South Carolina cancels game vs. Marshall as Hurricane Florence approaches

South Carolina has canceled Saturday's scheduled game against Marshall with forecasts now placing the state in the probable path of Hurricane Florence.

"Whether or not the game could have been played, we made the decision we think is best for the state and those who are evacuating the coast," South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner said. "There is no question this is the right thing to do and the decision was supported by president [Harris] Pastides, coach [Will] Muschamp, our board members and myself."

South Carolina said it will look for an opportunity to play a 12th game later in the season.

"Marshall athletics director Mike Hamrick and I have been in constant contact throughout the week about the game," Tanner said. "We are in total agreement that this is the correct decision."

The university noted that cancelling the game will free up hotel rooms for evacuees and allow emergency personnel to be used in areas affected by the storm.

Also Saturday, Georgia moved up the start time of their game against Middle Tennessee to noon instead of 7:15 p.m.

On Tuesday, the West Virginia-North Carolina State, East Carolina-Virginia Tech and UCF-North Carolina games scheduled for Saturday also were canceled.

Virginia Tech (No. 13), West Virginia (No. 14) and UCF (No. 18) are all ranked in the top 25 heading into Week 3 action.

The Tennessee Volunteers host UTEP on Saturday and the school is offering free tickets to displaced residents of North Carolina and South Carolina. Residents of counties under evacuation orders may claim tickets on a first-come, first-served basis on Saturday morning after showing a state-issued ID from either state.

While not hosting events this weekend, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway are all making their campgrounds available for evacuees fleeing the storm. Evacuees will have access to restroom and shower facilities on site at each track.

More than 5.4 million people live in areas now under hurricane warnings or watches on the U.S. East Coast, according to the National Weather Service. Another 4 million people are under a tropical storm watch.

President Donald Trump declared states of emergency for North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid. He said the federal government is "absolutely, totally prepared" for Florence. All three states ordered mass evacuations along the coast.

Hurricane Florence was downgraded to a Category 2 storm on Wednesday night, but it is still considered an extremely dangerous and life-threatening storm. As of 11 p.m. ET, the storm was centered 280 miles (455 kilometers) east southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and was moving northwest at 17 mph (28 kph). Its maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly to 110 mph (175 kph). But the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday evening that the storm is expected to bring life-threatening storm surge and rainfall to the Carolinas as it approaches the coast Thursday and Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.