For now, Dogs, Gamecocks preparing to play in Columbia

ATHENS — Both Georgia coach Kirby Smart and South Carolina coach Will Muschamp are doing everything in their power to keep Hurricane Matthew from being a distraction in advance of their game on Saturday. But there are logistical challenges that are creeping into their routines that simply can’t be avoided.

Whether the game is actually played at Williams-Brice Stadium on Columbia, S.C., is first and foremost among those. Millions of South Carolina citizens have been evacuated from the cost and classes at the University of South Carolina were canceled for the rest of the week on Thursday.

“Whatever decision is made we’ll be ready to go and will be looking forward to playing Georgia,” Muschamp said on the SEC coaches teleconference call Wednesday afternoon. “Really it hasn’t affected our preparation at all other than practicing some wet-ball situations, which we normally do anyway. We exposed them to that today.”

Indications are South Carolina will do everything in its power to keep its home game on its campus. But with thousands of displaced residents flowing into the city and students out of class, that could present some unique challenges from a game-management standpoint.

“We have some players from down on the coast whose families are evacuating,” Muschamp said. “We practice in the morning so we’re going to move are schedules back a little bit as far as our time is concerned. But, other than that, no different than a normal-week situation.”

Georgia is also preparing as if the game will be played in Columbia as planned. Smart has had his quarterbacks practicing with footballs dunked in a bucket of water to prepare for throwing in the rain. And if they do play as scheduled Saturday night as scheduled, it looks like it will definitely be raining. The Weather.com forecast offered Wednesday afternoon calls for 100 percent chance of rain with 21 mph winds. That’s actually an improvement from 24 hours ago, when winds of more than 30 miles per hour were predicted.

“I don’t know that there will be a logistical concern,” Smart said. “The logistical concerns would be for both teams. So, obviously we both have good quality staffs of people and support systems and they would have that handled. For us, where we’re going to stay and what we’re going to do, those are things that you hire people to help you with. My concern and focus is on South Carolina and preparing for the game, not necessarily the location. I don’t worry about logistics.”

Smart said he is getting “hour to hour” updates on the weather and staying constant communication with Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity, who is working closely with the SEC office and South Carolina to monitor the hurricane’s progress and making logistical considerations.

“It’s going to turn hopefully for the better as far as the storm slowing down a little bit,” Smart said. “I want to be abreast of it in case it affects some kind of practice plan we have.”

Meanwhile, Georgia State officials confirmed that as of Wednesday afternoon they have had no contact with SEC, South Carolina or Georgia officials about the possibility of having to move their start time in the Georgia Dome to accommodate the UGA-South Carolina game moving there. The Panthers are scheduled to play host to Texas State at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

For the SEC to utilize that facility for the game, it would require Georgia State to play earlier in the day to reset the venue for a night game between Georgia and South Carolina.

But the Gamecocks, who lost a home game to LSU last year due to flooding, do not want to give up another one to Georgia.

Asked if confident they would host the game, Muschamp said, “Yes, based on … ” Then he stopped mid-sentence. “Again, I’ve been game-planning,” he said. “(Athletic Director Ray) Coach Tanner and President (Harris) Pastides and our administration here at South CArolina will handle it and make the best decision for everybody.”

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