ATHENS, Ga. -The forecast for Saturday's game between Georgia and South Carolina in Columbia is the same as always.
Hot and close.
"This game is always one of the toughest of the year," Bulldogs senior inside linebacker Akeem Dent said Tuesday. "It's always an early game and bodies are still fresh. It's Georgia-South Carolina, and both teams are ready to go out and play football and bust some heads."
Though Georgia fans often debate whether Florida or Georgia Tech is their school's greatest rival, no games go down to the wire more often for the Bulldogs than those against South Carolina. Since Mark Richt's first season as Bulldogs coach in 2001, seven of the nine Georgia-South Carolina contests have been decided by seven points or less.
Five of Richt's nine games against Florida have been that tight, but none since 2006, and only three of his nine games against Tennessee have been close.
"We've had some last-second plays that have been the difference in winning and losing," Richt said. "I talk about teams being ready for a 60-minute fight, and I think this is one of those games we had better be ready for. If you're not, it will sneak up on you and you will find yourself in a lot of trouble."
The Bulldogs are working to counter some of the trouble redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray could experience in his first road start. Richt said the offense will try to have as many plays as possible that don't require a lot of communication at the line of scrimmage, even though a lot of what the Bulldogs do involve changes at the line.
Richt said the crowd noise Murray will encounter "is usually a shock to the system," but Murray believes he will be fine.
"I'm the only one who hasn't played in that kind of environment," Murray said. "Our offensive line has worked together, and the receivers know all the checks. They know how to handle it."
Georgia has won seven of the past nine meetings, partly because its 2-yard line has been a treacherous location for the Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The Bulldogs sealed their 13-7 victory there in 2002 when Andrew Pinnock fumbled at the 2 and Thomas Davis recovered in the final seconds. In Georgia's 14-7 win two years ago, Gamecocks tailback Mike Davis tried to score from the 2 midway through the fourth quarter but was hit by Rennie Curran, which caused a fumble into the end zone that was recovered by Asher Allen.
"Rehashing those games doesn't do any good," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "We've not been successful, but we know we have been successful in other games that come down to the wire. We won't dwell on that this week. If we play our best, we know we can play with Georgia. That's all we know."
Spurrier did say Georgia was South Carolina's premier foe in the SEC East but added that the Gamecocks haven't defeated Florida, Georgia or Tennessee enough to call any of them a big rival. As close as Georgia-South Carolina games are each year, the overall series is not, as the Bulldogs lead 46-14-2.
Georgia is 22nd in the latest Associated Press poll and South Carolina is 24th, marking the first time both have been ranked entering this game since 2003, two years before Spurrier arrived.
"A lot of our games here at South Carolina are very close with a lot of our opponents, it seems like, every year," he said. "We've been fortunate against Kentucky, but not so fortunate with this team."