The bye week was exactly what everyone needed.
After a tough beginning to the season— one that saw the Gamecocks going into a must win game against Kentucky with a 1-3 record— Carolina pulled off an efficient win and slid into the off week with a small bit of momentum.
That momentum was crucial— especially considering the Gamecocks snapped a 5-game losing streak in the process— and as a result the team will walk into Athens, Georgia, with a bit of rested confidence and swagger— something that they will need in abundance come Saturday.
So, with one of the toughest opponents in the country ready to give the true freshman-led Gamecocks all that they can handle, does Hilinski and company have enough to hang tough and do something that hasn’t been done in quite sometime— beat a ranked team?
The last time Carolina beat a ranked team was in 2016, against a Tennessee team that was, frankly, overrated.
On the back of Jake Bentley (who was a true freshman himself at the time), Carolina looked solid and walked away with the best win in Muschamp’s tenure.
Since then, well, there hasn’t been much to write home about when comes to matchups against ranked opponents.
The Gamecocks have severely underwhelmed against those teams, and until the win against Kentucky this season, they had a losing streak against all power 5 schools, not just ranked ones.
It seems, if you look for history to repeat itself, that the Gamecocks are facing an uphill battle with Georgia.
They are a heavy underdog, and rightfully so, with very little confidence from anyone that they can even beat the spread, much less win the game outright.
But what if the Gamecocks were to pull it off? How much would that mean for the program, especially after the early trials and tribulations that they have faced this season?
For starters, it would be a trademark win for a Muschamp, in a season where he desperately needs one.
Let’s be honest and not try to sugar coat it. Will Muschamp has faced more overt levels of criticism from fans this season than any other, and though some very well may discredit what fans are feeling,
Muschamp is smart enough to know that he must have fans in his corner to keep job security.
A win here changes everything.
I’m not saying he will suddenly win over everyone who has ever doubted him, but I am saying that a huge upset against an SEC rival, would go a long way toward earning back some credibility and buy-in for his program.
It also sends a message to future recruits that just maybe there’s something being built in Columbia, SC, that’s worth checking out.
If Muschamp loses this one, and especially if he does so convincingly, the conversation about his inability to win “big games” will run rampant, and outside of a win against Clemson in the season finale, the season will be considered a complete failure.
And that is something that Muschamp can not afford at this moment.
Besides being a trademark win for Muschamp, it could also be that defining moment for Ryan Hilinski.
Doing something that will be no small feat, will add an incredible addition to the mythos of the Hilinski era.
If he were to play well and lead the upset, not only will next year’s future look bright, but the immediate future of the season will change to something much more optimistic, and honestly, other games in the schedule begin to look very winnable.
To do the impossible, and win on the road in Athens, it’ll take one hell of a performance from a young man who has heart, but lacks real experience on im away games.
Hilinski’s first start on the road was a disaster, and although, he will likely never repeat those same mistakes again, Mizzou is certainly no Georgia.
Hilinski will get tested in ways that will remind him of the Alabama game, only worse since there’s no home crowd to support him.
If he’s able to play his best game yet, and if the rest of the team— especially the defense— shows their full potential, then this truly could be the season of breaking losing streaks and starting winning ones.