick Look at GSU
The GSU Panthers sealed their 8-5 (6-2 in-conference) 2022 season with a dominant win over Ball State in the TaxAct Camellia Bowl and now has aspirations of toppling the powerhouses in the Sun Belt East Division.
Whether or not that happens will simply come down to consistency. At its best GSU was beating the likes of Coastal Carolina, but at its worst losing by five scores to Army.
The brunt of the offense will fall to the legs of QB Darren Grainger (660 yards on 133 carries for three scores last year) and RBs Tucker Gregg (953 yards, 192 carries, nine touchdowns) and Jamyest Williams (859 yards, 133 carries, nine touchdowns). Add in an offensive line that retains its interior blockers, expect a trench-oriented game when the Panthers have the ball.
As is typical of strong 3-4 defenses, GSU boasts a strong group of linebackers including insiders Blake Carroll, Jordan Veneziale, and outside man Jamil Muhammad. Those three combined for 15.5 of the team’s 38 sacks last season. Add in All-Sun Belt safety and GSU’s all-time interception leader Antavious Lane and you’ve the building blocks for a stellar defense.
A Quick Look at South Carolina
In the first year of Beamerball 2.0 the Gamecocks looked… better than they have? They were a low-level SEC team but managed wins over Auburn, Florida and North Carolina. The Gamecocks are not going to compete with Georgia for the East Division title, nor is that a realistic goal. But another bowl game berth is a super reasonable expectation and an above-.500 SEC record would be a great step forward for the post-Muschamp era.
After the Oklahoma-to-Southern California exodus led by Lincoln Riley, last year’s week one Heisman favorite Spencer Rattler fell into the lap of second-year head coach Shaun Beamer and his offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield. Last season Satterfield favored the run game last season (he ran the ball about 30% more than passing it) but Rattler’s arm may skew the offense towards the air. He, in tandem with last season’s leading pass catcher Josh Vann (43 catches for 679 yards and five touchdowns last season) and James Madison transfer Antwane Wells (83 catches, 1,250 yards, 15 touchdowns), form a suddenly scary Gamecock offense - a big step up from the SEC’s second-worst offense last year.
For as bad as the offense was last season, South Carolina was able to win games on the back of the defense; in all seven of their 2021 wins, opponents scored 21 or less points. The pass defense is exceptionally strong (potentially the best in the SEC) led partly by nickelback Cam Smith. Outside of that, the team primarily plays a 3-3 defense that creates few, if any, real strong pass rushers and leaves it vulnerable to be run over.
Both teams are on the come up; Georgia State is putting itself on the map as a G5 player while South Carolina is beginning a climb back into the Top 25. Sitting at present, however, you have to default to the team with a better program and a better team on paper.
And that is South Carolina.
As promising as the three-headed GSU rushing attack is, as solid as its offensive line, as intimidating are all three levels of its defense are, South Carolina gets the benefit of the doubt.
With that said, Rattler did lose the job in OU. Lane and corners Quavian White and Bryquice Brown are fully capable of turning a mediocre passing game into a miserable one. Add in a perfect storm of upset black magic and early-season oddities and GSU will be playing a competitive ball game.
South Carolina is the favorite, as they should be. Georgia State has proven that they are capable of upsetting higher profile teams, but don’t count on it.