Before any games were played this season, Steve Spurrier defended his age, health and coaching ability.
Well, 70-year-old grit or not, if the start of the 2015 season hasn't taken its toll on South Carolina's head coach, then officially consider him a machine because it's been exhausting. The Gamecocks stumbled through an ugly 17-13 win over North Carolina and then lost a heartbreaker at home to Kentucky after a furious second-half rally.
North Carolina was hard to watch at times, but Kentucky had to leave Spurrier numb. His team battled back from a 24-7 halftime deficit only to watch a game-tying two-point conversion attempt turn into two points for the Wildcats. And then his new quarterback threw a game-sealing interception on first down in Kentucky territory.
Those two plays pretty much summed up the last year and change for the Gamecocks. Spurrier went from never losing to Kentucky as the head coach at Florida to dropping two straight to the Wildcats as South Carolina's coach.
A season removed from a dreadful 7-6 campaign that many thought would send the Head Ball Coach off to the putting green, not much has really changed. The offense showed life against Kentucky -- and with a former walk-on taking over at quarterback -- but the defense, while steadily making improvements, has still given up an average of 419.5 yards per game, an SEC-high 6.4 yards per play and still has baffling tackling issues.
Now, Spurrier must take on No. 7 Georgia (2-0, 1-0 SEC) which is playing for playoff possibilities while the Gamecocks look like a team just hoping for a bowl berth. It's very early in the season and it's easy to overthink and overreact to every little thing, but the Gamecocks have officially fallen into must-win mode if they are going to make this a season of improvement.
Regardless of how Spurrier feels, retirement chatter will only grow if the Gamecocks leave Athens with a loss, especially if it's a rout. This game serves as a tipping point for the Gamecocks, who would have little shot at an SEC East title with a loss and could have even less internal hope. But a win could transform everything.
The Bulldogs aren't perfect -- just look at film from Saturday's Vanderbilt game -- but they're more talented in all phases of the game and they're at home. And they're still upset about last year's numbing 38-35 loss to the Gamecocks, which came back to haunt them when it was time to crown an Eastern Division champion.
The Dawgs opened the week as 17-point favorites to a team that has beaten them four of the last five times. Clearly, the past means nothing, and the present for Spurrier and his Gamecocks doesn't look great after a less-than-stellar start to 2015.
"They look awfully strong, as usual," Spurrier said of Georgia during his weekly Sunday teleconference. "But our guys look forward to playing the game."
And if we learned anything from last week's slate of games -- especially in the SEC -- anyone can win on any given Saturday. So to completely count out the Gamecocks would be foolish. Still, few will be expecting South Carolina to hang around between the hedges for four quarters.
For starters, South Carolina has allowed 208 and 207 rushing yards in the first two games. The defense is allowing an SEC-high 5.9 yards per carry and is now being asked to corral Georgia's Nick Chubb, who has a league-high 309 rushing yard and is hitting 8.8 yards per rush. Forget about how bad Georgia's passing game looked against Vandy, if the Gamecocks can't stop the run -- and can anyone really stop Nick Chubb at this point? -- well, we'll see ya.
Spurrier didn't let Chubb's pounding personality get him down earlier this week, and you'd expect nothing less from the HBC. But he understands the daunting task he and his team have this weekend. He understands the defense hasn't been good enough to win in Athens. He knows the offense will have to make substantial leaps between now and Saturday with Perry Orth under center. He knows his team must find a way to finally be consistent for four quarters in order to upset the Dawgs.
"We'll see if we can piece it all together," Spurrier said. "We're not talented enough to play poorly and win."
The good thing is that Spurrier loves playing Georgia. He owned the Dawgs while at Florida (11-1) and the last five years have favored his Gamecocks. He coaches up in these games, and you better believe Spurrier, who has taken shot after shot at Georgia, would love to ruin the Dawgs' shot at perfection with an upset in Athens.
Spurrier's team is reeling and a little desperate heading into a game that could tip the season either way for the Gamecocks. A similarly down South Carolina team shocked the Dawgs last year, and Spurrier will likely have a few things up his sleeve Saturday.