What if: 2002 Georgia Bulldogs vs. 2012 South Carolina Gamecocks

It’s fun to play the “what if” game sometimes, and as we sit here waiting for the South Carolina Gamecocks to take on the Georgia Bulldogs at Williams-Brice Stadium, I thought about the 2012 edition of the Gamecocks, the team that crushed Georgia, 35-7, at home two years ago, and the 2002 Bulldogs, who went 13-1 en route to an SEC title and whose only loss came in Jacksonvile to a 4-3 Florida team coached by Ron Zook. The Dawgs win that game, and they’re likely headed to Tempe. What would have happened if the two of them played each other? Thanks to the wonders of modern technology (and a site called WhatIfSports), we were able to imagine a hypothetical matchup.

Since the 2012 edition of the Gamecocks is fairly recent, it might help to take a look at the ’02 Dawgs: their QB was David Greene, who would end up with nearly 3,000 yards passing after the season, their leading rusher was Musa Smith, and Terrence Edwards would end the year with just over 1,000 yards. And that 2002 team could put up some offense: 384.9 yards per game, 32.1 points an outing (22nd in the country), and just 15.1 points allowed. They still may be kicking themselves in Athens to this day for letting that game against Florida in Jacksonville get away.

The Carolina defense looks good to start and have the Dawgs at a 3rd and 8 at the 32, but Smith burns them on a twelve yard draw to move the sticks, followed by a four-yard run on a pitch to the right to set up second and four at midfield. Next play: Greene finds Edwards, who beats the defense to the house for a 50-yard catch-and-run. 7-0 Bulldogs as Williams-Brice is stunned by the early strike.

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Now it’s the Gamecocks’ turn, starting at their own 30, and they’re able to get it to the 44 after a couple of nice runs by Marcus Lattimore. However, the Georgia defense holds, forcing a punt from the 50 that’s returned all the way back to the Gamecocks’ 8 yard line. Ouch. Fortunately, they force a field goal to make it 10-0 Georgia.

South Carolina needed an answer, but found themselves in a 3rd and 4 situation before an encroachment resets the downs. Kenny Miles breaks one all the way to the 39 but the Georgia D keeps the Gamecocks from getting much more. Adam Yates comes in and BOMBS a 50-yarder to put the Gamecocks on the board, trailing 10-3. Cue Sandstorm. Wait, uncue it, because the Bulldogs march down the field on a nine-play, 75-yard drive capped by a Smith 20-yard draw play. Lorenzo Ward is going crazy on the sidelines because that’s the 2nd time his defense has fallen for that. 17-3 Dawgs.

After the Gamecocks give it right back to Georgia on a three-and-out (man, this defense is stingy), they force them to punt, but can’t do anything as they’re held to another three and out (Connor Shaw looked rough getting sacked for nine yards by Robert Geathers) and have to punt from their own 7 yard line. But another big return gets it to the 38, and despite a Watson 19-yard run, Georgia’s forced to kick another FG. 20-3, but it should be around 31-3 at this point.

Would this drive be different? Looked that way, as Lattimore runs it from 11 as the home team start from their own 34. Next three plays: Miles loses a yard, Lattimore runs for no gain, and Shaw is forced out of the pocket but does get back to the line. Time to punt again. These fans are getting restless. Are those boos?

 Georgia starts at their own 23 and get it out to the 42, and it looks like the Dawgs are driving again. But on 2nd and 2 at the 42, it’s picked off by Ahmad Christian, and he’s wrapped up at the Bulldogs 45. You guessed it: they don’t do a thing. Time to punt, again, with 4:35 left. And THEY HAVE THEM 3RD AND 12 AT THE 18 BUT GREENE COMPLETES IT FOR 14 YARDS. After Smith runs it for six, Greene finds Gibson up the middle for eight to move the chains with 2:05 left, but then is sacked by Mr. Clowney. Greene recovers and gets it to Gibson, who somehow holds on but FUMBLE at the Gamecocks 30 that’s recovered by Georgia. With 1:24 left, then Smith scampers for a nine-yard gain, then is gobbled up in the back field for a loss of two, and it’s 3rd and 3 with :57 left and the ball at the 23 yards line. Can the Gamecocks hold the Bulldogs to another field goal? Nope. Greene calmly steps up and hits Michael Johnson with a 17-yard gain. A play later, after a Gamecocks encroachment penalty, J.T. Wall runs it in from three. 27-3. The visor goes flying and the Carolina defender gets an earful from his coach on the sideline after the Dawgs get three free yards.

With 42 seconds left, the Gamecocks can’t do anything and will just head to the locker room..WRONG, because Connor Shaw. He drives them down the field and, with just eight seconds left and the ball at the Georgia 37 yard line, he takes a shot to the end zone…and THERE IS KENNY MILES. TOUCHDOWN GAMECOCKS. 27-10 and there’s life once more in the Williams-Brice Stadium crowd.

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The Gamecocks’ first drive of the half gets to the 41, but they’re forced to punt. At the Georgia 20, Greene finds Tony Milton, who is throttled by CLOWNEY COMIN’ but holds on. Later, at the 48, Greene finds Edwards, who’s DRILLED. CLOWNEY IS MANHANDLING THIS TEAM SINGLEHANDEDLY. Georgia gets to the 25, and Bennett’s 42-yarder is wide right. Still 27-10 as the Gamecocks dodge another bullet, but it doesn’t matter because their offense just hasn’t been on cue all day. All the good feelings go out the window as the Bulldogs make it 34-10 as J.T. Wall runs it in from two yards out with 12:59 left in the fourth, forcing the Gamecocks faithful to head for the exits. Carolina makes it 34-16 with 3:57 left on a six-yard run by Lattimore, but this ball game was over long ago.

Musa Smith’s line: 30 carries, 158 yards, and a touchdown as Richt’s plan to get it into the hands of his star running back worked to perfection. Terrence Edwards made four catches for 94 yards and a score, and his QB, Greene, went 20 for 25 with 277 yards, a touchdown and a pick. On the other side: Lattimore ended up with 18 carries for 105 yards and a late score, while Shaw was just 9 of 18 for 163 yards, a touchdown, while an interception of his own. If there’s anything that will stick out for Richt, it’s his offensive line–Greene was sacked five times. A whole bunch of things will stick out for Spurrier, especially allowing 10/18 on third down to Georgia while converting just 4/15 of their own, as this one pretty much belonged to Georgia from the start.

That settles it. The 2002 Bulldogs would have handled the 2012 Gamecocks, and that’s exactly how it would have happened. How do I know? I don’t. But hopefully you enjoyed playing along with us.