Bill Shanks

Georgia Bulldogs, Atlanta Falcons in rare Sunday doubleheader

Georgia running back Sony Michel (1) and the Bulldogs travel to Columbia, South Carolina, on Saturday to face the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Georgia running back Sony Michel (1) and the Bulldogs travel to Columbia, South Carolina, on Saturday to face the South Carolina Gamecocks. jvorhees@macon.com

There has never been a football doubleheader like the one we’ll see Sunday. Georgia will take on South Carolina, followed by the Atlanta Falcons playing in Denver against the Broncos.

The Bulldogs never play on Sundays, but Hurricane Matthew has the game with the Gamecocks moved a day later than normal. There was no choice but to move the game, and it will still be interesting to see how many people fill Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.

It has been a weird weekend for football, knowing what our neighbors to the south and east are going through. Being from south Georgia and being a former resident of the Golden Isles, I can only imagine the trauma many are feeling with the impact the storm had on their lives.

But sports always prove life must go on, and on Sunday, fans in Georgia will be treated to a double-dip of football.

Georgia must bounce back after the heartbreaking loss to Tennessee last week. Never has there been a game, a finish like that at Sanford Stadium. It also brings the question to light of which is worse — a blowout loss (like the one to Mississippi) or a heartbreaking loss in the final seconds (like the one to Tennessee)?

The Bulldogs had both the past two weeks. But that must be wiped aside to play a team it should beat in South Carolina. Georgia is not a great football team by any means, but on paper, it has a better roster than South Carolina.

Paper means nothing, of course. There’s always a lot of emotion in this game. South Carolina counts Georgia as its second biggest rival behind Clemson, while the Gamecocks are a bit down the list for the Bulldogs.

Plus, there’s another story line this year. South Carolina wanted Kirby Smart last year, but he waited to see if the Georgia job would open. It did, and the Gamecocks had to settle for Will Muschamp, one of Smart’s good friends and a former teammate at Georgia.

The Smart-Muschamp dynamic will be in play Sunday. Both are, in effect, trying to rebuild the programs they inherited with talent deficiency issues. Both need more time and more talent, but both would like nothing more than to stick it to each other Sunday.

It’s one thing for Georgia to lose to Ole Miss and Tennessee, two teams that were just better. To lose to South Carolina might be more than some Georgia fans can take.

The Falcons will continue their quest for respect Sunday against the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos. Atlanta is 3-1 after an impressive win last week over Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. No one, maybe even the Pollyanna-like head coach Dan Quinn, could have predicted this winning record through one-quarter of the season.

But the offense has been amazing. Atlanta is averaging 478.8 offensive yards per game to lead the NFL. The second-best team is Dallas, and the Cowboys are averaging 83 fewer yards per game. Matt Ryan is on pace for almost 6,000 passing yards, and with a few more outstanding performances, he might be mentioned as an MVP candidate.

It’s doubtful the Falcons can continue to average 38 points per game, so the Atlanta defense will come into play. That’s the problem. The Falcons are giving up the third-most yards per game in the NFL — at 419.2. Atlanta’s pass defense is just not any good.

How long can a team with a record-setting offense and a suspect defense survive? Well, a win over the undefeated Broncos would give the Falcons tremendous credibility. The NFL will take notice if they win in Denver, and maybe we should, as well.

So sit back Sunday and enjoy. Both the Bulldogs and the Falcons certainly have a lot to prove in these big games.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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