The stage is set for the biggest football game in Columbia in three decades.
Good luck, though, finding a ticket at a reasonable price for Saturday’s showdown between Georgia and South Carolina.
The popular online auction sites StubHub and eBay had more than 300 listings for the sold-out game Monday. Asking prices ranged from just over $150 for a single ticket to premium packages well over $1,000 per ticket.
South Carolina’s athletic department warned fans to be wary of counterfeit tickets. Fans can verify ticket authenticity at the school’s ticket office.
“This is the hardest ticket in Columbia that I’ve ever seen,” longtime Gamecocks fan Jason Newsome said Monday.
Newsome already has his tickets secured for the game, which pits a pair of unbeaten teams in the No. 5 Bulldogs against the No. 6 Gamecocks. The 7 p.m. game will be nationally televised by ESPN, and the network’s popular College GameDay show will broadcast live from 9 a.m. to noon on the South Carolina campus.
While Georgia and its fan base have experienced plenty of top-10 matchups through the years, this is rare territory for Gamecock Nation. Newsome and other South Carolina fans compare it to the 1984 game against Florida State when South Carolina was 8-0 and ranked No. 5 in the nation.
“I think it’s definitely bigger than Florida State in ’84, and I was at that game with my dad and aunt as a 3-year-old,” Newsome said. “I watched that game on a Beta tape 1,000 times as a kid growing up. I can’t recall a game this big in the last two decades.”
South Carolina defeated No. 11 Florida State 38-26 at Williams-Brice Stadium that year but saw its national championship hopes die the next week in a road loss at Navy.
Chris Fulmer, a diehard Gamecocks fan who hasn’t missed any home or away games in more than two decades, suggested that the 1987 South Carolina-Clemson contest in Columbia also deserves mention. The No. 12 Gamecocks defeated the No. 8 Tigers 20-7 on a chilly night at Williams-Brice.
The stakes are much higher this week. The winner of Saturday’s game will have a clearer path to the Southeastern Conference championship game in Atlanta.
“This is a huge game based on national rankings, SEC East, rivalry game, and I don’t think we have ever beaten them three in a row,” Fulmer said. “Two in a row is a rarity. I believe we’ve only done that like (six) times.”
Georgia leads the overall series 46-16-2, and South Carolina is looking for its first three-peat in series history. The Gamecocks handled Georgia 17-6 in Columbia in 2010, then won a wild, 45-42 contest in Athens last year.
The Gamecocks might have something in their favor: the last time College GameDay came to town, in 2010, South Carolina upset No. 1 Alabama.
“Even the Alabama game two years ago doesn’t really compare because most never gave us a chance,” Newsome said.