ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia and Missouri have not met on the football field in more than 50 years, and the Bulldogs winning their Southeastern Conference opener seems just as distant.
"Going 1-0 in the SEC would be sweet," Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said. "I've yet to experience that sweetness."
The Bulldogs have not won their league opener since 2009, a fact largely due to Marcus Lattimore. South Carolina's junior tailback burst onto the scene in the second game of his freshman year by rushing for 182 yards in the Gamecocks' 17-6 triumph over Georgia at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Lattimore rushed for 176 yards last season in rallying South Carolina to a 45-42 victory at Sanford Stadium.
Georgia overcame that 2011 loss and reached the SEC title game in Atlanta, but that is the only time the Bulldogs have lost their league opener and played for the league championship. Coach Mark Richt doesn't want to try that route again as his No. 7 Bulldogs prepare to open their conference schedule Saturday at league newcomer Missouri.
"You never want to start out behind the 8-ball and get into a chase mode right off the bat," Richt said. "After that first game in league play, no one wants to be sitting there saying, 'We've got to rely on other people to help us get to the SEC championship game.' All SEC games count so much, and the first game especially is big, because it creates momentum if you win and gives you a chance to continue to control your own destiny in the race to Atlanta.
"I'm sure everybody is thinking the same way."
Georgia is opening its SEC schedule against someone other than South Carolina for the first time since 1991, when Ray Goff's Bulldogs thumped Curley Hallman's visiting LSU Tigers 31-10.
"It is a little bit different, but we are going to Columbia [Missouri, instead of the South Carolina capital]," Richt said. "We knew when we added teams that change was coming, and here is the change."
Said Murray: "I know I'm excited, because I love traveling to new places and playing in new stadiums."
The Bulldogs won five consecutive openers from 2002 to '06, but South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has changed the dynamic of that series by defeating Georgia three times in the last five years. Now Gary Pinkel's Tigers are first in line for Georgia, which would like an early view from the top for a change.
"That would be great," UGA senior linebacker Christian Robinson said. "It could give us a comfort level we haven't had in a while."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...