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CHRIS TRAINOR


Well, it's Sunday morning. And it's... gameday?

Yes, as weird as it seems, for the University of South Carolina and University of Georgia football teams and their fans, today is the day for their annual game/grudge match. It's the first time in my life I can remember the Gamecocks playing a regular season football game on a Sunday.

The reason the teams are playing today is Hurricane Matthew, the powerful storm that ravaged Haiti last week, then socked Florida on Friday before sweeping along South Carolina's coast on Saturday.

If you followed the news out of Columbia late last week, you know there was some political drama about when and where today's game should be played.

While she ultimately left the decision up to USC, it was clear Gov. Nikki Haley had great reservations about a sold out SEC football game being played in the Capital City this weekend. Not necessarily because of the storm itself, which was expected for the most part to spare Columbia, but because of the resources and emergency personnel that are needed on assignments related to the hurricane.

In fact, Haley was set to not provide any South Carolina Highway Patrol personnel to work the ballgame, as she did not want to take state officers away from any hurricane-related efforts. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said he had deputies who could step in and handle the duties.

Meanwhile, the university seemed hell-bent on having the game in Columbia this weekend. Heck, up until very late in the week it was still scheduled for Saturday night at 7:30. Thankfully, the decision was ultimately made to move it to today.

Now, I'm still not sure playing the game in Columbia this weekend was the right move. We'll find out this afternoon. But I am sure that keeping the game on Saturday night would have been a bad decision.

I understand the university, and the Midlands, took a multi-million dollar hit last fall when USC's home game against LSU was moved from Columbia to Baton Rouge because of the flood. Officials didn't want to take that kind of fiscal hit again. I get it. Still, choosing to play the game today, after the storm that was set to hit the coast on Saturday, was a very serious decision. There are more than few fingers crossed that all goes to plan at Williams-Brice today, from a logistics and safety standpoint.

 

OK, NOW THAT WE'VE GOTall that out of the way: Indeed, it is gameday.

South Carolina football on Sunday? Seems like a perfect match to me. If ever there's ever been a team that needed prayer, it's my beloved Gamecocks this season. Prayer, confession, communion, an altar call, Wednesday night Bible study, a circle meeting, a pot luck fundraiser for the youth group, you name it, we need it.

That said, I don't expect too many pastors to explicitly include prayers for the Gamecocks in their services this morning. That is especially true of the Rev. Nicholas Beasley of Greenwood's Church of the Resurrection, who is unfortunately a Georgia fan.

Of course, after last week's heartbreaking loss to Tennessee, a "Hail Mary" is probably the last thing most Georgia fans want to hear about.

Since I know you've came here for expert analysis on who's going to win today, I'll give you some.

Though Georgia (3-2) has dropped its last couple of contests, and has some close calls among its wins, it still has a dangerous team. Highly recruited freshman quarterback Jacob Eason seems to be figuring things out, and they have a pair of scary running backs in Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. If healthy, Chubb can be hell to handle.

On the other hand, Georgia's got a coach named Kirby. Now, back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, South Carolina had a coach named Sparky. So we beat them in the "coach with a dog's name" race by about a quarter century.

Meanwhile, South Carolina (2-3) comes into this Sunday matinee struggling mightily on offense, scoring just 14 points per game. The captain of your high school chess club scored more than the Gamecocks this year. Coach Will Muschamp says he's going to give both Perry Orth and Brandon McIlwain a try at quarterback today. I'm thinking running backs A.J. Turner and Rico Dowdle (and maybe David Williams) are going to have to shoulder a heavy load if USC is going to make any headway against the Bulldogs.

On the other hand, USC's defense has been decent and, at times, opportunistic. The Gamecocks have intercepted five passes and recovered four fumbles so far this season. Darius English is second in the SEC with five sacks.

PREDICTION: The Bulldogs should win this football game. They should. But, our state just got swiped by a hurricane, so I can't kick the Palmetto State while it's down. South Carolina 20, Georgia 17.

Chris Trainor is a contributing columnist for the Index-Journal. Contact him at ChrisTrainorSC@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisTrainorSC. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.